The ghost in Hamlet
in A familiar compound ghost
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This chapter examines the ghost in Hamlet. Ghosts are particularly effective uncanny allusion markers, and the ghost of Hamlet's father leads to one of the text's earliest clear precursors, the story of Amleth as told by Saxo Grammaticus in the Gesta Danorum. The ghostly interplay between these texts has the quasi-incestuous effect of confusing and blurring boundaries between fathers and sons. Ghosts can be seen as representations of a play's own ‘ancestors’, its sources, but can also prove to be shades of the future. In some texts, such as John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, ghostly figures or visions seem to offer a prophecy of the play's rich afterlife, suggestive of the relationship between allusion and the uncanny.

A familiar compound ghost

Allusion and the uncanny


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