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.
When you read this, it will be obvious what number of Farewell this is. It will appear in the URL for this blog post. The count will happen automatically when I post this. But I’m not writing this in the blog software. I’m not even writing it on a computer. So I can only guess what number of farewell this is in the play. I suspect that it is #8. Not including all the farewells that are more than the single word. It’s just funny how something that will be so obvious when I post this is such a mystery as I write it.
Well – looks like I guessed entirely accurately!
He does, too. He hath MUCH to tell Horatio about those guys.
Now, when he does tell it – he actually doesn’t say a LOT – at least compared to how much Hamlet can talk. But what he does say is pretty potent.
So “much” can be quantitative or qualitative!
I have a LOT of questions about this pirate attack. I mean – the pirates boarded the ship that was going from Denmark to England. Hamlet hopped on board the pirate ship while the pirates were fighting with the Danes. Now – why would the pirates get on board the Danish ship, fight everyone on it and then leave the Danes to go on their merry way to England?
Like, if they got control of the ship to get on it, wouldn’t they take possession of it? Or kill some folks on board? I suppose they could have just taken all the goods but the most likely scenario seems to me to be that this entire pirate attack was a set up. How else would Hamlet know that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are holding their course to England? If he’s hiding out on a pirate ship – how would he know what the other ship is doing? We don’t get to see any of these pirates – but I would very much like to, I would watch a play about Hamlet and The Pirates.
There is a fun amount of subterfuge in this backing and forthing.
First, these sailors aren’t so sure this is Horatio. But even so, they are charged with a) bringing Horatio a letter from Hamlet and b) bringing Horatio to Hamlet – after this negotiation with the letter. It’s like. Why did he need the letter? Couldn’t the sailors have said: “Horatio, Hamlet asked us to bring you to him. Come with us.”
But no. We have to have this letter in between – and it serves to create an atmosphere of espionage. It helps turn a revenge drama into a Spy Thriller.