I knew him, Horatio.

I’m so curious to know how this line transformed into “I knew him well” in the popular imagination while retaining “Alas, poor Yorick.”
It’s like people easily recall the more arch language and paraphrase the mundane.
I knew him is not so different from I knew him well. There is, in fact a logic to “I knew him well.”
And it’s true, too, in this case. Hamlet did know Yorick well. But…still – it doesn’t quite explain how a line can so utterly transform. And when.

Is it that, out of context, “I knew him well” seems more logical, more complete? Or that Horatio gets excised, too – that the popular imagination features Hamlet, alone with the skull, dramatically saying, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him…” and without Horatio there, we just need another word and “well” makes so much sense there.


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