The Symbolic Role of Horatio in Hamlet

Category: Hamlet
Last Updated: 17 Mar 2023
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In Shakespeare’s Tragedy Play Hamlet, Horatio shows as a minor character. However, the contributions and demonstrations he brings to the play and to the audience are very important and abundant. His role in the whole play can be viewed from three angles. First of all, he is most close friend of Prince Hamlet. In all the schemes, he performs as Hamlet’s informer, assistant, counselor and confidant. Secondly, Horatio rationally and wisely witnesses and judges key figures and events in the play.

He has directly or indirectly involved all play’s developments from the beginning to the end. Thirdly, highlights the loyalty and intellectual achievements of which humans are capable. Horatio links the audiences and carries the hopes – loyalty to friendships, rationality to human behaviors and future, and bringing the justice to the world. Through the character of Horatio, the key concepts and benefits of loyalty, rationality and hope are portrayed

Horatio is Hamlet's most trusted friend as verified from the beginning to the end of the drama. Through his wisdom, he relates the challenges he and Hamlet face with respect to Claudius. In the play, there are three friends for Hamlet. The other two, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, betray Hamlet for their selfish (yet understandable) benefits and find their own final destinations when they arrive at England. Horatio knows Denmark Prince Hamlet from Wittenberg University in England when both of them are scholars there.

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He comes to Denmark to join the old King, Hamlet’s father’s funeral. Hamlet reveals all his revenge plans to him. Horatio swears himself to top secret about the ghost and Hamlet's pretense of madness to hide from Claudius's. Even more important through the mousetrap play, Horatio conspires closely with Hamlet to prove Claudius's guilt. With all the ensured trusting from the Prince’s letter to him, Horatio is the first to know of Hamlet's return from England. He is the only real company when Hamlet discovers Ophelia’s death.

In the graveyard, he presents with Hamlet when they view the Yorick’s skull with the talks about glories and death, “To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole? ” (5. 1. 192-4). Horatio stays with Hamlet to the end of the tragedy, to the end of Hamlet’s death, with the entire honor, loyalty to friendship, he comments to drink the poised wine to go with the Prince of Denmark: “I am more an antique Roman than a Dane. /Here’s yet some liquor left” (5. 2. 353-4).

Only by the Hamlet’s final and firm request to him to keep live to tell the masses of the story, Horatio survives himself to honor the Prince’s requests, and brings the truth, justness and rightfulness to the world. Horatio best demonstrates his rationality and respectable nature outstanding all other characters in the play, even the key character Hamlet from this point of view. The guards invite him to see the ghost as their rusting to him as a rational and knowledgeable “scholar”. (1. 1. 41; 1. 5. 150) At that time, this title is the most respectable name for the verifications or justifications.

This is just like nowadays we request the signatures from doctors, teachers or lawyers etc to sign various important documents to verify our life and experiences. He reports to Hamlet and bring him to the castle. With all the cares to Hamlet, he himself provides the audiences calm, resolute, rational and confident views of the ghost and the old King’s story: “But soft, behold, lo where it comes again; /I’ll cross it hough it blast me” (1. 1. 25-6). By their careful plans and implementations of mouse-play, Hamlet confirms the old King’s murder.

Hamlet gets really over excited with the confirmation. However, with the rationalities and intellects, for the best interesting of the Prince, Horatio calm down Hamlet of any overreactions or rush actions. To meet Hamlet’s will, he brings himself back from emotionality to rationality and reality as he recognizes the importance to satisfactory Hamlet’s requests to tell the world the story. For Hamlet, Horatio is the key connection, witness and judge to attach and the audiences. He helps Hamlet form the play’s consistencies.

This has been clearly demonstrated in the whole drama. Only through the conversations between Hamlet and Horatio, could the insides of Hamlet show the audiences the Prince is not really crazy or foolish but kind, sharp with dubiousness and procrastinations for his mission to revenge for his father’s murder. If we could say Hamlet is the emotion core of the drama, we might be able to see Horatio standing for calm, courage and kindness of the play, even directly from Hamlet, “Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man /As e'er my conversation coped withal…” (3. . 50-70) At the very beginning of the drama, Horatio, with the trust of the guards, help Hamlet to meet the ghost, the old King and discoveries the dirty assassination. At the end of the play, Horatio, who saw the old King’s ghost, is companying and comforting the dying Prince, “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! ” (5. 2. 343-4). Without Hamlet, it would be impossible to have the intense and feeling the ups and downs of the love, hate, remorse, hesitate, brave, courage.

Without Horatio, it would be very challenge to get the senses of security, wisdom, loyalty and rationality of human being has. The play illustrates the completeness with Horatio banding Hamlet from the start to the end with good hopes left to audiences. Of all the three important roles and contributions Horatio to bring to the audiences, every piece has it own special contribution to the play. Lonely and hesitant Hamlet has at least one of best friends – trustable all time and calm and rational in any situations to conform and counsel.

Horatio, really as a wise and intellectual scholar, can help the drama to reality. His unshakable loyalty and common senses lead the audiences to have the expectations when things are or may go wrong. His timely show up in the play has brought audience to both Hamlet and the audiences to the reality with logical senses. Horatio is the symbol of loyalty, rationality and hope in the great tragedy Hamlet. Works Cited Hamlet May 6, 2012.

Primary Sources: Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor. London [England]: Thomson Learning, 2006. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. ed. Philip Edwards. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Secondary Sources: Babra, Neil. Hamlet. Adaptation of Hamlet by William Shakespeare New York : Sparknotes, 2008. Coville, Bruce. William Shakespeare's Hamlet. New York : Dial Books, 2004. . Hamlet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Producer Dyson Lovell. Carolco International N. V. DVD. 1990. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. ed. The Rector and Visitors. University of Virginia, 2000. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. edited and rendered into modern English by Alan Durband. Hauppauge, N. Y. Barron's, 1986. Hamlet. 28 April 2012 . Horatio in Hamlet. 30 April 2012 Hoy, Cyrus. ed. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. New York: Norton, 1992. Leggatt, Alexander. Shakespeare's tragedies: violation and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Marsden, John. Hamlet & Ophelia: a novel. Toronto: Harper Trophy Canada, 2009. Shakespeare Hamlet Notes. Coles Editorial Board, Toronto: Coles Notes, 2001. Shakespeare's Horatio An analysis of Hamlet's Friend Horatio. 30 March 2012 . Scene 4 - Hamlet - A Comprehensive Analysis of Shakespeare's Greatest Tragedy. 30 April 2012 .

Related Questions

on The Symbolic Role of Horatio in Hamlet

What Is Horatio's Purpose In Hamlet?
Horatio's purpose in Hamlet is to serve as a loyal friend and confidant to the title character. He also serves as a voice of reason and a witness to the events that unfold in the play.
How Does Horatio Find Hamlet?
Horatio finds Hamlet by following the ghost of Hamlet's father who leads him to the spot where Hamlet is waiting for him. This happens in Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's play Hamlet"."
Who Was Horatio In Hamlet ?
Horatio was a close friend of Prince Hamlet and a scholar from Wittenberg. He served as a confidant to Hamlet and was present during key moments of the play, including the sighting of the ghost of Hamlet's father.
How Is Horatio Important In Hamlet ?
Horatio is important in Hamlet as he serves as Hamlet's confidant and friend, providing him with wise counsel and support throughout the play. He is also the only character who survives at the end, ensuring that Hamlet's story is told and his legacy preserved.

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The Symbolic Role of Horatio in Hamlet. (2018, Jun 22). Retrieved from

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