supposedly King Hamlet’s spirit, as a tool to master this. However, Shakespeare portrays this inner struggle of reason against faith as Hamlet’s insanity. Does Hamlet become insane in the play, or is Shakespeare trying too hard to once again make the audience uncertain? There is a lot of evidence that Hamlet does indeed go insane, however it seems that the audience sees Hamlet’s insanity as their uncertainty throughout the play, which has been originally brought on by the Ghost. Indeed, Hamlet is not insane, rather the audience thinks him insane because of their uncertainty and uneasiness regarding Hamlet’s actions.
Many factors contribute to the uncertainty of Hamlet’s sanity. The source of some of these factors is the Ghost Hamlet encounters in the beginning of the play. Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most realistic, most modern, tragedy. It is in Hamlet that Shakespeare seems to give his audience the closest interpretation of the spirit and life of his time. Shakespeare indeed does an excellent job of making the spiritualism and superstition accurate throughout the play. The Ghost in Hamlet raises problems of Elizabethan spiritualism. To understand fully the scenes in which the Ghost appears one must understand the superstitions regarding ghosts in Shakespeare’s day and also current philosophical and theological opinions concerning them. Generally there were three schools of thought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the question of ghosts. Before the Reformation, the belief in their existence had offered little intellectual difficulty to the ordinary man, since the Catholic doctrine or Purgatory afforded a complete explanation of it in theological terms. In fact, doctrine and popular belief, in this case, found mutual support. Thus most Catholics of Shakespeare’s day believed that ghosts might be spirits of the departed, allowed to return from Purgatory for some special purpose, which was the duty of the pious to further if possible, in order for the wandering soul to find rest. However, for Protestants this was not so easy. The majority of them accepted the reality of apparitions without question, not knowing how they were to be explained. It was not possible that ghosts were the spirits of the departed, for Purgatory being a forgotten tradition, the dead went direct either to bliss in heaven or to prison in hell. Widely discussed and debated, the orthodox Protestant conclusion was that ghosts, while occasionally they might be angels, were generally nothing but devils who “assumed” the form of departed friends or relatives in order to work evil upon those to whom they appeared (Wilson).