by SCR Staff
Bringing the Spirits of "A Christmas Carol" to Life
Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by four spirits 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.
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. He is punished 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 he 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.”
- 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. 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 the movie A Muppet Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley is split into two characters, Jacob and Robert, played by the heckling duo Statler and Waldof.
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 whom Keller believes, “Is there to reawaken Scrooge’s humanity.” This shows Scrooge who 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 interpreted the look and characterization of the spirit differently.
- 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 also is 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 represented faithfully to its Dickens description.
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 Day, 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, the Spirit fades away.
- The Ghost of Christmas present represents many of the Christmas ideals including generosity, empathy and celebration.
- He typically is 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, the Spirit is able to freely change size and towers over Scrooge when they meet.
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 Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come is a silent specter who leads Scrooge on his final journey through a Christmas that could occur if he continues on his path. A cold spirit who is reminiscent of the grim reaper, this Spirit 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 he shouldn’t waste time.
- The Spirit does not utter one single line and simply points Scrooge towards his answers. Keller believes that he “says nothing but at the same time 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 is quick to dismiss the Spirits of Christmas Past and Present initially. But when the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come arrives, he 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.