GR EAT CAE SAR ’ S
Presented by: Brandy Stark, PhD
Literature and the
Oct. 11, 2014
GHOSTS IN DRAMA
Elizabethan Drama: New textual studies presented new ideas
concerning ghosts (psychological over religious reasons)
Pop- religion, local folklore: Mix of Catholic (ecclesiastical,
Purgatory) and Protestant ideals (church control, insanity; evil spirits)
Drawn from history of Classical ideas; Seneca (major source for
drama in the Middle Ages)
• Ghosts with a purpose: revenge remained a major topic along
with protection of loved one, prophesy, requesting burial, or as
an omen of death
• Lost some of the melodrama: less crude, heightened the
imaginative horror of them (Rogers 88; Stoll 205)
• Ghost seen by guards; skeptical Horatio also sees and attempts to speak to
the ghost (fails)
• Clearly identified as the murdered king through appearance (others identify
him) and through self-admission
• When asked by Hamlet to speak, ghost describes himself as having to spend a
period of time as a ghost (Purgatory)
• Hamlet converses with ghost who describes his own murder and calls for
revenge upon his murderer
• Ghosts appear by bedside (Iliad, classical references)
• No one else experiences the ghost; his restless state is
• No one else but Macbeth sees the spirit
• Excuses are made that the king is tired
• Macbeth has additional hallucinations (bloody dagger)
GR EAT CAE SAR ’ S GHOS T
Cited as one of the most uninteresting
of Shakespeare’s ghosts (Rogers 79).
Act 4, Scene 3, Lines 275 – 285
Classical/Historical RePferLencUe: TARCH’S ACCOUNT
….He thought he heard a noise at the door of his tent, and looking that way, by the light of
his lamp, which was almost out, saw a terrible figure, like that of a man, but of unusual
stature and severe countenance. He was somewhat frightened at first, but seeing it neither
did nor spoke anything to him, only stood silently by his bed-side, he asked who it was.
The specter answered him, "Thy evil genius, Brutus, thou shalt see me at Philippi." Brutus
answered courageously, "Well, I shall see you," and immediately the appearance vanished.
….When the time was come, he drew up his army near Philippi against Antony and Caesar, and
in the first battle won the day, routed the enemy, and plundered Caesar's camp. The night before
the second battle, the same phantom appeared to him again, but spoke not a word. He
presently understood his destiny was at hand…
Characteristics that match ghostly
• The ghost generally does not speak until
bidden to speak (Stoll 218)
• The ghost does speak and the text is
oracular (Stoll 217)
• Speaks single phrases (pamphlet
literature) (Purkiss 143)
• Vendetta brings Caesar (confrontation
of act of murder)
• Though it is night, Brutus does not
doubt that the ghost is there or that he is
Characteristics of psychological manifestation:
Caesar’s ghost appears as an abstraction of Brutus
• Echoes in dialogue
Refers to himself as “thy evil spirit” (4.3.280)
Only Brutus witnesses the shade
Emotional turmoil (distress) in the prior scene (Portia’s death and after a
fight/make up with Cassius)
Brutus kills himself citing Caesar’s ghost (Purkiss 145)
• “Caesar now be still/I killed not thee with half so good a will”
• Image: Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre at Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland. (April 2007) Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/theater-dance/stage-review-pict-
• Tied to the times:
• Elizabeth is an aged queen
• Like Caesar, she has no legitimate male heir
• People fear her death; more war
• In the play, Caesar is power
• Worries of legitimate succession
• Shift of power must go to Augustus; all others suffer (Rosen xix)
• Deaths of conspirators brings political restoration
• Shakespeare/Elizabethans: “Established order is preferable to chaotic and
violent change” (Rosen xxi)
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Shakespeare is a master with ghosts
Ties ancient to modern; moves the ghostly role to a new format
His works reflect the times
Caesar’s Ghost is NOT the least interesting!
• Ties timelessness of power that goes beyond death
• Reputation that lasts eternally
• Punishment for acts against the state; restoration possible (hope)
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