|Created by||William Shakespeare|
He was present, on the field, when King Hamlet (Hamlet's father) defeated Fortinbras (the king of Norway); and he has travelled to court, from Wittenberg University (where he was familiar with Prince Hamlet), for the funeral of King Hamlet. Hamlet is glad to see him; and he remains at court, without official appointment, simply as "Hamlet's friend". He is also on relatively familiar terms with other characters: for example, when Gertrude (the queen) is reluctant to admit the "distract" Ophelia, she changes her mind, on Horatio's advice; but Hamlet has, by this point, departed for England, not supposed to return.
Horatio is not directly involved in any intrigue at the court, but he makes a good foil and sounding board for Hamlet. Being from Wittenberg, a university that defined the institutional switch from theology to humanism, Horatio epitomizes the early modern fusion of Stoic and Protestant rationality.
Horatio is a variation of the Latin Horatius. Many commentators have linked the name to the Latin words ratiō ("reason") and ōrātor ("speaker"), noting his role as a reasoner with Prince Hamlet; and, at the end of the play, surviving to tell Hamlet's tale.
Role in the play
Horatio is present in the first scene of the play, accompanying Barnardo and Marcellus on watch duty, for they claim to have "twice seen" the ghost of King Hamlet. Initially sceptical, he is "harrow[ed] [...] with fear and wonder" when it appears; and, being a scholar, is urged to speak to the ghost. It is Horatio's idea to tell Hamlet about it, supposing that "This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him".
Horatio swears secrecy pertaining to the ghost, and Hamlet's "antic disposition". He is privy to much of Hamlet's thinking, and symbolizes the ultimate faithful friend. In Act Three, Hamlet confesses his very high opinion of him. He is the first main character to know of Hamlet's return to Denmark. He only doubts Hamlet's judgement once, when the latter has arranged for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be killed. Otherwise, Horatio supports every decision Hamlet makes.
Horatio is present through most of the major scenes of the play, but Hamlet is usually the only person to acknowledge him: when other characters address him, they are almost always telling him to leave. He is often in scenes remembered as soliloquies, such as Hamlet's famous scene with Yorick's skull. He is also present during the mousetrap play; the discovery of Ophelia's madness; Hamlet's display[clarification needed] at Ophelia's grave; and the final scene. Near the end of the play, when Hamlet tells him "how ill all’s here about my heart", he suggests he obey that ill feeling; but Hamlet is pretty indifferent to the prospect of harm. Horatio is the only main character to survive: he does intend to poison himself, saying he is "more an antique Roman than a Dane"; but Hamlet, dying, implores him rather to deal with the fallout and "wounded name":
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity a while,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story.
Horatio's role, though secondary, is central to the drama.[clarification needed] Through his role of 'outside observer', he makes the audience believe Hamlet's actions, no matter how incredible they may look to readers at first sight.[clarification needed] For example, Horatio sees the Ghost, so the audience is led to believe that the Ghost is real.
- The Gravedigger Scene is Hamlet 5.1.1–205.
- "Hamlet". www.folgerdigitaltexts.org. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- Hui, Andrew (2013). "Horatio's Philosophy in Hamlet". Renaissance Drama. 41 (1–2). Retrieved 4 March 2020.
- Rokem, Freddie (28 August 2018). "Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance". Stanford University Press – via Google Books.
- Hui, Andrew (1 September 2013). "Horatio's Philosophy in Hamlet". Renaissance Drama. 41 (1/2): 151–171. doi:10.1086/673910.
- Hui, Andrew (28 August 2018). "Horatio's Philosophy in Hamlet". Renaissance Drama. 41 (1/2): 151–171. doi:10.1086/673910. JSTOR 10.1086/673910.