Seeing and Interpreting the Ghosts in Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy

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The Atheist’s Tragedy seems to follow Hamlet in approaching the question of ghosts; for example, in the graveyard scene and in the interpretation of the ghostly apparition. The significant difference, however, is in the nature of both the ghosts (fathers) and their sons. Hamlet, who is urged by the Ghost to revenge, hesitates. Charlemont, who wants to avenge, is held back by the Ghost. Still, the focus of the play is on D’Amville and his atheism. One possible explanation might be that, as it was already mentioned, atheism could be mentioned only as something bad and evil. To openly deal with atheism on the stage was impossible; the best way is to cover it under the issue of divine justice, where the whole ghost question serves as a cloak. The end of D’Amville is then inevitable. Nevertheless, we are still left with two possible eventualities. Is D’Amville’s death to be seen as the vengeance of God, or a mere accident?


As it was already mentioned, many of the later revenge tragedies turned away from the Kyd’s traditional elements. As far as the ghosts are concerned, there is always some kind of a ghost substitution that in a way embodies the purpose of a real ghost. There are far too many plays to be discussed, but I would like to present a couple of examples of different treatment of conceivable “ghosts”.

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