n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Sulphurous and tormenting flames : understanding the ghost in Hamlet : essay
|Article Title||Sulphurous and tormenting flames : understanding the ghost in Hamlet : essay|
|© Publisher:||Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA)|
|Journal||Shakespeare in Southern Africa|
|Affiliations||1 Northeastern University, USA|
|Publication Date||Jan 2014|
|Pages||117 - 122|
Shakespeare scholars have analysed and debated the character of the Ghost in Hamlet endlessly. The tendency is to classify the Ghost in a single religious context - that is, to posit "The Ghost is Catholic" or, less often, "The Ghost is Protestant." However, exploring the actual lines of Hamlet presents religious ambiguity surrounding the Ghost, which we must take care to note. Instead of staunchly attempting to make the lines fit one religious denomination, a better way to understand the Ghost is through the lens of Lewes Lavater's Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking By Night (1572): a generally accepted source text for Hamlet. By accepting Lavater's text as an antecedent to Shakespeare's Hamlet, we can understand the character more as a strong derivation from source material, and less as specifically exemplifying one denomination or the other. The purpose of this essay is to argue the importance of Lavater's text to our understanding of the Ghost (most facets of the character - appearance, actions, lines - can be attributed to Lavater's text in one way or another) and to demonstrate, through Lavater, that the true religious status of the Ghost cannot be determined. I will expand on and, to some extent, challenge the argument originally put forward by Stephen Greenblatt in Hamlet in Purgatory. Understanding the Ghost through the lens of Lavater's text allows a complete and more satisfying understanding of Hamlet.
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