In the first act of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet , the Ghost of the dead King of Denmark appears to his son, setting off a chain of events that culminates in the play’s notoriously bloody finale. But how would this mysterious figure have been understood in Shakespeare’s time?
Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt guides learners through an exploration of the Ghost’s uncanny theatrical power and the historical contexts from which the character emerged. You will be introduced to the narrative sources of Hamlet, the religious convictions that shaped how Renaissance England understood the afterlife, and how the Ghost would have thrilled and challenged its original audience. By focusing on the Ghost, you will see how the play grapples with issues like death, mourning, remembrance, and the power of theatre.
Through short video lectures, readings from the play as well as later works by Coleridge and Joyce, and conversations with experts, you will develop critical tools with which to "unlock" the play's possible meanings.
If you're reading Hamlet for the first time, this course is a great introduction. If you're reading it for the hundredth time, it is the perfect chance to revisit and refresh your "take" on Shakespeare's greatest tragedy.
- The many meanings of Hamlet revealed through the central figure: the Ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father.
- The historical context that shaped how Shakespeare wrote the play and how his audiences interpreted it.
- How to challenge the assumption that the play is only about revenge.
- The importance of themes like remembrance, death, and mourning.
- How the Ghost has been interpreted on stage, on screen, and in writing.