Horatio

The prudent student

Horatio is another important character in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. Horatio is a close student friend of Hamlet and in the course of the drama proves to be the only one Hamlet can really trust. Unlike Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he has not come to Denmark at Claudius' request, but has decided of his own accord to pay his last respects to Hamlet, the deceased king of Denmark (1.1.92-120). Throughout the rest of the drama, he also successfully manages to stay out of the power games and intrigues at court.

In the middle of the drama, Hamlet provides a relatively extensive character description of his friend. He describes him as a "man that is not passion's slave" (3.2.67) and who therefore has his fate completely under control. Indeed, throughout the drama Horatio is characterized by a certain sober-mindedness and always seems to act carefully and deliberately, unlike Hamlet, who acts more and more impulsive and hot-headed in the drama.

Elsewhere, Hamlet observes of his college friend that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (1.3.185-186), and it is evident from the very first scene that Horatio is indeed a very rational character who does not believe in supernatural phenomena such as ghosts. When the two guards Marcellus and Bernardo tell him about seeing the ghost of the deceased king on the castle terrace, he thinks their observation is pure imagination (1.1.65). Nevertheless, he agrees to keep the two company on their next watch, giving them a chance to convince him otherwise. It is already evident here that Horatio is a good-natured and open-minded character who is happy to do others a favor.

When the ghost actually appears in front of Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo hope that the Horatio's skillfulness will enable him to engage the supernatural being in conversation (1.1.51). Horatio, however, is so frightened by the appearance of the ...

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