Shakespeare's earliest appearances as a character are as a ghost, appearing in stage prologues and epilogues to approve of productions of his plays. At first the ghost, identified with Hamlet Sr, is a regal figure, invested with authority over matters of textual fidelity, taste, morality and politics, but gradually he comes to be used for comic purposes as well, to be mocked himself. Apart from Britain, the ghost also starts to appear on the Continent in the course of the eighteenth century. By the twentieth century, most Shakespearean ghosts have lost all their authority, and are raised only to be made fun of, at least in Britain. On the European Continent and in the USA, by contrast, the ghost retains his authority, though now he is no longer a regal ghost, but more often that of a stereotypical English gentleman.