15: Three Ghosts

Today, we look at a familiar ghost from three different angles; a poem, a play, and a song.

 Thomas Gould,  The Ghost in Hamlet , 1880, marble

Thomas Gould, The Ghost in Hamlet, 1880, marble


The Marble Ghost

What are you, that usurps this time of night?
Are you a spirit of health, or goblin damned?
The airs from heaven or blasts from hell?
I stand here, as close as they will let me stand,
and stare upon you as some kind of contradiction,
So clearly a sculpture, so clearly a ghost.

You, a spirit of light, as the air, invulnerable,
formed in marble jaws, as the stone, immoveable;
our blows, all the more vain, malicious mockery,
and yet you are ready for parle, with your frown
sheathed in a mustache that turns to wisp and cloud,
revealed by the eyes, fixed, looking low yet still
guarded in shadow, by the visor, raised high.

How many walk past you and avert their eyes?
They turn their heads away, quickly, in fear,
as soon as they see what grief you might cause.

Air, stone; spirit, goblin; heaven and hell;
a frown in the face of war and vengeance.
At once sinking deeper into the marble,
and pressing against your entombment.
Most foul, strange, unnatural, and intriguing.

I beg of you spirit, harrow up my soul,
freeze my young blood with your light words.
If you could but tell me the secrets of your
prison-house, my eyes might be, like stars; free.
I know you are stone, but take breath, and whisper,
so one of us may walk with the wonders of beyond.
It is the plight of my age. We know so much.
Volumes have been written on you and your son.
How many times has your likeness been formed,
and here again before my very eyes. But still
your other-worldly secrets remain just that.

I am not. I am but a Horatio. You wait for Hamlet.
But stay, illusion! If you have any sound, or voice!
Stay! Speak, speak, I charge thee, speak! Speak to me!

The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire:
The museum is closing, and the guard is wondering
why I have stood here with you for hours,
sketching, scratching, muttering, wondering.
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.


Hamlet, Act I, Scenes 4 and 5

SCENE IV. The platform.

Enter HAMLET and HORATIO.

HAMLET

The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.

HORATIO

It is a nipping and an eager air.

HAMLET

What hour now?

HORATIO

I think it lacks of twelve.

HAMLET

No, it is struck.

A flourish of trumpets, and ordnance shot off, within.

HORATIO

What does this mean, my lord?

HAMLET

The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.

HORATIO

Is it a custom?

HAMLET

Ay, marry, is't:
But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honour'd in the breach than the observance.
This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations:
The form of plausive manners, that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,--
Their virtues else--be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo--
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault: the dram of eale
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal.

HORATIO

Look, my lord, it comes!

Enter GHOST.

HAMLET

Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee: I'll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!
Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd,
Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel
Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous; and we fools of nature
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?

GHOST beckons HAMLET.

HORATIO

It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment did desire
To you alone. Look, with what courteous action
It waves you to a more removed ground:
But by no means, do not go with it.

HAMLET

It will not speak; then I will follow it.

HORATIO

Do not, my lord.

HAMLET

Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life in a pin's fee;
And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again: I'll follow it.

HORATIO

What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o'er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? think of it:
The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.

HAMLET

It waves me still.
Go on; I'll follow thee.

HORATIO

You shall not go, my lord.

HAMLET

Hold off your hands.

HORATIO

Be ruled; you shall not go.

HAMLET

My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.
Still am I call'd. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!
I say, away! Go on; I'll follow thee.

Exeunt GHOST and HAMLET.

HORATIO

He waxes desperate with imagination.
I must follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Exeunt.

SCENE V. Another part of the platform.

Enter GHOST and HAMLET.

HAMLET

Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I'll go no further.

GHOST

Mark me.

HAMLET

I will.

GHOST

My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.

HAMLET

Alas, poor ghost!

GHOST

Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.

HAMLET

Speak; I am bound to hear.

GHOST

So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.

HAMLET

What?

GHOST

I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love--

HAMLET

O God!

GHOST

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

HAMLET

Murder!

GHOST

Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.

HAMLET

Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

GHOST

I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.

HAMLET

O my prophetic soul! My uncle!

GHOST

Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,--
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!--won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen:
O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there!
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine!
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
And prey on garbage.
But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air;
Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigour doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;
And a most instant tetter bark'd about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust,
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch'd:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire:
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.

Exit.

HAMLET

O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart;
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter: yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark:
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word;
It is 'Adieu, adieu! remember me.'
I have sworn 't.

HORATIO [Within]

My lord, my lord, Lord Hamlet,--

HAMLET

So be it!

HORATIO [Within]

Hillo, ho, ho, my lord!

HAMLET

Hillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come.

Enter HORATIO.

HORATIO

How is't, my noble lord? What news?

HAMLET

O, wonderful!

HORATIO

Good my lord, tell it.

HAMLET

No; you'll reveal it.

HORATIO

Not I, my lord, by heaven.

HAMLET

How say you, then; would heart of man once think it?
But you'll be secret?

HORATIO

Ay, by heaven, my lord.

HAMLET

There's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
But he's an arrant knave.

HORATIO

There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.

HAMLET

Why, right; you are i' the right;
And so, without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part:
You, as your business and desire shall point you;
For every man has business and desire,
Such as it is; and for mine own poor part,
Look you, I'll go pray.

HORATIO

These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

HAMLET

I'm sorry they offend you, heartily;
Yes, 'faith heartily.

HORATIO

There's no offence, my lord.

HAMLET

Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offence too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you:
For your desire to know what is between us,
O'ermaster 't as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.

HORATIO

What is't, my lord? we will.

HAMLET

Never make known what you have seen to-night.

HORATIO

My lord, we will not.

HAMLET

Nay, but swear't.

HORATIO

In faith,
My lord, not I.

HAMLET

Upon my sword.

HORATIO

I have sworn, my lord, already.

HAMLET

Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.

GHOST [Beneath]

Swear.

HAMLET

Ah, ha, boy! say'st thou so? art thou there,
truepenny?
Come on--you hear this fellow in the cellarage--
Consent to swear.

HORATIO

Propose the oath, my lord.

HAMLET

Never to speak of this that you have seen,
Swear by my sword.

GHOST [Beneath]

Swear.

HAMLET

Hic et ubique? then we'll shift our ground.
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword:
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.

GHOST [Beneath]

Swear.

HAMLET

Well said, old mole! canst work i' the earth so fast?
A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.

HORATIO

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come;
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber'd thus, or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As 'Well, well, we know,' or 'We could, an if we would,'
Or 'If we list to speak,' or 'There be, an if they might,'
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.

GHOST [Beneath]

Swear.

HAMLET

Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!
So, Horatio,
With all my love I do commend me to you:
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let's go together.

Exeunt.


 George Cruikshank,  Hamlet, A Comic Song.  British, 19th Century, Published by R. Harrild.

George Cruikshank, Hamlet, A Comic Song. British, 19th Century, Published by R. Harrild.


Sources:

Hamlet was written by this dude named Billy Shakesman.

Special Thanks:

I obviously have a lot of special thanks to give out here. First of all I would like to thank Beth Crane, who played Hamlet, Hedley Knights, who played King Hamlet, and Jack Carmichael, who played Horatio. Beth Crane and Hedley Knights run Battle Bird Productions, which make two of my favorite shows; We Fix Space Junk, a delightful, whimsical space comedy that finds it's self between Old Doctor Who and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the Hembra Writing Podcast, a sort of audio zine that features the writing of female and non-binary authors. Please go listen to both of their shows, they are incredible.

I also have to thank Casey Dawson, who helped out tremendously with Hamlet: A Comic Song. I found the lyrics on an old print from the WAM, composed a tune for them to go to, and Casey magically took the tune I had written and aranged and recorded it beautifully, even bringing me into the studio to sing and coaching me through that.

Credits:

“The Marble Ghost” was written, performed and edited by T.H. Ponders.

Hamlet Act 1 Scene's IV and V were adapted for audio by T.H. Ponders. Hamlet was played by Beth Crane, Horatio was played by Jack Carmichael, and King Hamlet's Ghost was played by Hedley Knights. It was sequenced by Beth Crane, sound edited by Hedley Knights, and finally, sound designed, edited, and produced by T.H. Ponders.

“Hamlet: A Comic Song” has words by George Cruikshank, melody composed by T.H. Ponders, arranged and performed by Casey Dawson, with myself on Vocals, and recorded, edited, and mixed by Casey Dawson.

Our theme music was performed by Mike Harmon, with recording, editing, and mixing from Casey Dawson. Our show art was made by V Silverman. This episode was produced, written, recorded, and edited by T.H. Ponders.