In Act 1 Scene 1 of Hamlet, why does Marcellus say, "Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio"?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The context for this line is the ghost's appearance on the watchtower outside the castle. Essentially, Marcellus, Horatio, Bernardo, and Francisco are frightened, and are at a loss as to how to respond to the ghost. Understandably they are, as Horatio says, filled with "fear and wonder." Horatio, it emerges later in the play, has returned home from college due to a "truant disposition," and because he is apparently the only educated man in the group, "a scholar," Marcellus thinks he should be the one to speak to the ghost. Perhaps he thinks that Horatio's education will help him come up with something to say. In any case, as soon as Horatio speaks to the ghost, it departs, and returns only to vanish again as Marcellus brandishes his weapon at it.


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