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“Remember Me”

An Analysis of the Ghost’s Soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

By Neda Dallal

The ghost of Hamlet’s father gives a speech to his son about the heinous crime committed against him by King Claudius, using strong word choice to emphasize his point and further reinforce the message that one must act on a situation and not stand idly by. Shakespeare incorporates powerful diction to further express this belief: “… With vile and loathsome crust, All my smooth body” (Hamlet I, V, 72-73). In order to clearly describe what became of his body after being poisoned by Claudius, the ghost uses strong and decisive diction and thoroughly expresses the cruelty of the act committed against him. The reader later discovers that Hamlet decides not to act on his father’s call to action, which further reinforces the theme. Diction is utilized profusely in the ghost’s soliloquy, like when the ghost exclaims, “O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power, so to seduce!” (I, V, 44-45). The ghost of Hamlet’s father thus points out to Hamlet, in impressive language, the unfortunate way things have played out. He explains that Claudius’s ruthless murder has left him dead and his tyrannical brother in power. This particular line encompasses strong diction because it expresses the “wicked wit” of fate and how a man’s simple desire for possessions may cause him to use bad judgment. This foreshadows how Hamlet himself will use poor judgment and not act upon his father’s request for vengeance. Therefore, diction is an extraordinarily powerful method Shakespeare uses to further examine the theme of the play.

In addition to diction, imagery is also used to convey the theme of the play that failure to act in important situations will prove detrimental. In fact, the entire soliloquy of the ghost is extremely descriptive. Ample usage of imagery can be found in the portion of the monologue in which the ghost describes the details of his murder. “And in the porches of my ears did pour the leperous distilment, whose effect nods such an enmity with blood of a man that, swift as a quicksilver, it courses through the natural gates and alleys of the body…” (I, V, 59-72). This line is overflowing with rich description. The ghost uses the term “leperous” to describe the seriousness of the noxious poison he is consumed in. He also paints a picture of life and death by conveying that the poison traveled through the “gates” of his body and flooded him in death. The play’s theme is reinforced in this soliloquy because, in essence, the ghost is expressing that he is unable to take action against the crime committed by Claudius and that Hamlet is the only person able to avenge his death. Yet, Hamlet will fail to avenge the death of his father by murdering Claudius. This, unfortunately, will eventually lead him into insanity and ultimately, death. The tangible imagery Shakespeare incorporates into the ghost’s soliloquy allows the reader to fully picture the situation at hand, and therefore helps to express the theme of the play.

Tone is another method Shakespeare uses to further express the theme of Hamlet. The ghost’s soliloquy gives the reader the impression that there is an inescapable urgency in Hamlet’s need for revenge. Since he thirsts for retribution for his murder, the ghost is quite forceful in his description of how he was killed in order to make Hamlet realize his obligation to take action. The ghost also does not have much time to ask his son for justice, so the monologue is somewhat rushed. This is because once daylight breaks the image of the ghost will disappear. The ghost of Hamlet’s father ends his soliloquy with a line that will forever resonate in Hamlet as well as the reader: “Hamlet, remember me.” This simple line reveals that the ghost is asking Hamlet to always remember the truths he has shared to him and hold them dearly to his heart. He asks Hamlet to always keep the injustice of his death in mind and also stresses the importance of retribution. The reader will soon discover that when Hamlet is unable to avenge the death of his father, disastrous consequences will result. This further supports the theme that inaction will prove detrimental.

Hamlet’s decision not to act on situations that require immediate attention ultimately hurts both him and his family. By continuously procrastinating and debating with himself about the action he must take to avenge his father’s death, Hamlet is only causing himself to grow madder and madder. He does not realize that his failure to act is, in fact, killing him. The ghost of his father attempts to force Hamlet into action by using powerful language, influential imagery, and an urgent tone throughout his soliloquy to his son. The words spoken by the ghost indicate that taking action is essential, and that a failure to do so will have unpleasant results. Through the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Shakespeare is able to effectively allude to the theme of the play and outline the underlying themes of Hamlet.