A ghost by absence

After setting the scene in the librarian's office, Scylla and Charybdis introduces Stephen's talk with a scornful but largely accurate remark from John Eglinton: "He will have it that Hamlet is a ghoststory." Stephen begins his spiel in response to this, claiming that William Shakespeare played the part of the ghost in performance, that his artistic purposes center on the ghost rather than Prince Hamlet, and that the ghost's state of mind is the key to understanding all of Shakespeare's works. Later in the chapter, he twice refers to this state of mind as a "sundering" that Shakespeare experienced as a result of sexual betrayal. Many of Stephen's claims about the bard's life and works are far-fetched, tendentious, and unscholarly, but his conceit of ghostly absence offers a powerful tool for thinking about Shakespeare's work––and Joyce's as well.

John Hunt 2023

An unknown 19th century French or German artist's ink and wash drawing showing the ghost drawing Hamlet aside, held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Christ liberating the virtuous ancient Hebrews from Limbus Patrum, in a 17th century Russian icon held in the Solovetsky monastery in northern Russia. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Upstairs room in Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford.
Source: www.shakespeare.org.uk.

Patrick Allen as the ghost in Hamlet. Source: wviewaplitduncan.blogspot.com.

  Hellbuny's 2008 photograph of the whirlpools in the Naruto Strait, Japan. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

  Old map of Charybdis and Scylla in the strait separating Sicily and Calabria, artist and date unknown. Source: www.agefotostock.com.

  Source: www.azquotes.com.

Grete Stern's 1951 photographic portrait of Jorge Luis Borges.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.