Boooooooooo, I'm a ghost.....and I may or may not be lying

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"A Serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark is by a forged process of my death........o, horrible, most horrible"

In the preceding speech, the ghost of Hamlet's father tells Hamlet of how he was murdered by Claudius. The ghost asks Hamlet to avenge his death. But why doesn't Hamlet just run out and kill Claudius? The play is five acts long. There has to be a reason.

 Roberts, in Chapter 5 of Writing About Literature, states that a "suspense story keeps the protagonist ignorant but provides readers with abundant details in order to maximize concern and tension about the outcome".  For our sake, we have to believe that the ghost is telling the truth. In order for the rest of the play to happen, Hamlet has to believe that what the ghost told him is not necessarily true. The next two acts are about Hamlet discovering the truth ( and distracting the rest of the characters while he does). Moreover, when Hamlet discovers the truth, he has doubts about how to act: when to kill his uncle (for the death must be significant; it cannot be hapdash) and what will happen to himself in the process (the infamous 'to be or not to be' speech is not about suicide, rather Hamlet's fear that he will die in the process of correcting injustice). There are so many ways the story could turn (the poision cup, the poison sword) in the final scene, and no one knows prior what will happen.


Hamlet is not soley a revenge story: otherwise it would have been a one act play. It is, instead, a suspense story.

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» The First of Many from DaniellaChoynowski

I did not expect to have reveleations about the novels we read for class. But through writing my thoughts on just one quote and commenting on others' blogs. I managed to have several epiphanies. Two in particular, one on Hamlet's... Read More


I fully agree with you. I actually wrote something similar to this in my entry. Without his ignorance and his turmoil, there would not have been much of a play--if there was, it would have been very different.

I still think "to take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them" is so closely connected to "To die" that it's hard to think of them as applying to anything but suicide. Still, you do offer an interesting possibility for reading those lines, one that I'd never considered. Hamlet's statement that the fear of death makes one bear the ills they have suggests why Hamlet has not yet acted, but I have always also interpreted that as Hamlet's rejection of suicide.

In literature, it is hard to prove that X is NOT Y. It's much easier to prove "It makes more sense to look at X as a kind of Z than to look at X as a kind of Y." So while I think you're onto something, to argue this point fully you'd need to point out some other lines that don't make sense if you consider To be or not to be to be a meditation on suicide, but make a lot more sense if you consider that speech to be about a fear of dying in action. Nevertheless, keep the good ideas going... you're already writing as if you've been blogging for years.

Diana Geleskie said:

I'm with Dr. Jerz on this.

I love that you seem really passionate about the famous monologue NOT being about suicide, but at the same time, it COULD be, it just doesn't HAVE to be. (I agree, I don't think Hamlet had the stamina to commit suicide honestly, but that is another discussion.)

He could also be pointing out just how important it is that death is significant, be it suicide or murder.

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