During the Elizabethan period, a ghost was seen as a common function in many tragedy plays. Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a prime example of using a ‘ghost’ to entice fear and apprehension among the Elizabethan audience. The ghost can be viewed as predicting several functions throughout the play, all of which are important to the play’s supreme impact.
An Elizabethan audience were extremely superstitious, held Roman Catholic beliefs of purgatory and were very fearful of afterlife and the uncertainty that surrounded it. Such views were effective connotations that helped Shakespeare to affect his audience with considerable impact.
Nevertheless, the ramifications of a ghost were seen as extremely various for a Elizabethan audience as compared with the understanding of a ghost by a modern-day audience. For that reason it might be stated that the variation in how the ghost is received might diminish the play’s impact for a modern audience. The audience of Shakespeare’s time were surrounded with highly spiritual concepts. During the duration, whilst numerous were deemed protestants, there were many who challenged the idea of souls and their sins in relation to paradise and hell and continued to practise the old faith.
Therefore an Elizabethan audience would have recognized with the ideas of paradise and hell and the uncertainty surrounding ghosts. Whether the ghost of Old Hamlet is residing in hell or purgatory is a problem which Shakespeare leaves open and unsolved. This leaves the Shakespearean audience with the concern of whether there was hope of redemption for old hamlet and in relation, themselves. This can be viewed as one of the various functions of the ghost in hamlet, by engaging into the spiritual state of mind of Elizabethans, they would question its presence and would be intent on finding its presence and nature throughout the play.