Introduction

In the first act of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Ghost of the dead King of Denmark appears to his son, setting off a chain of events that culminates in the play’s notoriously bloody finale. But how would this mysterious figure have been understood in Shakespeare’s world?

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Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt (John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities) guides learners through an exploration of the Ghost in Hamlet, considering both its uncanny theatrical power and the historical contexts from which it emerged. Learners will be introduced to the narrative sources of Hamlet, the religious convictions that shaped how people in Renaissance England understood the afterlife, and the ways that Shakespeare’s Ghost would have thrilled and challenged its original audience. Learners will also be invited to share their own theatrical interpretations of Hamlet and to consider how the themes of death, mourning, and memory shape Shakespeare’s play as well as their own lives.

What you'll learn:

  • Appreciate Shakespearean dramaturgy and language
  • Identify historical contexts that illuminate Shakespeare’s artistic choices
  • Explore the implications of different theatrical and performance interpretations

Meet The Faculty

Stephen Greenblatt

Stephen Greenblatt

Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of twelve books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Marvelous Possessions; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning. He is General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and of The Norton Shakespeare, has edited seven collections of criticism, and is a founding editor of the journal Representations.

Areas of expertise:

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