Hamlet's Horatio: A True Friend

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In William Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet, Prince Hamlet conspires to avenge his father’s murder. Throughout the play, Hamlet spirals through bouts of insanity, depression, and hostility. However, across his tragic tale, Hamlet’s old friend Horatio remains a constant. A scholar and a loyal friend to Hamlet, Horatio acts as one of Hamlet’s many character foils, meaning his characteristics contrast to Hamlet highlighting certain personality traits and allowing the reader to understand Hamlet.
Horatio’s minor role is vital to the story of Hamlet. He does not add anything to the plot of the play and instead acts as the voice of common sense. Horatio is an outside observer to the madness that ensues after the murder of King Hamlet. All of Hamlet’s soliloquies revolve around irrational speculations about death and decay. However, Hamlet’s conversation with Horatio ground the play in reality. In those conversations, Hamlet reveals his feelings to his closest friend. Horatio is the only one Hamlet can come talk to about what is going on in his life.
When the encounter with the ghost occurs at the beginning of the play, Horatio’s original skepticism introduces doubt. When Horatio agrees that the spirit exists, the readers are allowed to believe that the ghost was not a figment of Hamlet’s imagination. At the first sighting of the ghost, Horatio, urging Hamlet to stay away from the ghost, says, “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord.../And there assume some other horrible form/Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason/ And draw you into madness? Think of it./The very place puts toys of desperation/Without more motive, into every brain” (III.ii.75). Horatio is foreshadowing Hamlet’s descent into madness. Here, Horatio is...

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...hen he wants to clearly communicate the truth or show an issue from a certain perspective, he uses Horatio’s credibility. Horatio illuminates the consequences Hamlet may face and as an outside observer, allows the reader a glimpse inside Hamlet’s mind. Hamlet’s admiration of Horatio shows what Hamlet considers important in a man. Horatio, in contrast, shows Hamlet’s deep character flaws and allows the reader a deeper insight to who Hamlet actually is, not who he claims to be through his soliloquies. In the end, Horatio himself becomes a playwright, using bodies the tell the tragic tale of Prince Hamlet.

Works Cited

Kaplan, Michael I. "Hamlet & Horatio: The Many Faces of Love." Language and Literature Arts. Armstrong Atlantic State University, n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.

Crowther, John, ed. “No Fear Hamlet.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.
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