A father is often seen as one of the most influential people in a person’s life. When that father returns as a ghost and commands you to seek vengeance for his death, it is understandable that this may cause some psychological issues. This complex relationship between Hamlet and his ghost father that drives a moral student to seek fatal vengeance on Claudius, the perceived source of his family’s suffering.
The Ghost is the person most responsible for setting Hamlet down his path of vengeance. To determine why the Ghost was able to accomplish this, the characteristics of Hamlet must first be understood. Is Hamlet, by nature, prone to complete the task set out for him? Does Hamlet accept his fate or question the proof laid out for him? What is his age and can this be used to shed some light on his character? By exploring these facets of Hamlet, some insights may be gained into why the Ghost was able to sway his actions.
The first area to explore should be the simplest. How old is Hamlet? No direct age is given to Hamlet, but there are clues in the text. Robert Cohen explores this issue and places his age as much younger than is commonly accepted. In the gravedigger scene in Act V, the gravedigger states that he began his trade “…that very day that young Hamlet/ was born” (Hamlet 5.1.152-53) and that he has “…been/ sexton here, man and boy, thirty years” (Hamlet 5.1.166-67). Cohen then observes that “by the rudimentary A=B, B=C ∴ A=C, we find that Hamlet is thirty” (180), which is a more traditional view. This is further supported by the fact that the skull of Yorick, whom Hamlet knew, was buried for twenty three years. While this age of thirty appears to be supported by the text, Cohen argues tha...
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...n, either directly or through messengers” (293). The Ghost uses his emotional arsenal to keep pushing Hamlet towards something that is not natural for the young prince to contemplate. The Ghost is an extortionist using love to ensnare Hamlet in his plot for revenge. He says “If thou didst ever thy dear father love-/ …Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.29-31).
The adolescent Hamlet is ill-equipped to handle this form of emotional manipulation. His youth and inexperience have not hardened him against the revelations that the Ghost is making, and his idolization of his father forces him to not want to disappoint him. The line Hamlet states in-between the Ghosts “love extortion” shows this internal conflict:
Ghost: If thou didst ever thy dear father love-
Hamlet: O God!
Ghost: Revenge his foul and more unnatural murder (Hamlet 1.5.29-31).
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