Macbeth and Richard III

Macbeth and Richard III are two other ghostly manifestations well-worth study. Both of these ghost stories come together as they have similar aspects: The main characters are ruthless in their desire for power; both kill innocents who stand in their way and each see ghosts calling for revenge because of these deeds. There are few differences between the manifestations of their spectral visitations. 

The Tragedy of Macbeth, full text online. Full online video, starring Sir Patrick Stewart via PBS (2 hours, 43 minutes) 

Macbeth dispatches his friend, Banquo, while the latter is on his way to a banquet hosted by the wayward king. Banquo manifests as a ghost a short time later in a twist that may be linked to Scottish folklore. The "untimely dead often return in search of food or hospitality denied them in life and must be satisifed" (Purkiss 144).  Ghosts also "keep appointments made when living" (144); here it is important to remember that Banquo was invited to Macbeth's for dinner.  

When Banquo manifests only Macbeth can see him.  The audience is invited to question Macbeth's sanity after the king expresses fits of panic in front of his guests.  Lady Macbeth apologizes for his odd behavior explaining first fatigue and then malady.  Macbeth hallucinates a dagger that becomes bloody the audience might agree more with her latter explaination: Macbeth's ghostly sightings appear to originate from own mind and that they do not exist in the real world.  This is a clever juxtaposition to the Weird Sisters featured in the opening scene.  Macbeth's interactions differ between a spectacular encounter with the witches, who were also seen by Banquo and thus justifiable as real, and the ghost witnessed by Macbeth alone.  

Banquo's ghost serves two purposes.  He is initially killed for his patrilineality as his heritage makes him a challenge to Macbeth's power.  He stands for the disruption of power caused by a tyrant.  However, as a ghost, Banquo also stands for the murdered dead.  As an aspect of contradiction, Banquo's lineage is the cause of his death but his ghost represents the disruption of lineage and power through unnatural means (Purkiss 144). 

Richard III
The Tragedy of Richard III, full text online.  Full audio book online (3 hours 29 minutes). 

Richard displays a ghostly manifestation drawn by Shakespeare from classically based haunted dreams. Elements of vengeance perpetuate as each spirit describes his death at Richard's hands and then bids him bad tidings.  The phrase "despair and die" is repeated time and again in a similar fashion as the conversation between Brutus and the ghost of Julius Caesar.  Additional elements of the psychological abound here as well for no one witnesses these ghosts. He  endures these apparitions as he sleeps alone in his tent. This parallels Brutus's experiences in slightly reversed order: Brutus is the only person awake in a shared room.  He, too, witnesses the shade alone though Caesar lacks the character produced by Richard's brood of specters.

View video of the ghost from Macbeth here:                                                                           View video of the ghosts of Richard III here: