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Supernatural Elements of Hamlet

The plot and action of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is, on the surface, very much of the real world.  It is a tale of court intrigue, revenge, and murder.  Of course, there is no mistaking one supernatural element to the play, and that is the prominent role played by the ghost of Hamlet’s father.  This ghost appears in the very first scene and can be seen to have a considerable impact on the development of the drama.  At the very least, he is crucial to understanding the actions and motivations of the protagonist. 

Supernatural Elements of Hamlet

Yet, it is also possible to see the device of this supernatural element as relatively unimportant: the ghost figures in only a few scenes, can be seen only by a few characters, and communicates only with Hamlet.  In this respect, Hamlet would not count as one of the Shakespearean tragedies in which supernatural elements play a significant role.  It would be, however, a mistake to minimize the importance of the supernatural in this play.  Although the ghost is not a full player in the main drama he is absolutely crucial to the establishment and development of some of the main themes of the play: madness, revenge, and murder. 

Were Hamlet’s father to urge him on to revenge in some more mundane manner – were he still alive, or if it were merely the memory of his father that moved him to do what he does – Shakespeare would not have achieved the same effects.  Nor is it necessarily the case that the ghost represents the only use of the supernatural in the play.  This character is, of course, the only one that is not of the natural, realistic world.  But there is at least one other event in the play which may be read as supernatural in much the same way that Hamlet’s interaction with the ghost of his father must be.

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