Moretti & Hamlet blog post

‘Why is the protagonist significant here? Not for what is “in” it; not for its essence, but for its function in the stability of the network. And stability has clearly much to do with centrality, but is not identical to it. Take the second most central character of the play: Claudius. In quantitative terms, Claudius is almost as central as Hamlet (average distance of 1.62, versus 1.45); but in structural terms not so, when we remove him from the network (Figures 14-5) what happens is that a handful of peripheral characters are affected, but the network as a whole not much. Even if we remove, first Hamlet, and then Claudius (Figures 16-8), his subtraction doesn’t do much. But if we remove, first Hamlet, and then Horatio (Figures 19-21), then the fragmentation is so radical that the Ghost and Fortinbras – which is to say, the beginning and the ending of the play – are completely severed from each other and from the rest of the plot. Hamlet no longer exists. And yet, Horatio is slightly less central than Claudius in quantitative terms (1.69 versus 1.62). Why is he so much more important in structural terms?’

The key differences between temporal and spatial analysis is evident in Moretti’s analysis of Hamlet. Rather than looking at the series of events and the timeline of Shakespeare’s work, Moretti takes a look at the relationships in the literature. You can see that Moretti outlines the network of characters and the stability and structure that goes along with it. He even goes so far as to mention secondary and tertiary characters like the Ghost and Fortinbras. While we are missing valuable context of Hamlet (especially for those who haven’t read it before), we can see how Moretti deals with the spatial analysis of this work.


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