When Horatio was in school, the kids nicknamed him “E’en so.” They sometimes spelled it Ian So and some just called him Ian.
Even as a young person, he was a bit of a Yes Boy. He nodded a lot. But even his silly nickname didn’t stop him saying “E’en so.”
How much would I love to see an Horatio with a little bit of personality? So much so that I just imagined this line as – instead of the logical response to Hamlet’s question that it is – the classic “What’s that on your shirt?” move. You know the one – where you point to something on someone’s tie or shirt and they look down and then you bring up your finger. It is the dumbest joke. Like – the dumbest. I have always hated it when it was done to me or when I saw it done to others. But somehow I still want Horatio to do it here – because it would be so delightfully out of character.
One of the nice things about working in Chelsea in Manhattan for a while was the occasional weird surprise, just walking through the neighborhood.
Maybe two years ago, some promotional company took over a whole bar/restaurant and turned it into a pilgrim tavern. Upstairs there were free drinks and food and downstairs, there were craftspeople and displays. I made a cornhusk doll at the cornhusk dollmaking booth.
There was also a parchment expert. He just sat/stood there working a skin and I chatted with him – turns out his family has been making parchment for many generations. It’s a tradition and business that has passed from one family member to the next. It is a peculiar business now – though I imagine parchment was once much more in demand.
Apparently, jot comes from iota – a word that means “the least part of anything.” The journey of words is so delightful. An i becomes a j and the a disappears but the meaning remains the same.
And the jot takes on another meaning as well – to quickly write something down – so it retains the sense of a little bit of something but becomes an active process of getting the least part of something written down.
Has some scholar made a study of how often Horatio says yes to Hamlet? He affirms him in so many ways, so many times. It is his essential role in this play – to just affirm and keep Hamlet from just talking to himself all the time.
Horatio is so much Hamlet’s reflection – it might be possible to do a production wherein Horatio is just Hamlet’s alter-ego – another side of himself that just listens to him. The only scenes that would be trouble for are the two scenes that Horatio is in without Hamlet – the opening and the one where he receives the letters. Every other time, he could just as easily be in Hamlet’s imagination.
My friend and I were talking about the enneagram recently and so it’s on my mind. I used to think about it all the time but I’ve shaken off a lot of the shackles of my type so I don’t have to think of it much. But we were talking about it and, you know, I’m a nine and I was just thinking how much Horatio reminds me of myself in some ways and how that means that I have very little interest in playing him and how that made me realize that he is also probably a nine. This line makes me think so because I try to be supportive in precisely the same way.
And there is a way that on my worst days, I feel a little bit like a cipher, the way I can sometimes feel like Horatio is – or just a 9, disappearing into Hamlet.
It’s true. Custom, i.e. habit, i.e. routine really does change our relationships to things. Doctors and nurses do not flinch when confronted with things the rest of us cannot stomach.
Even receptionists at hospitals get habituated to terrible things. Last time I was at the emergency room, a woman in the lobby was shouting and swearing. She’d shout. Wait a minute. Then start shouting again. But the reception team did not panic. They just rolled their eyes and said it was going to be a long night.
Ms. Williams, Literary Efficiency Expert at your service.
Okay, sailors and Horatio. We got more than one sailor here and two jobs to do.
1) Deliver letters to the king. 2) Deliver Horatio to Hamlet.
Here’s what I suggest. One of you take the letters to the king and the other take Horatio to Hamlet.
I’m not sure why you need Horatio to deliver the letters with you. He can point you in the right direction and then go on to Hamlet.
I picture the letters, anthropomorphized, with big important stamps on them and sashes. I imagine Horatio in front of a big crowd of people and he says, “Make way! Make way! Make way for these royal letters!” And the crowd parts and the letters strut through the gap in the crowd, their chests puffed out and their hands on their letter hips.
This line is so much more romantic than any of the ones Hamlet gives to Ophelia. Not anything from his letter that we hear read. Not any of his flirty lines while watching the play.
There is a sense that, until she’s dead, Hamlet demonstrates no real love for her. He resents her, teases her, condescends to her, manipulates her and insults her.
But Horatio, he loves without hesitation. The real romance in this play is between Horatio and Hamlet.