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Yetanotheruser's avatar

In the story line of "Hamlet", do you think the apparition of his father the king is a real apparition, or is it part of Hamlet's delusion?

Asked by Yetanotheruser (13282 points ) September 16th, 2010

I just finished watching the 1948 film version of Hamlet, starring and directed by Sir Laurence Olivier. Over the years, I have ben involved in several productions of the play, in addition to having studied it in high school, and it rates as my favorite of all Shakespeare’s tragedies.
Do you think Hamlet is truly crazy, or is there a method to his madness, as Polonius says>

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13 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Doesn’t the first scene begin with the guards agreeing that the ghost has been seen on the battlements two nights running? and summoning Horatio to prove it’s not their own fantasy but something that others can see? This would argue that Shakespeare means it to be seen as objectively real.

Whether or not Hamlet is insane, I don’t think the ghost of his father is the test of it.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

It’s my favorite, too. I’ve always loved the comparisons between Hamlet and Fortinbras. I think the ghost of the father is real. As Jeruba said, it is noted in the beginning of the play. Without the appearence of the ghost, how else would Hamlet had gotten so much detail as to his father’s murder. In the scene of the players acting out the play that mirrored what had happened and the final scene with the poison, it seems that the Claudias was guilty. GQ!

muppetish's avatar

There are kinds of academic interpretations of Hamlet I have read more than one account that suggest Hamlet suffers from an Oedipal Complex but none of them have swayed my opinion: Shakespeare’s text says “Ghost”. That means it was a Ghost. It may have been a dirty-rotten-lying ghost, but we’ll never know because the text does not specify who the ghost is by way of stage direction (all we have to go by is the ghost’s word.)

You can perform Hamlet any way you like and interpret the text in a variety of ways, but usually when there is a ghost on stage in Shakespeare, it really is there.

I also don’t think Hamlet was crazy, but extremely level-headed, calculated, and scholarly.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@muppetish I think Hamlet did have an Oedipal complex, but I think the ghost was real.

Trillian's avatar

Of course it’s real. It tells Ham how he was murdered. Ham didn’t know to check the level of the ear poison, and he didn’ suspect his uncle until the ghost told him.

weeveeship's avatar

I think the ghost was real as explained by Jeruba.

Hamlet shows his madness when his confusion and indecision over what to do leads him to contemplate suicide (to be or not to be) and to take out his anger on poor Ophelia.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I’ve done Hamlet twice. Once I played the Ghost and once King Claudius. That was fun. I got to be the victim and the murderer.

Yes, the Ghost is real. He’s seen by 4 different characters, and he speaks to Hamlet on two different occasions.

By the way, it’s commonly thought that Shakespeare himself played the Ghost. What fun!

Austinlad's avatar

Dad’s Ghost is real. Shakespeare was fearless about inventing characters and plot points to advance his dramas and comedies. I loved the Olivier film—its dark, dank mood is superb—but I always felt he was too old for the title role.

absalom's avatar

And yet Gertrude fails to see it.

Alas, how is’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?

Of course this occurs a little later (III.4), by which point Hamlet’s sanity is meant to be questioned.

filmfann's avatar

Hamlet is one of my absolute favorites!

The ghost is real. Hamlet doesn’t have an Oedipal Complex, and is far more decisive than people credit him.

My favorite Hamlet is Mel Gibson. I thought he got it right. Olivier is far too weak.

Austinlad's avatar

@filmfan, the wonderful thing about Shakespeare is that all his characters, perhaps especially Hamlet, are endlessly ripe for reimagining. Besides Oliver and Gilbson, Richard Burton, Kenneth Branagh, Nicole Williamson and Kevin Kline have all given marvelous performances—and that’s just movies.

Jeruba's avatar

Just last night I watched Trevor Nunn’s 1979 filmed staging of Macbeth with a stunningly young Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to witness the interpretations of Shakespeare by great actors of the past and present.

The ghost of Banquo seems to be an apparition made of Macbeth’s guilt and seen only by him.

filmfann's avatar

@Jeruba , I hate having to correct you, but Ian McKellen was never young.

I would love to see Hamlet reimagined to have Bobby Kennedy in the lead role. Johnson seems perfect for the villian here.

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