Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Ghost of a Chance and a Chance of Ghosts...

"The ghost appears, leads Hamlet away, tells him the whole story of the murder in the orchard, and demands revenge...At this point, critics become indignant with Hamlet and ask why he did not at once kill his uncle; to which there is the common-sense answer that the word of a ghost seen alone at midnight is hardly good enough evidence to kill anyone. Moreover, according to contemporary theological notions, a Christian knew that the appearance of a spirit or wraith in the shade of a person newly dead might be evil...In popular belief there were four reasons why the spirit of a dead man should walk: (a) to reveal a secret, (b) to utter a warning, (c) to reveal concealed treasure, (d) to reveal the manner of its death. Horatio thus adjures the ghost by three potent reasons, but before he can utter the fourth the cock crows."

--G. B. Harrison, the Introduction and Annotations to Hamlet, in Shakespeare The Complete Works.

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