A Truant Disposition:

Discovering the Tragedy of Hamlet through the Role of Horatio

2018 REVISED Second Edition  


Shakespeare's Hamlet has intrigued scholarly critics, as well as casual playgoers, leading to more debate than any other play. The author comes to the play first as a curious spectator, then introduces us to scholars and directors who have expressed similar curiosity about the play. The book discovers the role of Horatio allowing us to see him as a more textured character - not just Hamlet's two-dimensional side-kick. Shakespeare drew Horatio as a flawed villain - a counterpart to Hamlet's flawed hero. The book questions the (now traditional) 1660s interpretation of the play which emerged about sixty years after the play was written. Grieb relies on the texts closest to Shakespeare's hand (Q1, Q2 and First Folio) and grounds the tragedy in the tumultuous decade straddling the turn of the seventeenth century. She offers new staging possibilities to more adequately unite the themes in the play. What is Horatio's place at Elsinore? Is Hamlet mad or just pretending? In the closet scene, why does Gertrude not see the ghost? Why are the characters of Fortinbras, Reynaldo, and Voltemand necessary to the play? Starting from the spoken lines, explanations for these and other questions are offered here. The author emphasizes character development and staging that more adequately imagine directions embedded in the spoken lines.This readable book is equally for those with casual, scholarly, or professional interests in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

(Left) Grieb introduces perspectives presented in her book, "A Truant Disposition" in these lecture excerpts. Videographer: Kendra Hardin.

(Right) Grieb further explains the roles of the ghost, Fortinbras, and Horatio in these excerpts from the lecture on "A TRUANT DISPOSITION."

Photo of drawing credit: GiovanniPaolo Marana, “Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy who Lived Five and Forty Years, Undiscover’d, at Paris,” eight volumes, Vol 1: 25th ed.; Vol 2-8: 13th ed., (London: A. Wilde, 1753), image excerpt from Vol 1 frontispiece entitled “Mahmut the Turkish Spy,” by J. Basire Sculp. Courtesy of Special Collections, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.