Aug 20, 2011 · Why this fixation with purgatory in a book ostensibly concerned with Hamlet? Well, in the 16 th Century purgatory was inextricably connected with ghost theory, and Old Hamlet’s ghost being the instigator of Hamlet’s entire plot, it’s pretty darn important (Greenblatt contests) to know how ghosts would have been understood by the play’s ... Hamlet in Purgatory, a New Historicist book, in brief, deals with the history of the much-contested idea of Purgatory as it must have been inherited in Renaissance England by Shakespeare in whose plays (not just in Hamlet, but especially in it) it seeps in, the poetical replacing the theological as a way to grapple with the thin boundary between life and death and the grief that accompanies death.

Hamlet Sr.’s ghost comes back and seeks revenge for his untimely, “unnatural” death. Hamlet Sr.’s supposed murder is his excuse for demanding his son to carry out revenge upon the murderer. Why Purgatory is represented as a ghost in the first place, and a vengeful ghost at that, is a question that comes to mind.