Kaja Wrote

October 28, 2008

A Character Analysis of Horatio–from Shakespeare’s “HAMLET”

Filed under: College Essays,Essays — kajarebecca @ 2:48 am
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Horatio may be a minor role in the great Shakespeare play “Hamlet”; however he is role of great importance to not only the readers of this play but also to the good Prince Hamlet of who Horatio was his closest and dearest friend and confident. Horatio serves two main purposes in this tragedy first as the steadfast friend of the prince and second as the teller of Hamlets life story.

True and faithful, Horatio is the ideal image of friend. Always willing to help and be of service to Hamlet the Prince. They studied together at the University of Wittenburg and were good scholars as well as good friends. Horatio is in truth the man Hamlet would like to be. He is smart and good, but is not driven to any extreme or rash actions because of his intellectual mind. Horatio is willing to trust people and accept the world as it comes to him but is also willing to look for truth and risk his life for those he loves. Hamlet admires and praises Horatio for the qualities he so firmly possesses, that he lacks, such as virtue of truth and self control: “Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man….as e’ver my conversation cop’d withal.” Horatio is a strong character who is unwavering in his friendship and ideals, and Hamlet often longs for the peace of mind he seems to think Horatio possesses.

“Dost thou hear? Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice, and could of men distinguish her election, hath seal’d thee for herself, for thou hast been as one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing, a man that fortune’s buffets and rewards hast ta’en with equal thanks: and blest are those whose blood and judgement are so well commedled that they are not a pipe for fortune’s finger to sound what stop she please. Give me that man that is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him in my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart, as i do thee.”

Horatio feels deeply for Hamlet and loves him greatly, but will not try to rule him or persuade him. He remains level-headed and stable and is not “…passion’s slave…” Hamlet and Horatio are different but not so much as to push them away from each other. Hamlet often leaves the other characters of the drama confused but Horatio seems to be able to make out what the Prince wants to express. Their conversations lay a great deal of meaning and ground to the play, and help explain many of Hamlets mysteries that he trusts no one else to tell but his best friend. Horatio easily believes Hamlet even when so many others doubt his sanity, therefore it makes it easier for readers to trust and believe Hamlet as well. Other than Hamlet’s many long soliloquies, his conversations with his friend are the only other true insight into our hero’s thoughts, innermost soul, and feelings.

Why we may ask, other than the fact that they are good friends, does the good Prince trust Horatio so much as in to leave the fate and his story of his life and country in his hands? Hamlet can rely on Horatio for many reasons the main being that from the very beginning of this play he is calm, sensible and intelligent. He is not afraid of the ghost and even demands that it speak if it knows anything that they may need to know “If thou art privy to thy country’s fate ….O, speak! Or if thou hast uphoarded in they life extorted treasure in the womb of earth….Speak of it, stay and speak!” He is everything the Prince needs in a friend at this time.

The good Horatio believes Hamlet in all cases and supports him in all his decisions except one, the very one that costs Hamlet his life just as he had predicted it would. He loves the Prince Hamlet so much that he would rather kill himself by his own hand with the poisoned wine, with honor and duty, than to have to live on after Hamlet’s death. Hamlet however had another plan, a plan that puts Horatio in a place of high importance. This place was to tell his story that he might not be forgotten. With his last breaths he trusts his friend to find a way and the words to tell the truth about his life, and his fathers in the confusing times he must know is coming to his dear country of Denmark.“If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart…Absent thee from felicity a while…and in this harsh world draw thy breath is pain…to tell my story.” Entrusting this task to Horatio shows his true love for his friend better than any gifts of words he could have spoken. Therefore in the end Hamlet, the readers hero, becomes a little more like his idol and friend Horatio accepting his fate of death and the evil in the world.

Horatio remains after all the other main characters have fallen, so was he really such a minor character? He remains as a pure example of friendship of the most precious kind. True and unselfish, he is a friend that any person no matter what age they may be or what time era they live in would be proud to have!

10 Comments »

  1. To Kaja from Erika in Germany

    Dear Kaja,
    thats true. I agree, he is not a minor charakter. The friendship between Hamlet and Horatio is the only dot of joy and light of virtue the members of the audience have. Horatio is moving me. Some people say, he is not ment as a real person, he is just a part of Hamlet, his “Alter Ego”. That is why they think he is a minor charakter. And they say, a real person never can be such a good friend. Hamlet ist projecting all this virtues to Horatio. He cannot really be like this. But why should he not be a real Charakter too? May be, he is not perfect,who is perfekt at all? But I belief in Horatio, that he tries to be like this. Why should he not try to be a good person? And at last he really becomes like this because Hamlet thinks and wants him like this. I think, there is a kind of positiv re-increasement between the friends.
    Without Horatio I could not bear to see all this. Why should I observe the tortur of Hamlet and all this dirty things about his familie? I would leave the audience!
    Of cause, this friendship opens questions to me. As: “Why are they friends at all, what was the beginning of this friendship in Wittenberg, what keeps them together, what is the dynamic of this friendship?” “What gets Horatio from Hamlet, what makes him loving him so much?” “Does Hamlet has something, that Horatio´s soul needs?” And I think, a modern psychoanalitiker would try to convince Horatio to live his own life and not give it up for Hamlet. Or he would try to convince him to push Hamlet or to akt for Hamlet. But I think, a modern psychoanalitiker has not the right to judge about the values of people of an other time.
    To my own question, what Horatio´s soul needs from Hamlet, I had the idea, that Hamlet is Horatio´s “inner child”,that allows him to be open and to play. May be or not. Its just an idea.

    Comment by erika — February 18, 2009 @ 9:47 pm | Reply

  2. I agree mostly with this essay, except for the fact that Horatio may not be a minor character.
    I don’t exactly understand Erika’s comment of ” Hamlet ist projecting all this virtues to Horatio. He cannot really be like this. But why should he not be a real Charakter too? May be, he is not perfect,who is perfekt at all?” Please specify on who is “he”,Hamlet or Horatio?
    From what I can interpret, you mean that Horatio isn’t really a perfect friend since no one is perfect in reality, and Horatio merely tries to be a perfect friend?
    But you have to remember, that the play is still fictional and quite frankly many writers (Actually, almost every writer, which is the reason why Shakespeare is considered so great)have the inability to create and portray 3-D characters that really do copy reality and show what it means to be human, mostly create 2-D characters that only have a defining trait, problem, priority, goal, situation. Not the jumbled up mess we all are. Of course, some writers and people just don’t care and just want one statement, theme, thing emphasized. (But I believe that they mostly go that way because they don’t have the ability to make characters really 3-D, so they adapt and make money and entertain folks or whatever.) So the question is, did Shakespeare intend to make Horatio a 3-D character or just a 2-D character only designed for Hamlet?
    To me, Shakespeare has the ability to make every character the play 3-D, but for reasons, such as the character is a minor one, does not go deeper into them. I believe Horatio is a minor character, who plays an important part in the play, but the play isn’t focused on him, so exactly what causes him to act the way he does doesn’t matter that much, all that matters is what his character does and how it affects the play and Hamlet. This is the reason why Shakespeare really doesn’t go into GREAT depth about who Horatio is and what he is REALLY thinking, and blah blah blah. Of course, Shakespeare does give some depth to all his minor characters. But any further than that doesn’t really matter in the context of the play.
    Also, Horatio may be a perfect friend for Hamlet, but he isn’t perfect to me. (He accepted the fact that Hamlet sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths so easily.) Quite frankly, in reality if Horatio is real, to have a perfect friend that Horatio is to Hamlet is VERY rare. There are many, MANY factors that make a person disagree and have conflicts with another person. For example, people in the modern world mostly wouldn’t go die if a friend was dieing. Many things and factors have to take place for a person to be a true friend to Hamlet like Horatio is.

    Comment by Rosalie — June 5, 2009 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  3. To Kaja and Rosalie
    Oh, I think, Horatio is a perfect friend to Hamlet. He did n o t agree with Hamlet, about the fact, that Hamlet sent Guildenstern and Rosencrantz to death. He was hoping, Hamlets work, to send them to death, would not have been successful, and so he asked Hamlet “how was this sealed”, because, if the seal were not from the Danish king, the English people would not follow the order to send them to death. And when Hamlet explained to him, that the seal was perfect, I think, Horatio was not amused, because he said: “So Rosencrantz and Guilderstern go to it”. This was not agreement, but resignation.(otherwise he would not have chosen the words “go to it”) It was even a kind of critc to Hamlet.
    He did not leave Hamlet alone even when Hamlet did something, that he (Horatio) could not accept, but this was not a mistake, this was great. He (Horatio) knew it would not help anybody, to leave Hamlet alone now, or to blame him, and I think, Horatio felt responisible for things Hamlet did. This, I think, was the reason, why he wanted to die together with Hamlet: To defend him in front of heaven and to pull him out of hell.
    I am still working about Horatio, and more and more I come to the result, that he i s a 3D character, as you call it, and the play i s focused on him. The fact, that Shakespear did not work him out so exactly, is, that he wanted us to think about Horatio. Shakespeare made him a puzzle for us.

    I more and more come to the result, Horatio is running throug a kind of holy initiation, and it is part of his initiation to try to serve Hamlets virtues.
    To try to keep the virtues of the (true) king clean was as well the profession of the Egyptian Sun-God Horus (to find out this I was reading the Horus-Mythos, and the whole story indeed is according to the Horus-Mythos) So I think, Horatio is going to be the disciple or adept of Horus (the god of his name as well), or – because this seems to be a Christian play – the Horus-aspect of the Christian God.
    And I think, Horatio must know this,he wants to be a good person, he wants to become a saint, and this is why he feels so much responsible for Hamlet. Horus is always the king’s best friend.

    If Horatio would live in India or ancient China, and if he is able to be “not passions slave” all Buddhas and Bodhisatvas and Gods and Saints would be delighted to have him as their disciple (even Jesus would, I am sure). They would try to teach him and to let him have an initiation and to lead him. So, a Buddhist as I am, reading this play, reading, Horatio is not passions slave, would imedeately have the thought “oh, then, why is he not enlightend yet?” because, if you are indeed not passions slave, then you are in the state of an “arhat”…what means, you begin to become a Buddha….and …indeed, at the end of the play, I think, Horatio has reached this state. In the words of a Christian, he became a saint.
    The point is, if you want to be a Buddha (what means in Christian terms – a Saint), you have to leave behind all your wishes and passions, and – in the very last moment – even the passion for to become a Buddha/Saint.
    And this happens, when Horatio wants to die to save Hamlets soul from hell, he even gives up this last whish to save his own felicity (because it is a sin to commit suicit), and just in this moment, I think, he becomes a saint….and when the dieing Hamlet (here we must know, that the God Horus is always expressing himself through the mouth of the [true] king)….the dieing Hamlet is saying “Oh God, Horatio…..” Well, this is the moment….(Horatio thought, he would not have been good enough, he would not have done a good Horus -job an not be worthy to be the disciple of a God, because of so many dead people, and all he wanted was, to correct this, and at last save Hamlet from hell, saying, “it is as well my fault, I did not do a good job”, even if he had to die for this. But the God did not deal this opinion he had an other opinion, he said in other words: “no, stay alive, you could not have done better, you are my disciple now. If you stay alive, this will help Hamlet much more”.) And when Hamlet in union with Horus says “absent you from felicity a while” this is exactly, what a Boddhisatva should do: not to pass away to heaven, but to stay to serve other people, what here means, to save the other people to become not a king the way Claudius did, and to help the kings to be good kings. We can see the result in the sucess, Horatio’s words have now to Fortinbras. His words have power now, because he is iniciated now an has the support of his God.
    And when Horatio is telling Hamlet’s story again and again, it is not boring for him, because he is working on his true profession – a kind of prist-profession for the kings. Moreover he will develope himself to become more and more sucessful in doing this….to develope a kind of “horusness”

    Imagine a japanise sword-fighting-master – at the end of his developement,when he is on a very high leavel, he does not need a sword any more – peace will happen, even when he just apears.

    And imagine, Horatio some years later – he would need no words any more to help the kings. If he would have had this state of consciousnes in the beginning, and Horatio would have entered the court, Claudius would have braked down crying, giving himself the crown to Hamlet ….When Horatio will have reached this leavel, he will need no words any more, he will not have to tell Hamlets story any more, he will emanate this kind of “horusness” silenty, and the king will be a good king.

    But – as all spiritual disciples – Horatio may not tell about his high spiritual job – and this is why Shakespeare dont tell us as well – we have to find out ourselfs (the rest is silence). Horatio has not to tell his own secret story – but Hamlet’s story.

    Of course I have to explain this. You have not to belief it, I can not tell it in this few words, it must sound very strange to you. But I am still working on it. I have not much time, because I have a lot of work, and a stressing job, this is why I am not yet finish. Moreover I am a German, it is not so easy, to express what I want to say in English. But I am going on, because Horatio indeed is fascinating me. When I am finish, I come back here.
    When I wrote my first comment to Kajas comment,I did not yet come to this result.

    Comment by erika — July 22, 2009 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

    • erika, I appreciate and admire your endeavor to learn English, you are doing quite well.

      Comment by pr0ject2501 — October 4, 2011 @ 5:05 am | Reply

  4. Erika again:

    Oh, I am sorry, my sentence above, could lead to some missunderstandigs:…”….and at last save Hamlet from hell, saying, “it is as well my fault, I did not do a good job”…”
    This, of course, is not what Horatio really says in Shakespeare’s text, it is, what I think he would say (or better: “think”) to his God, when he decided to die together with Hamlet. It is my own interpretation.

    And I would like to add something about the Horus -mythos:

    Horus (his real Egyptian name is “Hor”, “Horus” is just the latin version of his name) is the God of the kings.
    It seems, there are several versions of the Horus-mythos, in one of this versions, the (Egyptian) king is surrounded with two Gods, Horus and Seth. Horus is the good God, who is trying to keep the virtues of the king pure, to influence him to be good, fair and justly. He is the setter of rights. And Seth is his enemy, who tries to influence the king to be cruel and chaotic and bad. Seth is standing for chaos and is brougth in connection with thunderstorms (Claudius-clauds).
    Horus expesses himself through the mouth of the king.(Some other versions of the mythos say, the living king is identical with Horus, and when the king dies, he is no more Horus, but Osiris, and the next king then is Horus)
    In the mythos, Horus’ father Osiris was killed bei his uncle – like Hamlets father. Here you can see, the affinity, the play has to the Horus-Mythos.

    So, Horatio might know this, but Hamlet himself probably does not know this (but Horatio is not allowed to tell him). When Hamlet says something to Horatio, he has to find out, if it is only his friend Hamlet, who is speaking, or if as well his God Horus wants to tell him something. This does not make it easy for Horatio, because he has always to listen exactly and then to think about each word Hamlet said and then to look inside himself. But it is very interesting for me, to find if out, – if – and if he does, how – the God is leading Horatio to his true profession between the words of Hamlet.

    In the beginning, Hamlet asked Horatio, “What brought you here from Wittenberg”? and Horatio answered “a truant disposition”. I have learnd from an other Hamlet-Interpret here in the Internet, that the word “truant” has two meanings, one meaning is “lazy” but the other meaning is “like a monk”.
    So, I think, Horatio did not make a joke, when he answered “a truant disposition”, he exectly told the truth, but how should he express it better (without telling too much), if the God has called him (may be in dreams) to come here to have an spiritual initiation. So, I think, Horatio would have liked to talk with Hamlet about his mission, and if Hamlet would have asked him now “what do you mean with “truant disposition”?” he would have told him about the Horus – mythos and his dreams or what ever. But Hamlet did misunderstand the word “truant” as the meaning of “lazy”, and this was a sign for Horatio, that the God (speaking with the mouth of Hamlet) would not allow him to talk about this things, even not with his best friend Hamlet. So Horatio kept silence and did not correct Hamlet’s misunderstanding.
    Sorry, it might sound very strange and it is just my interpretation. I do not know, if other people came to the same result.

    But I think, the text allows my interpretation, and if Horatio is ment as I see him, then he is 3-D, what means, then he has his own life and his own life-orders and his own developement (to become a holy man who has to support the kings to be rightious). He then is made from Shakespeare not for Hamlet alone, but for all kings (or parlaments), and even for all people, suffering from bad kings. But Horatio’s life-orders are so closely connected to the things Hamlet needs, and what Hamlet wants him to do after his dead, that it seems, Horatio would be made just for to be the friend of Hamlet. And Horatios problem is, that he may not talk about his spiritual life. But for me, he indeed is an other hero beside Hamlet.
    So – if I were right with my interpretation – would you then agree with me, that Horatio is 3-D, Rosalie?

    P.S. What a pitty, that “St. Horatio” does not really exist. We would need him in our German parlament, and I would like to ask him to come there and sit down for a while to emanate some flashes of his horusness to our ministers, and to Mrs. Merkel ( I think she would like him.)

    Comment by erika — July 24, 2009 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

    • OMFG. I just read through all of the comments and you guys are nuts! Brony, I reached out (before reading all of the comments) because you sound like an inquisitive thespian and I would still enjoy providing my input if you would like but these guys are bananas.
      Kaja, I just discovered your blog after a search for Horatio quotes. I’ve only begun to read your posts but I’m very much enjoying your articles, point of view and approach, thank you.
      erika, rosalie, I’m sorry but you two have lost it.
      B-A-N-A-N-A-S

      Comment by pr0ject2501 — October 4, 2011 @ 4:54 am | Reply

  5. I’m soon about to play horatio in a school play. At first i was rather dissapointed i got the part because as i want to be an actress i hoped fro a bigger role, but now reading i think horatio is a great part, especially as my best friend is playng hamlet. However i’m not really sure how to play the part as most charecter analysis only discuss the relationship between hamlet and horatio, and not a lot about horatio on his own. If anyone had and ideas or advice i would love to hear about them :)

    Comment by Brony — September 15, 2011 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

    • Has the play begun? As a passionate admirer of our friend Billy and devoted Hamlet enthusiast, I would love to share my thoughts on your role.
      My email for these sites is a lie, but if you reply, I’ll supply my real address or phone number.
      Break a leg. 

      Comment by pr0ject2501 — October 4, 2011 @ 3:15 am | Reply

  6. I have enjoyed all of the comments! Thanks for the input!!! :)

    Comment by kajarebecca — January 18, 2012 @ 12:07 am | Reply

  7. im a gay fag

    Comment by Brony — May 25, 2012 @ 12:07 am | Reply


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