Word Choice used through Shakespeare’s Ghost in Hamlet Shakespeare’s use of language impressively exercises diction and imagery in this passage of Hamlet to help readers understand the contempt that Hamlet and the Ghost have for Claudius and Queen Gertrude. His dramatic sentences and word structure allow the readers to see into the minds of Hamlet and the Ghost, therefore giving insight to events and knowledge, which the rest of the characters in the play know nothing of. The Ghost describes scenes that neither Hamlet nor the reader has seen or read, so that this knowledge can be obtained.

He speaks of [his] death and the adultery his wife has committed and then goes on to tell Hamlet to avenge his death. The Ghost is most obviously Hamlet’s father, the former king of Denmark. He enters the scene and begins speaking to Hamlet about his death and how he died. He says it in a way that Hamlet will understand, without actually naming his murderer. He refers to his murderer as “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life” (1. 3. 9). It is obvious that this is Claudius because the Ghost later says it is the man who “now wears his crown” (1. . 10), and Claudius is the one who is ruling Denmark at this time. Hamlet then realizes this and confirms his suspicion by asking “my uncle? ” (1. 3. 12), and the Ghost assures him that his assumption is correct. The reader has not actually read of the actual murder, but with Shakespeare’s scene between Hamlet and the ghost, they now know that it was, in fact, Claudius who murdered Hamlet’s father. Shakespeare uses imagery to describe the event in which the murder took place. He uses words such as “leprous distilment” (1. . 36) to describe the poison in which Claudius poured into the sleeping king’s ear. The description of the poisonous vial goes on to be illustrated as holding “such an enmity with blood of man” (1. 3. 37) explaining how it destroyed the king from the inside. The Ghost also remarks that he was killed “with all [his] imperfections on [his] head” (1. 3. 51); without being able to ask forgiveness of his sins before going to heaven, thus he is trapped in purgatory and seeks Hamlet’s help for vengeance.

The reader now has an understanding of why the king is dead and how Claudius came into rule. Shakespeare continues to use diction when the Ghost recalls memories of his wife. It seems that the Ghost thinks that the reason he was killed was because his brother wanted his wife. Claudius’s “shameful lust” of his “seeming virtuous queen” (1. 3. 17) is what drove him to kill his brother. But King Hamlet knows that Claudius is not all to blame for in this lust because the queen loved him back. The Ghost knows that his wife committed adultery while with him and this only makes him angrier.

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He tell Hamlet not to let “the royal bed of Denmark” be a place for “damned incest” (1. 3. 55), which is basically what Claudius and the queen are as they had already by related to each other through King Hamlet. The Ghost goes on to explain to Hamlet that he can take revenge against Claudius but that he should leave his mother “to heaven” and let those “thorns that in her bosom lodge . . . prick and sting her” (1. 3. 58-60). All of this is shown to the reader through Shakespeare’s word choice and imagery.

The reader can now see that Gertrude is not as innocent as she seems, she did have a part in the death of the king whether she was aware of it or not, and that it is Claudius who is responsible for the entire plot of the play. Shakespeare has portrayed this through the Ghost’s description of the murder while using imagery and diction to give the reader a better understanding of how King Hamlet feels about his death. The reader can also understand why Hamlet does what he does throughout the rest of the play, which, has this scene not been written, would’ve seemed rash and most definitely foolish on Hamlet’s part.


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