is a character from William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...
's play Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...
. A friend of Prince Hamlet
Prince Hamlet is a fictional character, the protagonist in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. He is the Prince of Denmark, nephew to the usurping Claudius and son of the previous King of Denmark, Old Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles with whether, and how, to avenge the murder of his father, and...
from Wittenberg University, Horatio's origins are unknown, though he is evidently poor and was present on the battlefield when Hamlet's father defeated 'the ambitious Norway'. Horatio is evidently not directly involved in the intrigue at the Danish court; thus, he makes a good foil or sounding board for Hamlet. He is often not identified as any specific court position, but simply as "friend to Hamlet."
Horatio is Hamlet's most trusted, friend, to whom Hamlet reveals all his plans. Several times Hamlet swears his affection to Horatio in a way he does for no other character. Horatio swears himself to secrecy about the ghost and Hamlet's pretense of madness, and conspires with Hamlet to prove Claudius
King Claudius is a character and the antagonist from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. He is the brother to King Hamlet, second husband to Gertrude and uncle to Hamlet. He obtained the throne of Denmark by murdering his own brother with poison and then marrying the late king's widow...
's guilt in the mousetrap play. He is the first to know of Hamlet's return from England, and is with him when he learns of Ophelia's death.
Not only is Horatio loyal and supportive, but he is also rational. The guards in the opening scene call upon Horatio to bear witness to the presence of the ghost, trusting in his unbiased opinion. Without proof, Horatio is skeptical of the ghost: "Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy,/ And will not let belief take hold of him." When Hamlet sees the ghost of his father Horatio is there with him. The fact that Horatio too seems to see the ghost has been used to refute the theory that the ghost is a figment of Hamlet's imagination.
At the end of the play, Horatio proposes to finish off the poisoned drink which was intended for Hamlet, saying that he is 'more an antique Roman than a Dane', but the dying prince wrestles the cup away from him and bids Horatio to live, help put things right in Denmark; "If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, / Absent thee from felicity a while, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story." Hamlet, speaking of death as "felicity", commands Horatio to wait "a while" to tell the story; perhaps Hamlet dies expecting his friend to follow as soon as the complete story has been told. Hamlet's last request creates a parallel between the name Horatio
and the Latin orator
, meaning "speaker".
Horatio is present through most of the major scenes of the play, but Hamlet is usually the only person to acknowledge that he is present; when other characters address him, they are almost always telling him to leave. He is often in scenes that are usually remembered as soliloquies, such as Hamlet's famous scene with the skull of Yorick
Yorick is the deceased court jester whose skull is exhumed by the gravedigger in Act 5, Scene 1, of William Shakespeare's Hamlet.Yorick may also refer to:* Yorick...
. Horatio is also present during the mousetrap play, the discovery of Ophelia's madness (though the role of an anonymous gentleman-courtier has been substituted in this scene), Hamlet's display at Ophelia's grave, and the all-important final scene. He is the only major main character to survive all the way to the end of the play.
In performance, the part of Horatio is the only major part that can't be doubled, i.e. that can't be played by an actor who also plays another character, since he is present in scenes involving nearly every character.