Horatio’s Role in Hamlet

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True Friends Are Hard To Find True friends are a rarity. Although many may feel as if their friendships are true, it is only known for certain when that friendship is put to the test. Will it crack under the weight of tragedies and stress, or will obstacles and battles only strengthen it? Horatio, from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” who remains loyal to his friend Hamlet throughout the entire course of the play, passes this test without ever showing the slightest tendency to betray Hamlet or harm their friendship.

Horatio is a true friend and choric figure to Hamlet because of their mutual respect and understanding for one another, because Horatio keeps Hamlet’s darkest secrets while giving him candid and honest feedback, and because he plays a narrative role as a trustworthy character who keeps an objective and rational point of view. We are first introduced to Horatio when Marcellus and Barnardo, the night guards, ask him to confirm their sighting of a ghost and to speak to it, because he “art a scholar” (I. i. 1) Horatio faces the ghost and questions it without hesitance or fear, yelling to it, “Stay, speak, speak, I charge thee speak! ” (I. i. 63) Amanda Mabillard mentions that Horatio is a “calm, resolute, and rational character,” which is “why Hamlet chooses Horatio to become the sole person on whom he can rely. ” After Horatio recovers from the initial shock of seeing the ghostly apparition of King Hamlet, one of his first thoughts is that they should tell Prince Hamlet because it is “needful in [their] loves” and “fitting [of their] duty” (I. i. 190).

When Horatio informs Hamlet that they saw his father’s ghost, Hamlet immediately believes the bizarre tale without a doubt, which further illustrates his deep trust in Horatio. Hamlet interrogates the three of them about specific details, and they decide to meet late that night during watch duty to try to see the ghost again. Upon meeting outside of the tower, the ghost of King Hamlet appears shortly, and “beckons [Hamlet] to go away with it, as if some impartment did desire to [him] alone” (I. i. 63). Horatio and Marcellus object to Hamlet’s cries to follow the ghost, even to the point of physically restraining him.

Horatio, especially concerned about Hamlet’s well-being, points out that the ghost may be “[tempting him] toward the flood” or the “dreadful summit of the cliff,” and may possibly “[drive him] into madness” (I. iiii. 76-81). The impulsive Hamlet, however, decides to follow the ghost, even against his friend’s wishes. Horatio insists that they follow him though so that they can make sure he stays safe. Horatio once again proves that he is a strong person and friend, for he will put himself in dangerous situations to protect Hamlet.

As John Halverson says, “Horatio [is] invested with the favorable qualities of learning, courage, loyalty, and candor’ […]. ” When Hamlet is finished speaking with his father’s ghost, he has Horatio and Marcellus make two oaths that they will “never make known what [they] have seen […]” (I. iiiii. 157). Horatio is first to swear in both cases and always addresses him quickly and with respect. All of Horatio’s actions and words thus far have portrayed him as an intelligent, respectable, loyal friend that the reader can always count on and trust.

As John Halverson points out, “without Horatio, the audience would be suspicious of rather than sympathetic with Hamlet. ” Hamlet further validates the fact that Horatio is a grounded character in Act III, while Hamlet is in the midst of arranging a play to try to elicit a guilty reaction out of Claudius. Horatio blushes when Hamlet tells him that he is “just a man as e’er [his] conversation coped withal” (III. ii. 50). Hamlet insists that he is not flattering him, because there would be no purpose of flattering a man “that [hast] no revenue” (III. i. 54). Hamlet shares with him that he admires him for his “blood and judgment” because they are “so well-co-mingled” (III. ii. 65). In other words, Hamlet admires Horatio’s self-control and his appropriate mix of emotion and grounded logic. This is quite the opposite of Hamlet, who is wild with emotion and analyzes everything into oblivion. Hamlet wants a friend “that is not passion’s slave,” for he “will wear him / In [his] heart’s core,” and luckily for Hamlet, Horatio fits that description perfectly (III. ii. 68-69).

Hamlet now confides in Horatio about Claudius’s murder of his father, and asks him to keep a close eye on Claudius to see how his expressions and mannerisms change throughout the play. It is significant that Hamlet shares with Horatio the truth behind his father’s death, because he has not told the story to anyone else. Even though his mother and Claudius have hired Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be friendly to Hamlet and elicit information out of him, Hamlet sees right through it. This further shows that Hamlet is an excellent judge of character, which again credits Horatio as a trustworthy character.

Horatio is not only trusted by Hamlet, but also by the court. In Act I, Barnardo and Marcellus ask Horatio for their help because he is a scholar. The court also trusts Horatio, as seen in Act IV, when Claudius asks Horatio to follow Ophelia after she is through with her insane ramblings. There is not a single character in the play that does not appear to respect and trust Horatio when speaking to or about him. His loyalties lie with Hamlet, however, and we see this for certain when Hamlet sends a sailor to deliver letters to him.

Hamlet asks Horatio “to let the King have the letters [he has] sent,” and then to run to Hamlet with “as much speed as [he would] fly / Death” (IIII. iiiiii. 20-22). Horatio immediately complies and asks the sailor to help him achieve this as quickly as possible. If any doubt still lingers in the minds of readers’ about Horatio’s loyalty, which is unlikely, it will come to an end in Act V. After Hamlet’s attack on Laertes during Ophelia’s funeral, a Lord from the court tells Hamlet that Laertes has challenged him to a duel.

Horatio immediately and bluntly tells Hamlet that he “will lose this wager” (IIIII. ii. 201). Although Hamlet feels incredibly “ill all’s [about his heart],” he pushes it aside, saying “it is no matter” (IIIII. ii. 204-205). Horatio adamantly tells Hamlet that if “[his] mind [dislikes] anything, [to] obey it,” for he will “forestall / Their repair hither and say [he is] not fit” (IIIII. ii. 209-210). Horatio does not want Hamlet to put himself in danger, especially since Hamlet has a bad feeling about it.

Hamlet, however, is ready to accept his fate, for “if [death] be now, ‘tis not to / Come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet / It will come” (IIIII. ii. 212-214). Horatio tries to protect Hamlet, but Hamlet is now completely devoted to avenging his father’s death, and refuses to postpone any longer. Even Horatio, a close friend with wise and true advice cannot save Hamlet from his death. Horatio still stands by Hamlet during the duel, even though the prince does not follow his well-intentioned advice.

When Hamlet realizes he is poisoned by Laertes’ blade, he tells Horatio to “report [him] and his [cause] aright / To the unsatisfied” (IIIII. ii. 350-351) Horatio refuses, however, and picks up the poisoned cup and states, “Never believe it. / I am more an antique Roman than a Dane. / Here’s yet some liquor left” (IIIII. ii. 353-354) Horatio’s loyalty to Hamlet is like a Roman, for he would rather choose suicide over dishonor. According to Amanda Mabillard, “even in this [Horatio] is resolute and level-headed, acting not out of uncontrollable emotion but a sense of honour and duty. Hamlet wrestles the cup from Horatio, insisting that he must stay alive so that he can tell his story, and that Fortinbras has his “dying support” to become King of Denmark. Horatio bids an emotional farewell to Hamlet as Fortinbras and his soldiers enter. Horatio follows up on Hamlet’s wishes by telling Fortinbras of Hamlet’s desire for him to be the next king, and announces that he will explain to him the story behind all of the dead bodies: a story filled with “carnal, blood, and unnatural acts, / Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, / Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause […]” (IIIII. i. 398-402). Horatio assists Hamlet in continuing his legacy. He has remained loyal to him and true to his word until the bitter end. Horatio is an objective character who plays a narrative role in the play and is a good friend to Hamlet, but is also a ray of sunshine in an otherwise rather bleak and depressing story. Horatio is the one character that the reader can always count on to have self-control, to be objective and wise, and unwavering in his loyalty. While all of the other characters in the play are scheming and lying, Horatio simply stands by Hamlet and stays true to him.

It is rare to find such a friend; one that would sacrifice everything and put their life on the line to help you. Although many may say that they are as good a friend as Horatio, one never knows if they will stand to the challenge when presented to them. Horatio did, and because of that he is a character to be respected, trusted, and admired. Even though Horatio is typically seen as only a minor character, he plays a vital role in the play and it would be very different without him. Hamlet may no longer be sympathized with and trusted, but instead, readers may be leery of him and truly doubt his sanity.

It may also be too depressing, since there would no longer be a character in the play to really trust. Horatio has a comforting presence, is a type of narrator, is Hamlet’s one true confidante, and is used to explain historical events that set the atmosphere for the play. Horatio plays several vital roles, yet because of his infrequent appearances he is often overlooked. Works Cited Mabillard, Amanda. “Horatio. ” Shakespeare Online. 4 Nov. 2000. 29 April 2007 . Halverson, John. “The Importance of Horatio. ” Luminarium. 1994. 29 April 2007