Sunday, 8 January 2017

Hamlet's Father's Ghost

We do not include Shakespeare in our list of literary hereafters. However, Hamlet's father's ghost delivers a fragmentary account of Purgatory. Further, in Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, the Shakespearean Hamlet really existed so this version of Purgatory must have been real as well. However, the Shakespearean timeline is only one of many and the others can have different hereafters - an idea that could never before have been imagined!

Fritz Leiber wrote a neat ghost story: the actor who is supposed to play the Ghost in Hamlet is drunk back stage while the Ghost appears on stage... But I did not like the resolution.

I am currently lost in a fictional account of a bizarre multi-dimensional hereafter. For this and for my thoughts on the idea of a hereafter, see here.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    These comments by you about Shakespeare and Purgatory reminded me of how some commentators have speculated that Shakespeare may have been a secret Catholic, or at least had pro Catholic sympathies. Shakespeare lived at the beginning of the Penal Laws era, when it was costly and dangerous to be a Catholic in England and Ireland.


  2. ... the others can have different hereafters - an idea that could never before have been imagined!

    Oh, really? I seem to recall a James Branch Cabell story in which Valkyries and angels grab the wrong souls at the same instant and deliver them to the wrong hereafters, the Christian to Valhalla and the pagan Viking to the Christian heaven. Perhaps needless to say, neither of the souls is happy to be where it ends up.

    Chuck Holst

    1. Dear Mr. Holst,

      Not having read James Branch Cabell, I can't really comment about his works--but your comment here intrigues me. If angels and Valkyries both exist, wouldn't that mean both God and the Scandinavian gods exist? To me, as a Catholic, I would argue that only God can exist, can BE God and that no other gods exist. So only angels exist and not any Valkyries.

      But I'm probably taking this too seriously! This was only a fiction by Cabell, to amuse his readers.


    2. Chuck,
      There are works of fantasy that mix mythologies and that therefore present alternative hereafters as coexisting. What I thought was unusual in Anderson's Old Phoenix multiverse was the implication that different timelines could have different hereafters or, in some cases, no hereafter.