This is a very odd moment for Horatio to exclaim like this. He’s not really directly responding to what Hamlet just said; Hamlet was just talking about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and only obliquely referred to Claudius, if at all, as one of the mighty opposites. (Maybe.)
So…this exclamation from a man who mostly just nods along and supports Hamlet – is very out of character and out of sync with the conversation.
Some have theorized that maybe Horatio means Hamlet but Hamlet is not King. He’s a Prince. And if it were about Hamlet, wouldn’t it be “What a King you’d be!”?
I could buy it as an exclamation of praise – the way a friend might call me a queen when I do something with authority.
So do we all, eventually. Though hopefully not to an execution the way they are.
I have always been spooked by execution. I used to have nightmares as a teen in which either one or the other of my parents had been condemned to execution for reasons that were not clear. The state, the authorities, the government seemed more powerful than any other means of death I could imagine. More intractable. More – immovable. My protests more desperate – a hope for justice still bumping around in the dark like a moth.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don’t endear themselves to many in this play – but the notion of anyone getting executed freaks me out a bit.
Maybe they escaped?
Maybe they were killed by sea pirates instead?
This question suggests an unusual amount of knowledge of royal messengering. Unless, somehow, it was common knowledge that a seal on an envelope sealed its authenticity. I mean, how many people actually received royal communiques? How many people had even seen a royal seal? But, Horatio is friends with a prince and even when Hamlet’s not there, he hangs around with royals so I guess he’s got a lot of insider knowledge of how this stuff works.
But also I wonder if he hasn’t secretly plotted such a thing and this question speaks to an obstacle he encountered, so he’s thought it through. Maybe.
Horatio pretty much always says and does what is expected of him. He is sort of the oil in the machine, keeping it running. He says yes when he’s supposed to. He nods at the right time. He wants to know what Hamlet wants to tell him and he never makes waves. He doesn’t say, “Nah, I don’t care what you wrote there.” Of course he wants to know. Of course, we, the audience, want to know too.
When did words like beseech, plead and beg fall out of casual use? Pleading and begging, we still use, but they are mostly only used in the most extreme circumstances. Pleading and begging turn up in violent situations and in court but we don’t go around pleading and begging when chatting with our friends. And we certainly don’t beseech them.
Rarely, we might hear an “I beg your pardon” but even that has fallen out of favor. My grandmother said it quite often – but I only ever use it with mock horrified gentility.
Do you doubt that? Do you think it’s out of the realm of possibility that a man who personally poisoned his brother would hesitate to have his enemy killed at a remove?
It may have even been more surprising if Claudius had NOT attempted this sort of villainy. It’s not like Hamlet has some kind of magical 6th sense. He knows what his uncle is capable of. He knows his methods. Of course that letter to the king is a death sentence for him. Horatio should maybe not be surprised.
See, I guess it all depends on what you mean by divinity, I suppose. Like if you mean good things happening to good people and bad things happening to bad, well, I’m not so sure there’s any logic or order to our lives. Because good things happen to bad people all the time. Look at the American government at the moment. The orange man in chief has done nothing but cruel, shallow, despicable deeds his whole life and his punishment is the most respected job in the land.
Meanwhile, a dear, sweet, kind, gentle soul of a friend has gotten fucking stage 4 cancer. And that is not a very nice reward for a life of kindness.
But. If divinity is just…you know… a vibe? A random blueprint? Sure, I guess it could be a thing that shapes our ends.
Rough-hew them how we will.
Do I ever!
Horatio is such a thankless role. He just hangs out, affirms the people who talk to him by just keeping them going. Particularly Hamlet but not just.
I feel like – once upon a time – I thought I’d be cast as Horatio. I was getting cast as men a lot – and this was just the sort of role directors put a woman in when they’re trying to increase parts for ladies.
I played Poins. I played Peter Quince. Horatio would have been right in line with those sorts of parts. But I dodged that bullet. Maybe women don’t play Horatio. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a female Horatio now that I think of it. But it’s as thankless as a lot of women’s parts in that he’s really not a complete person himself – just a way for the lead to say his thing.
The dude who works here has been telling me his life story for about an hour. He’s super sweet and 19 and leaving the state tomorrow…but phew. It’s a lot.
I’m trying to figure out how to make this something more than just a long way to say “That’s crazy, man, crazy!”
Like, I’m looking for a way to give Horatio some kind of push back to Hamlet. But – really – it’s just – how curious, man!