Essay Why Was Shakespeare Important

Importance Of The Ghost In Shakespeare's Hamlet

The Importance of the Ghost in Hamlet       

    The stage presence of a ghost would have been familiar to an Elizabethan audience and so the appearance of the Ghost in 'Hamlet' carries some messages which are general - almost as though the ghost was a familiar symbol which evoked certain thoughts merely by being present. The Ghost in 'Hamlet' has a more specific role than that given to ghosts in general, however; it has a crucial part to play in the development of the plot. Thirdly, the interaction between the Ghost and Hamlet raises difficult questions regarding duty and free will, and as the trigger for much of the protagonist's anguished philosophising the ghost plays a key but problematic role as Hamlet's true adversary.

There are certain points to be made which are about ghosts in general. To a superstitious Elizabethan audience a ghost would be less improbable than it seems to a sceptical modern audience, but it would signify that something is wrong with the natural order. In Act I scene i the characters indicate that they believe this; the rational Horatio observes that "This bodes some strange eruption to our state"; Marcellus says that "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark". Even before the arrival of the Ghost the scene is tense - the first words ("Who's there?") are terse and nervy and even Francisco (whom we never see again and so perhaps represents the unseen population of Denmark) admits that he is "sick at heart". The presence of the Ghost, then, adds to this sense that something is deeply wrong - like many such superstitious entities (Horatio refers to other omens that preceded the death of Julius Caesar: the allusion to which makes the audience yet more uncertain of what is to happen) the mere presence of the Ghost is a potent symbol in stage notation.

The Ghost also plays an important role in the plot, however, and is not merely an atmospheric device. Initially the audience is presented only with the impending conflict with Norway as a source of these omens - when Horatio proposes that the preparation for war and a danger to the state might be the cause of the Ghost's presence, Bernardo agrees - "I think it may be no other but e'en so". It is not until the Ghost speaks to Hamlet in scene v that a more feasible source of the wrong in nature is proposed - that the old king was "sleeping, by a brother's hand / Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched". We as an audience cannot be sure that this is true (as Hamlet himself says later, "The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil") but it echoes Hamlet's anger and grief at his mother's swift remarriage as expressed in Act I scene ii and seems horrendously plausible. In terms of the Ghost's role in Hamlet the actual truth of his words are irrelevant; his principle plot importance is his exhortation to revenge -

"If thou didst ever thy dear father love...

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder".

Hamlet's response is...

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Essay about William Shakespeare's Relevance Today

2257 Words10 Pages

William Shakespeare's Relevance Today

For as long as formal education has existed in Britain it has been a largely standard assumption that teaching the works of William Shakespeare is relevant and necessary. Perhaps the relevance of his writing is taken for granted, perhaps it is necessary to re-examine the role of Shakespeare for the modern audience. There are indeed many people who question the relevance of this 440 year old playwright to a 21st century audience, taking it even as far as perhaps the greatest heresy of all, questioning the necessity of GCSE pupils learning Shakespeare at all. This “proposed vandalism from the policymakers” (Guardian 09/02/01) is opposed wholesale by supporters…show more content…

“Each play of Shakespeare is the development of a metaphor or group of metaphors. There is a matrix out of which feeling finds words, emotions take shape and voices become characters. That which is referred to most often- in metaphors, images, allusions and statements- is usually for Shakespeare what is significant”

(Rehder 1980 p56)

However simply because the theme is, arguably, not reliant on the context or overall setting, and that this theme is relayed by metaphor and not in descriptive prose, is not perhaps justified cause to say that the theme itself will necessarily be relevant; or indeed that the metaphorical vehicle by which it is conveyed will be relevant or appreciable either. For example one of the more central themes of King Lear, as with all the tragedies, is death. Death as a theme can be said to have starkly contrasting meaning and therefore perhaps relevance for a modern audience as compared to a Shakespearean one. Today death is a rare and terrible tragedy of momentous importance in the life of an individual, in 16th century England with its plagues, starvation, infant mortality and state violence; death was

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