King Hamlet

King Hamlet

King Hamlet is a character from William Shakespeare's play "Hamlet", also known as "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark". He should not be confused with his son, Prince Hamlet, who is the central figure of the play. In the "dramatis personae", King Hamlet is referred to as "Ghost of Hamlet's father", and is listed at the very bottom of the hierarchy, even after the women and minor characters, presumably because he is dead. The stage directions identify him simply as "Ghost." He is loosely based on a legendary Jutish chieftain, named Horwendill, who appears in "Chronicon Lethrense" and in Saxo Grammaticus' "Gesta Danorum".

Overview

:"For an overall synopsis of the play, see "Hamlet"King Hamlet appears as a Ghost four times in the play: in Act 1 Scene 1, Act 1 Scene 4, Act 1 Scene 5,and Act 3 Scene 4. Each time, he strikes terror in the hearts of the others in the scene. The ghost arrives at midnight in at least two of the scenes, and in the other scene all that is known is that it is night.

He appears first to a trio of soldiers—Barnardo, Francisco, and Marcellus—and a visitor to Denmark, Horatio. The men draw their swords and stand in fear, requesting that Horatio, as a scholar, address the ghost. Horatio asks the ghost to speak, and reveal its secret. It is about to do so when the cock crows, signaling morning, and the ghost instead disappears. In this scene, the Ghost is clearly recognised by all present as the King, dressed in his full armour. It is also said that he had appeared to the castle guards at least twice before at exactly the same time. In his second appearance, Horatio has talked Prince Hamlet into staying up with the guards to see if the ghost returns. At midnight, it appears, and beckons Hamlet to follow. Horatio and his friends beg him not to go alone, but he does anyway, driven by curiosity. Once alone, the ghost describes his wanderings on the earth, and his harrowing life in purgatory, since he died without receiving the ordinances of the Catholic Church, such as Extreme Unction. He tells the young Hamlet that he was poisoned and murdered by his brother, Claudius, the new King of Denmark, and asks the prince to avenge his death. He also expresses disgust at his wife, Gertrude, for marrying Claudius, but warns Hamlet not to confront her, but to leave that to Heaven. Later, Prince Hamlet returns to his friends and has them swear on his sword to keep what they have seen a secret. When they resist, the ghost utters the words "Swear" and "Swear on the sword", from below the stage, until his friends agree.

The prince Hamlet, fearing that the apparition may be a demon pretending to be King Hamlet, decides to put the ghost to the test by staging a play that re-enacts the circumstances that the spirit claims led to his death. Claudius's reaction is one of guilt and horror, and Prince Hamlet is convinced that the ghost is, in fact, his father. However, due to his over-analytical manner and the complexity of the ghost's conditions, much time passes before Hamlet can carry out his orders.

In the third appearance, Hamlet is confronted by the ghost in his mother's bedroom, and is rebuked for not carrying out his revenge and for disobeying in talking with Gertrude. Hamlet fearfully apologises. Gertrude, however, cannot see the ghost, and thinks Hamlet is mad, asking why he stares and talks to nothing. In this scene, the ghost is described as being in his nightgown.

King Hamlet is described by other characters in the play as a warrior, as he led Denmark's forces to victory against Norway, and personally defeated its King in hand-to-hand combat. Hamlet respects him, saying Claudius pales in comparison to him, and frequently reflecting on him in an endearing manner.

Interpretations

Many have likened King Hamlet to the vengeful God the Father of the Christian Bible's Old Testament.Fact|date=May 2007 Some go on to compare Prince Hamlet to Jesus, in that his suffering parallels Christ's in the New Testament, and thus every Christian's. [Roberts, Preston Thomas,Jr. "Hamlet's Moment of Truth." The Journal of Religion 49.4 (1969): 351-70.]

Performances

About a hundred years after Shakespeare died, Nicholas Rowe reported that he'd heard an anecdote that Shakespeare had played the Ghost, [cite book |last=Rowe |first=Nicholas |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The scourge of folly consisting of satyricall epigramms, and others in honor of many noble and worthy persons of our land. Together, with a pleasant (thought discordant) descant vpon most English prouerbes: and others. |year=1611 |publisher=Edward Allde |location=London |pages= |isbn= ] causing a rumour that continues to this day, but which has little evidence to support it.

References


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