A Comparison of Hamlet and The Turn of the Screw

A Comparison of Hamlet and The Turn of the Screw

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Hamlet vs. The Turn of the Screw

 

Although Hamlet and The Turn of the Screw are very different works, both William Shakespeare and Henry James use the themes of love and ghosts to complicate their work. By having these themes, both authors make the readers question and wonder if the accounts the characters are having really exist. Are these two main characters, Hamlet and the governess , mentally ill or does the stories explain their actions?

 

The most obvious commonality, between Hamlet and The Turn of the Screw, is the use of ghosts. On one hand, Hamlet speaks with the ghost of his father, Hamlet. When Hamlet firsts sees the ghost he asks, "Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,/ Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from Hell,/ Be thy intents wicked or charitable," (I. 4. 40-42). When Hamlet finally meets the ghost and converses with him, the ghost creates a problem that lasts throughout the whole play. On the other hand, the governess sees the two deceased workers, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. These ghosts also create a problem. Speaking with Mrs. Grose, the governess tells her there was a ghost. After Mrs. Grose asks what the ghost wants, the governess says, "Heaven forbid! The man. He [Quint] wants to appear to them [the children]." Are the ghost real? Do the children see the ghosts and lie?

 

In both works, love also plays a role. Hamlet's love, Ophelia, sees Hamlet at his worse. To make the people around him think he's crazy, Hamlet visits Ophelia and acts mad. When speaking with her father, Ophelia says, "Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced,/ No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,/ Unaltered , and down-gyvèd to his ankles," (II. 1. 77-79). Soon, his mother and the king think Hamlet is insane. Is Hamlet really crazy? In The Turn of the Screw, the ghosts appear to the governess while she is thinking about the master, her infatuation, or his heir, Miles. The governess states, "...the only way to be sure he knew would be to see it, and the kind light of it, in his [the master`s] handsome face" (James 23). Suddenly Peter Quint appears in a high window.

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Is he real or do the ghost represent the governess' inexperience with sex and love?

 

Even though both works include ghostly figures, Hamlet's ghost is real. At the beginning of the play two guards speak of a ghost and admit that it resembles the late King Hamlet. When Horatio, Hamlet's friend, sees the ghost he tries to converse with it. Horatio agrees that it looks like the king and says, "...Our last king, Whose image even but now appeared to us,...Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands" (I. 1. 80-81, 88). Horatio then tells Hamlet. Since Hamlet was not the only person to see the ghost of his father, Hamlet is not crazy.

 

In The Turn of the Screw, the governess' ghosts are a figment of her imagination. Although seen by the governess, the ghosts were nonexistent to Mrs. Grose. When the governess explains the ghosts, Mrs. Grose "only looked wan. `I don`t understand,'...At the image of this possibility [she] collapsed" (James 43). The children, Miles and Flora never tell the governess they see the ghosts. While there may be a chance that the ghosts appeared to the children, James makes the reader wonder. Since the governess is the only person to see the ghosts, she is mentally unstable.

 

 
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