Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/411

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319
GHOSTS—FAIRIES—WITCHES

that a ghost could not speak till questioned about the subject on which he wished to talk, hence Horatio's attempt to unseal the ghost's mouth by guessing different purposes for its appearance. A similar belief was that the ghost could not speak till called by some particular name or form of address. Thus Hamlet, in the hope of hitting by accident upon the proper term, cries out: "I'll call thee Hamlet, King, father; Royal Dane, O, answer me!" In general appearance the ghost of the elder Hamlet was quite like himself as he had been in life. The play further tells us that people are safe from ghosts on Christmas eve; that ghosts are frightened home by the crowing of the cock, night being their only time to walk. The ghost appears, as usually, exactly at twelve o'clock. It recollects perfectly what happened upon earth; it can come and go at will, locks and walls are no impediment to it.

Some critics have attempted to make a discrimination between the actual ghost, if we can imagine such a thing, of the first act, and the imaginary vision conjured up by Hamlet's overwrought brain in the presence of his mother. However ingenious and psychological such a theory may be, I cannot believe that it can have anything to do with Hamlet. These two appear-