Horatio, The One True Friend
William Shakespeare wrote about a distraught prince trying to avenge the wrongful death of his father while all his faith in honesty and the good of man was nearly destroyed. In his play Hamlet, Hamlet is the prince and he is the one who would have lost all his faith in the good of man had it not been for his loyal friend Horatio. Many critics say that Horatio did not play such an important role in the tragedy, that he merely was the informant for the audience and that his character was not developed beyond that fact that he was just the honest confidant of Hamlet. That may be true, however, Horatio does serve two central purposes to the drama, and it is through these purposes that show the qualities that make Horatio memorable and admirable. Horatio is the harbinger of truth. It is through Horatio that the actions taken by Hamlet gain credibility. He is the outside observer to the madness. Hamlet could soliloquize on and on, but it is his conversations with Horatio that gives sanity to Hamlets thoughts. His second role is to be the loyal, truthful confidant of Hamlet.
The audience meets Horatio in the opening scene of the play. Marcellus and Bernardo, the Danish officers on guard at the castle, ask Horatio to speak to the vision that came to visit the castle. He is asked by the officers to speak to the spirit because he is a most educated scholar and the only one among them qualified to speak in such an intimidating situation. Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio (Act I, scene i, ln. 42). This demonstrates the respect shown to Horatio, although he is a simple commoner. Horatio establishes his bravery during the opening scene, as well, by questioning the ghost. His actions demand respect. Stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak! (Act I, scene i, ln. 52). Horatio is also the one who informs Hamlet of the ghosts visit.
Horatio plays the informant of the play; he clues everyone in onto what is happening in the play and whom the true victim of the play is, Hamlet. If it were not for Horatio believing Hamlet, there would be serious doubt to the sanity of Hamlet. In Horatio seeing the ghost along with Hamlet it gives cause to not doubt the sanity of the Prince who could be seen to be in a state insanity because of the disbelief and anger that his father just died, his uncle married his mother, and that his uncle stole his crown. Horatio brings the reality and truth to the audience so they understand and believe in what he thinks and believes. Hamlet even says that he admires the honesty and truthfulness of Horatio. “Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man/As e’er my conversation cop’d withal” (Act III, scene ii, ln. 55-56). Perhaps it is also his uniqueness that brings along the feeling of trustworthiness in Horatio. He has the ability to associate himself among commoners because he is a commoner himself, yet he can also associate himself among royalty because he is Hamlets trusted friend, intelligent, just, and is loyal to all of his friends.
As the play progresses, Horatio’s loyalty to Hamlet becomes increasingly evident. He is concerned with Hamlet’s well being and wants nothing horrible to happen to Hamlet due to his interest with the ghost so upon Hamlets wish Horatio adamantly vows to remain silent about the ghost of Hamlet’s father. During the second scene of the third act the players perform with the lines that Hamlet cunningly added in. Hamlet asks for Horatio’s assistance because Horatio demonstrates fairness and rational in his judgments.
Dost thou hear? /Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice /and could of men
distinguish, her election /hath seald thee for herself; for thou hast been /as one, in
suffering all, that suffers nothing, /a man that fortunes buffets and rewards /hast taen
with equal thanks; and blessd are those /whose blood and judgment are so well
co-mingled /that they are not a pipe for fortunes finger /to sound what stop she please.
Give me that man /that is not passions slave, and I will wear him /in my hearts core, ay,
in my heart of heart, /as I do thee (Act III, scene ii, ln. 63-75).
He is admired by Hamlet. When the murder is described, Claudius rises from his throne to the disgust and familiarity of what he has seen. Hamlet and Horatio both agree that Claudius expressed his guilt by his reaction to the play. This is a very significant scene between Horatio and Hamlet. Horatio and Hamlet now support the ghost’s accusation completely. At this moment in the play, Horatio becomes Hamlet’s accomplice in uncovering the truths of the royal family, a responsibility that Hamlet would never trust to anyone else.
Hamlet manages to stay alive just long enough to kill Claudius and ask Horatio to explain what has happened. Although Horatio is prepared to join Hamlet in death, he refrains simply so he can insure that Hamlet’s name will go unblemished after his death. Horatio stands by his friend to the end and exemplifies the true friend. Although Horatio is simply a commoner, Hamlet considers him his best and only true friend. Horatio possesses in him a strong set of morals, integrity, and intelligence. Hamlet’s fondness for Horatio escalates to an admiration for his character and it is reason enough to disregard some of the critics views on Horatio as a simple character that serves no purpose. He serves a great deal to the play; he gives the sense of who is right and who is wrong in the play, which deeply impacts the whole plot of the play. He is a fair, intelligent, brave, loyal person, and can be more than likely considered an admirable character.