This line could, curiously, pass as a carny barker’s patter. It feels like an invitation to a sideshow or a hawker’s spiel to get you in to see a circus or a show. It could be a performer on the High Street in Edinburgh calling out to passing punters.
What is it ye would see? If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search. This show’s got everything, death, tragedy, romance, royalty, sword fights.
Here’s a flyer.
We’re on at 7 at the Pleasance.
Despite this being a ye olde play (and I use that in its most ridiculous ye merrie olde England sense) one does not actually see much “ye” in Shakespeare. My sense is that it is used here as something like y’all, that is, a general collective you. Did it have a sense of extreme formality for Shakespeare?
This is just such an interesting moment for it suddenly to appear. Here is Horatio, thrust into the diplomatic spotlight, surrounded by dead bodies. If this was America and he was black, all of “Norway” and “England” would come in with their guns drawn. But it does not appear to be a concern here. They seem to have some idea of what they’re getting into when they come in but Horatio’s style of speech is very different with them than at any previous time in the play. This “ye” feels like it comes out of nowhere. But then, because it doesn’t show up that much in Shakespeare, I’m not so familiar with its implications. My other association with it feels like it’s connected to Dante’s inferno. Abandon all hope ye who enter here!
Is that what Horatio is evoking? Did Shakespeare read Dante? Did his audience? Were there reverberations of these ambassadors and royalty entering hell? Horatio switches back to “you” in the very next sentence so it is only a brief moment in this ye world and I would like to know more about it.
I’ve been spending a lot of time immersed in All’s Well that Ends Well lately. A drum figures in that play offstage and comically – in that the comic villain is obsessed with his drum that is behind enemy lines. He insists that he will go in to retrieve it, such a significant drum it is.
Reading this line today, I picture Parolles’ drum, marching itself from behind the Senoy lines, out from under the nose of the enemy lieutenants and showing up at the last scene of Hamlet.
It’s a military drum about the size of a very plump baby and it plays itself as it marched into the Danish court.
This is truly the best exit a person could have. Just, like, a whole chorus of angels or better, a series of choruses of angels, who show up and sing to you? Do they sing you a lullaby (for your rest) or a welcome song (for your eternal life in heaven?) Or both? In any case, having more than one angel turn up to sing for you is the best possible ending for a life, I’d guess. Even for someone who didn’t necessarily believe in angels. I’d love it and I’m not a believer – but I’d be delighted to convert at the end to get the angels.
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.
I just posted a bit from ACT 4, scene 6 wherein I posited that the real romance in this play is between Hamlet and Horatio. This moment supports that theory pretty strongly. It is very extreme for Horatio to suggest that he will die with Hamlet, especially when Hamlet has specifically just asked him to live and tell his story. It gets suddenly Romeo and Juliet-y up in here. Horatio doesn’t explain why he thinks he should follow Hamlet to the grave. Maybe it’s not that he loves him and doesn’t want to live without him – maybe it’s just some weird self-sacrificier, sense of duty or maybe it’s a kind of death contagion – like, everyone’s dying, I don’t want to be left out.
Love feels like the most obvious answer – though Horatio really is a pretty blank slate upon which to project. This is the most action we’ve seen from him the entire play and it seems very out of character from whom we’ve seen. Like, mostly Horatio just goes and looks at things, listens to people, receives letters, delivers letters and just generally doesn’t get involved. Suddenly he’s doing something and it’s dramatic and extreme. He’s either threatening or offering to kill himself with the poisoned wine. It’s a giant gesture either way, especially for a man who’s mostly been standing around observing.
But he’s not a Dane at all, right?
And if he’s saying he’s an antique Roman, he’s probably not just regular Roman.
I wouldn’t say, “I’m more a founding American than a Dane.“
All of the things have to NOT be who he is for this line to make sense.
Where is he FROM?
With a name like Horatio, he could be from another Italian city or another Latinate city, in say, Spain or Portugal.
But Horatio is really an Anglicized Latinate name, I think. Might he be English?
In Italian, Horatio isn’t really a name. Orazio would be the Italian version.
Is Horatio named for the Roman Horace (Horatius?) I can imagine that Shakespeare might name a character after him. He surely studied Horace in his schooling. Horace wrote iambic poetry.
Never believe what? That he lives?
Is he telling Hamlet never to believe it?
Or The Unsatisfied who look pale and tremble at this act?
Is it a way to say They’ll never believe it?
Is that why he’s denying Hamlet’s request to tell his story by threatening suicide?
Because they’ll never believe it anyway? May as well join Hamlet in the afterlife?
It’s weirdly oblique.
It’s not clear what the “it” refers to. It follows a request to tell a story to the Unsatisfied.
An action plan for suicide follows. It’s an odd bump in the road to Hamlet’s death.
Maybe it’s a request to never believe that Hamlet is dying?
Maybe Horatio thinks if Hamlet refuses to concede his death, he’ll bypass it entirely. Maybe he’s one of those “Believe it hard enough and you’ll make it come true” people.
It’s funny that this inquiry into Hamlet’s wound or his health or wellbeing or whatever “it” is here – is the same words as an inquiry into what someone might be eating.
Like, it would be funny if somehow Hamlet just started chomping down on an apple or whatever and Horatio asked him how it is.
“Well, Horatio – it’s a little bit tart and a little bit sweet. It’s kind of a perfect apple, don’t you know. You want a bite?”
But no. Instead – it’s an inquiry that’s will eventually lead to a death. Not quite like a tasty apple.
I wonder what this is meant to accomplish. I suppose they’re neither of them supposed to be bleeding so it is a problem.
Is it a point of order in the dueling regulations?
Is Horatio trying to intervene to help Hamlet?
Do either of the fighters look like they want to keep fighting? I mean – moments ago, Hamlet seemed to want to keep going. Is Horatio trying to stop Hamlet from proceeding? Is he somehow the medic of the duel?