Prince appears four times in the course of the play. First – in Polonius’ reporting what he said to Ophelia, calling Hamlet a Prince out of her star. Second – Hamlet calls Fortinbras a delicate and tender prince as he watches him lead his troops. This is the third instance and the fourth is Fortinbras’ perception of the crime scene – “so many princes” dead.
Horatio only calls Hamlet a prince once, now, when he’s dead and maybe that is why this line feels so affectionate, even though “sweet” is used 24 times as opposed to Prince at 4. This play is practically dripping with sweet. Horatio has called Hamlet his sweet lord, previously (3.2) but it is this line that feels most full of love. It is such a good send off that it has permeated the common parlance. There are those who know “Goodnight sweet prince” who have never heard of Hamlet.
It doesn’t feel logical that this line should resonate so far so many for so long. But it does. I don’t think it’s the Good Night. Or the sweet. It’s the Prince.