Comparing the Supernatural in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth

Comparing the Supernatural in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth

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Comparing the Supernatural in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth  

   In the time of William Shakespeare there was a strong belief in the existence of the supernatural. Therefore, the supernatural is a recurring theme in many of Shakespeare's plays. In two such plays, Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural is an integral part of the structure of the plot. It provides a catalyst for action, an insight into character, and an augmentation of the impact of many key scenes.

The supernatural appears to the audience in many varied forms. In Hamlet there appears perhaps the most notable of the supernatural forms, the ghost. However, in Macbeth, not only does a ghost appear, but also a floating dagger, witches, and prophetic apparitions also make appearances. The role of the supernatural is very important in both Hamlet and Macbeth. A ghost, in the form of Hamlet's father, makes several visitations in the play. It first appears to the watchmen, Marcellus and Bernardo, along with Horatio near the guardsmen's post. The ghost, though silent causes them a little anxiety, "It harrows me with fear and wonder"(I.i.53). It is not until the appearance of Hamlet that the ghost speaks, and only then after Horatio has expressed his fears about Hamlet following it, "What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, or to the dreadful summit of the cliff"(I.iv.76-77). The conversation between the ghost and Hamlet serves as a catalyst for Hamlet's later actions and provides insight into Hamlet's character.

The information the ghost reveals incites Hamlet to action against a situation with which he was already uncomfortable, and now is even more so. Hamlet is not quick to believe the ghost, "The spirit that I have seen may be ...

... middle of paper ...

...e supernatural provides a catalyst for action by the characters. It supplies insight into the major players and it augments the impact of many key scenes. The supernatural appeals to the audience's curiosity of the mysterious and thus strengthens their interest.

Works Cited

Curry, Walter. Supernatural in Hamlet and Macbeth. London: Mass Peter Smith, 1968.

Epstein, Norrie, The Friendly Shakepeare, New York, Viking Publishing, 1993.

Magill, Masterplots- Volume 6, New Jersey, Salem Press, 1949.

Schlegel, August Wilhelm.  Criticism on Shakespeare s Tragedies . A Course   of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature. London: AMS Press, Inc., 1965.  

Shakespeare, William.  Tragedy of Macbeth . Ed. Barbara Mowat and Paul   Warstine. New York: Washington Press, 1992.   

Wills, Gary. Witches & Jesuits. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.


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