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Lecture by Christopher Warley: Spectres of Horatio



Christopher Warley


Thursday, November 30, 2006 - 12:00am


Building 460, Terrace Room




Lecture by Christopher Warley: Spectres of Horatio

Abstract: "Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man / As e'er my conversation coped withal" claims Hamlet at 3.2.53-54, and the play, more often than not, seems to reinforce his assessment. Throughout, Horatio is peculiarly and uniquely authorized to explain what is going on. More generally, to interpret Hamlet at all, to speak to the ghost of the play, requires a reader or spectator to occupy Horatio's position and report this "cause" "aright." And yet the source of this authorization remains as enigmatic as Horatio himself: who is he? This lecture attempts to read the position of Horatio. What distinguishes him? How does he distinguish others? What authorizes such distinctions?

I advance two answers to these questions, one theoretical and one historical. Theoretically, I close read Hamlet with an eye toward advancing a conception of class drawn out of Derrida and Bourdieu. Horatio's "just" capacity to interpret is predicated, I will argue, upon the "spectral" logic of his social position: it is a position that seems, at the same time, to be no position at all and which deconstructs social position generally.

My second answer has to do with the relation of this spectral position to the emergence of the "scholastic fallacy" in the Renaissance. The notion that a "just," disinterested, "scholarly" interpretation is possible is tied to the conceptualization of "economics" as the realm of pure interest--that is, as the realm in which one never acts equitably or "justly" at all. In this light, I compare Horatio's remarks at the end of Q1 ("Let there a scaffold be reared up in the market-place") and his remarks in Q2 and F1 ("let me speak to the yet unknowing world"). Despite their differences, both texts work to separate economic interest from scholastic disinterest, with the result that Horatio becomes a specter: both a grounding and an unsettling of the meaning of the play.

Sponsored by Renaissances, a collaborative project of the DLCL Research Unit.