"I Have Seen Nothing": Hamlet and His Home

Hamlet begins at the open mouth of the Void. Barnardo and Francisco call out to each other and into darkness; they stand atop a guard platform that is naked to the open air and to the night. Every character's entrance is marked by a series of interrogatives, as characters already on stage try to ascertain the identity of those who are newly arrived and yet unseen. Darkness isolates these men from each other as they stand on the edge of civilization, the place where the solid stones of Elsinore castle open up into the world of night and the supernatural. The nature of the ghost remains debatable: Horatio has initially insisted that the guards' delusions have conjured the phantom (1.1.21), and, even accepting the reality of the apparition, Catholic teaching (ghosts are spirits of the dead coming up from purgatory) and Protestant doctrine (all ghostly apparitions are demons in disguise) hold divergent opinions on the nature and source of phantoms (Garber 12/15). The men have gathered together on the guard platform, which has become a kind of stage within a stage. They have come to see a visitor who is a creature of hallucination, purgatory, or hell. This ghost is coming out of the open maw of night above and around the...

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