Sunday, September 11, 2011

Magpie 82


I imagine most Magpie posts this week will have the tragedy of 9/11 in mind. I hope that something a bit different, my rather lighthearted piece on ghosts generally, may also be permitted.

You think of ghosts, you think of Shakespeare.
Or you should.
Because Will S. packed so many of these phantoms in his plays it almost seems they came out of the woodwork.
Which of course is what many ghosts do.
Look at the lineup:

First there is the specter who’s probably the most famous of the Shakespearean ghosts, Hamlet’s father. (His dad, by wild coincidence, was also named Hamlet.)

Then there’s the ghoul who wrecked Macbeth’s elegant dinner party, Banquo.


Of course we should also mention Julius Caesar’s pervasive spirit, in the play of that name, who comes back to remind everyone that he’s pretty ticked off about his assassination – as who wouldn’t be?
And we’ve got to add to the list the play about Richard III, Shakespeare’s Bad Guy par excellence, who pretty well hated everyone and who everyone, by the end of the play, pretty well hated him.

He had a whole platoon of ghosts come to torment him. (I counted eleven of ‘em.)
Some of these ghosts had lines; they had things to say. But there’s always been a question in my mind about these phantoms: who saw them?
Because Shakespeare wasn’t consistent. Sometimes the ghosts were seen by just one person; other times they were seen by many.
For example, Banquo, at the dinner party, is seen only by Macbeth; none of the guests at the banquet see him at all. Even Mrs. M – Lady Macbeth – doesn’t see him, yet she’s just as guilty of murder as her husband.
Hamlet’s father, on the other hand, is seen by the night watch at Elsinore castle, who then call this rather bizarre apparition to the young Prince’s attention. They all see the ghost.

But later in his mother’s bedroom, while Hamlet is criticizing his mom for having had carnival knowledge of his uncle Claudius, the specter of his dad shows up again. What’s remarkable is that the old King’s ghost, this time, is seen (and heard) only by his son – his mother sees nothing.
All of which leads to an obvious question: Did Shakespeare believe in ghosts?
My guess (cries of “For what that’s worth!” are heard in the background), is no, he didn’t.
He wrote a lot about witches too, but scholars point out that this probably had a lot to do with the simple fact that Will’s king, James the One, who was the playwright’s patron -- and, let’s face it, his boss -- was very occupied with witches. So Our Will wrote a play that concentrated so heavily on witches it might as well have been titled “The Witches,” but wound up as “Macbeth.”
So I conclude Shakespeare didn’t believe in ghosts or witches or a number of other supernatural types. But truth is, no one knows, or will ever know, just what Will Shakespeare did believe in.

34 comments:

Helen said...

Permission granted ~~ always!

Brandee Shafer said...

I've always loved the character Banquo. (What a great name for a horse, right?) Here's hoping that Shakespeare will haunt one of us and tell us whether or not he believed in ghosts - ha, ha.

Kay L. Davies said...

Ah yes, carnival knowledge. Which ride to ride first. Before we have any cotton candy.
A fun look at Shakespeare's Eleven (they could make up a cricket team).
I tend to agree, he didn't believe in ghosts or witches, or he'd have been more consistent about them, or perhaps would have left them out entirely for fear they come back to haunt him.
Good stuff, Berowne. I enjoyed it.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Irish Gumbo said...

He certainly seems to have believed in the concept of ghosts. And maybe ghosts only make themselves known to those whom they wish to make themselves known?

Tumblewords: said...

Surely he'll let us know?

Susie Clevenger said...

Ah the bard...he had a lineup of ghosts to haunt his writings...nothing like something well written to have each of us pondering why he wrote so often about them...good job

Jackie Jordan said...

Thank you so much for this piece. I haven't thought of the Bard since college and enjoyed Shakespeare so much. It's time to re-visit ... Thanks again!

thingy said...

Very entertaining. I have learned some new things, ie: Uncle Claudius and mom at the carnival.

In a way Shakespeare does haunt us with the work he left behind.

Isabel Doyle said...

maybe "S" thought only the good - or utterly evil - could see ghosts? tools for the playwright - lesser deus ex machinae perhaps
lively and refreshing post as always x

Mary said...

Amazing to see a list of all Shakespeare's ghosts and their roles. I had truly never thought about this. Thank you for a unique take on the prompt.

izzy said...

I paid much more heed to his witches than ghosts-
Magic and spells, stirring up trouble-some of his mischievous sprites entertained me and humored me very well! Thanks-

Anonymous said...

"had carnival knowledge" Now that puts a positive spin on the acrobatics of love-making!Methinks Shakespeare would believe in this sort of fare! Jane Jones Chiccoreal

laurie kolp said...

Thank you for this genius take on the prompt... you have posted a poser to think about!

Words A Day said...

Lets ask him:)!

Brian Miller said...

smiles. fun look into willie's ghost life...it is funny...that actually makes three of us that went the shakespeare route...a weird synchro....

Jo Bryant said...

Loved hearing about all his ghosts - what a refreshing take on this prompt

jabblog said...

I loved 'carnival knowledge' - are you sure you're not English - or, at least, British??

signed...bkm said...

those ghosts always seem to be sleeping beneath the bed - always playing with our mind...bkm

Lyn said...

That Will, quite a kidder...whatever he believed, he had a way of making us believe. On to the carnival!!

Berowne said...

My thanks to such a fine group for such fine comments.

Berowne said...

Irish Gumbo: "Maybe ghosts only make themselves known to those whom they wish to make themselves known?"
Yes. Good theory.

Berowne said...

It's always a pleasure to hear from such friends as Helen, Kay L D, Tumblewords, Susie C, Jackie J, thingy, Isabel D, Mary, izzy, chiccoreal, laurie kolp, bkm and Lyn -- thanks.

Berowne said...

jabblog: "Are you sure you're not English - or, at least, British??"
I'm as English as anyone else who's living in Connecticut and was born in Seattle. :-)

Ann Grenier said...

Thanks for this...Never really thought about Shakespeare's inventory of ghosts. Perhaps they were his self portraits as well :-)

Wendy said...

I've always thought of Shakespeare's ghosts not as ghosts but as parts of the character...the conscience...the cheerleader...the part of the mind that doesn't rest until wrongs have been righted, etc.

Berowne said...

Wendy: "I've always thought of Shakespeare's ghosts not as ghosts but as parts of the character...the conscience...the cheerleader...part of the mind."
That has actually been done. There was a production where Hamlet, dealing with his dad's ghost, did all the lines. He'd speak as the Prince, then changing his voice to a growl, spoke as the old King. The audience understood it to mean it was all in Hamlet's mind...

Stafford Ray said...

Wonderful as always, but whether you intended this or not, this image cracked me up and should not be changed. "his mom for having had carnival knowledge of his uncle Claudius". Hahaha!

Tess Kincaid said...

Excellent...the Hamlet ghost is my favorite...

Trellissimo said...

As always, an interesting and informative post.

Berowne said...

Tess Kincaid: "Excellent...the Hamlet ghost is my favorite..."
Thanks, Tess. And thanks too for a fine, provocative prompt.

Lena said...

I'd guess he never personally saw one but wanted us to think he believed in them. Mind you, I don't know a lot of Shakespeare *hangs head in shame* but I admire his continuous mention of such beings.

Berowne said...

"As always, an interesting and informative post."
As always, a great comment from Trellissimo. Thanks.

Madge said...

I cringe when I see the error of another, but double cringe when I realize I've made a mistake too!

annell said...

Delightful post, in preparation for the season!

 
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