James MacEwan, Hal Landon Jr., Richard Doyle, Gregg Daniel and Timothy Landfield in the 2013 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Jim Cox.
Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by four spirits in A Christmas Carol who aim to change his ways and save him from a lonely, haunted end. Each spirit enlightens Scrooge about what he needs most—from humanity to love to a warning of what could be.
Gregg Daniel as Jacob Marley's Ghost.
The Ghost of Jacob Marley
“Mankind was my business! The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, patience, kindness were all my business! And now, I cannot rest.”
- Jacob Marley is the first spirit to visit Scrooge and warn him of his impending visits from the spirits of Past, Present and Yet-to-Come. Scrooge's former business partner is doomed to wander the Earth in chains for living a life full of avarice and uncaring attitude towards others. He warns Scrooge not only of what is to come but what Scrooge could become if he continues on his current path. Despite being the only spirit who personally knows Scrooge and the only friend he ever had, Marley is direct and, as A Christmas Carol director John-David Keller puts it, “The least friendly.”
- Jacob Marley’s chains represent the selfishness he exhibited in life. He unwittingly forged it through his many careless acts, "I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol). Jacob Marley died seven years before the events of A Christmas Carol.
- Many adaptations have stayed true to the Dickens descriptions. Although, in A Muppet Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley is split into two characters, Jacob and Robert, played by the heckling duo Statler and Waldof.
Hal Landon Jr. as Ebeneezer Scrooge and Richard Doyle as The Spirit of Christmas Past.
Spirit of Christmas Past
“These are but shadows of the things that have been. They have no consciousness of us.”
The Spirit of Christmas Past is Scrooge’s second visitor. Director Keller believes that the Past is tasked with reawakening Scrooge's humanity. This spirit shows Scrooge the person he once was and the moments that led him to be the curmudgeon he is. In the original novel, the spirit is described as a childlike figure with an illuminated head—similar to a candle—that is ever-changing in number of arms and legs. The light it emits is often thought to represent the illumination of the mind the spirit presents to Scrooge.
- Due to the unique description of this spirit, many adaptations have different interpretations for its look and characterization.
- In SCR’s production, the wand the spirit carries acts as a representation of the illuminating light that Dickens describes in his novel. His costume is also from an earlier time period.
- The Spirit of Christmas Past has been interpreted as elderly men, angelic women, children and even as a cab driver in the movie adaptation Scrooged.
- In a 2009 movie of A Christmas Carol, the Spirit of Christmas Past is depicted in an adaptation faithful to its Dickens description.
Timothy Landfield as The Spirit of Christmas Present and Landon as Scrooge.
Spirit of Christmas Present
“They know me wherever they hum a Christmas tune, or have a Christmas thought, or remember some bygone Christmas Day and the hopes that went with it.”
Jolly, giant and only able to exist for a single year’s Christmas, the Spirit of Christmas Present offers Scrooge the idea of empathy and community. “He shows Scrooge what he is missing. The other aspect of life he needs,” Keller says. The spirit guides Scrooge to both moments of joy and festivity as well as moments of hardship. At the end of their journey, he presents two children to Scrooge, Ignorance and Want. He warns him to beware of them and at the stroke of midnight fades away.
- The Ghost of Christmas present represents many Christmas ideals including generosity, empathy and celebration.
- He is typically first seen on a throne of a large feast in Scrooge’s home to further illustrate the idea of sharing one’s riches with the community.
- In Dickens’ novel, this spirit is able to freely change size and towers over Scrooge when they meet.
James MacEwan as The Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come.
Spirit of Christmas Yet-To-Come
“Spirit, I know that I, like all men, must die—but not having lived as I have! Not alone, unmourned, so poor in heart.”
The silent specter may be the one he fears the most. It leads Scrooge on his final journey through a Christmas that could occur if Ebenezer continues on his path. This cold spirit, reminiscent of the grim reaper, offers Scrooge two forms of grief and, as Keller puts it, “forces him to figure it out on his own.” The final moment with the spirit thrusts an awakening upon Scrooge and reinforces the idea that the curmudgeonly businessman shouldn’t waste time.
- The Spirit does not utter a single line, but simply points Scrooge towards his answers. Keller says that while the spirit “says nothing, at the same time, it says the most.”
- In the novel, Dickens does not refer to this character as a spirit or ghost like the previous two. He simply refers to it as a “phantom.”
- Scrooge initially is quick to dismiss the Spirits of Christmas Past and Present. But when the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come arrives, Scrooge is quick to seek its message and even begs mercy from it at the end of their journey.
- His interaction with the final spirit shows how much Scrooge has learned from his visitors.
Act now and get your tickets to A Christmas Carol before the spirits visit you!