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King Hamlet: the Devil in Disguise

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 12:23 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 67.6 
  • Words: 1549
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William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a drama which has been renound for its content and depiction of characters.   Over the years, it has gone through many variations of interpretations and criticisms.   One such criticism is the nature of the ghost who takes the form of Hamlet's dead father.   At first glance, it may be sufficient to accept the ghost as the spirit of Hamlet's dead father who returns to the land of the living in order to have his son avenge his murder.   However, looking deeper into the text, several unignorable signs become visible which lead us to see that the ghost is actually the devil in disguise.   Kenneth Brannagh's 1997 production of Hamlet brilliantly portrays these signs of evil and cynicism.  


The Devil had an agenda from the very beginning: to cause havoc in the royal family, leading to the downfall of the crown of Denmark.   After King Hamlet's death, the Devil saw this as its perfect opportunity to begin the first stage of its plan.   It was aware of Hamlet's hatred toward his uncle Claudius, who came between Hamlet and his rightful seat on the throne.   It was aware of Hamlet's disgust with his mother's incestuous marriage to her brother-in-law.   And it was aware of Hamlet's despair over losing his father who he dearly loved and admired.


In Brannagh's film, we see Francisco (the guard outside the castle walls) startled by the ghost, who motions for his sword.   This is the second time the ghost has appeared and the guards are both afraid and confused.   They then call upon Horatio, Hamlet's dear friend to witness the vision to confirm their fears. When Horatio arrived, the ghost appeared once again in "that fair and warlike form / In which the majesty of buried Denmark / Did sometimes march" (I:1:47-49).   But when Horatio charges the ghost in heaven's name to speak, the apparition stalks away "like a guilty thing upon a fearful summons" (I:1:147-148).   This is the first sign that the ghost has come from a...

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