A NOTE TO THE READER
Provides an orientation to the five acts of Hamlet suggesting that Shakespeare intended by the universals he chose to dramatize in his plot, a thesis of ghostly malevolence. The argument modifies a protocol for explicating Shakespearean tragedy suggested by A. C. Bradley.
Discusses motifs and image patterns in Hamlet that likewise infer an evil ghost. The chapter explicates a "theme passage" from act one that embodies motifs central to sustaining belief in an evil ghost: music, blood, microcosm / macrocosm, weather, heaven / hell, garden, fate and fortune, sex, and supernatural images.
Provides extensive excerpts from difficult to locate Medieval and Renaissance tracts on ghosts and daemons that most probably influenced Shakespeare. Those readers comfortable with the ideas in the first two chapters might want to begin here. Works cited include:
St. Augustine: The City of God
St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica
Reginald Scot. The Discoverie of Witchcraft and Appendix
James I: Daemonologie
Thomas Nashe: The Terrors of the Night
Lewes Lavater: Of ghofts and fpirits walking by nyght
Robert Burton: The Anatomy of Melancholy
Timothy Bright: Treatise of Melancholy
Chapter four provides additional primary source documentation that I believe to be especially relevant for supposing an evil ghost, citing especially the Appendix to The Discoverie of Witchcraft: An excellent Difcourfe of the Nature and Subftance of Devils and Spirits.
This chapter correlates the evidence examined to sustain my conviction that the ghost is an evil spirit, focusing on Shakespeare's consummate ability to employ irony to sustain thematic purpose.
The afterword offers some final reflections on the ghost's role in defining Hamlet's character.
TO THE STUDENT
SINCE HAMLET'S complexity will forever "tease us out of thought," throughout this study you will find many questions posed that are not always immediately answered. These are for your further consideration. Think, reflect, probe, disagree, write a position paper etc.
Occasionally you will find links to web sites created for the classes in British Literature and Shakespeare I teach. Use these for additional information.