[Welcome to Secondary Character Saturday! If you usually get the Thought of the Day birthday bioBlog, please note that I’ll be doing a special blog on Saturdays instead — Secondary Character Saturday! Isn’t that exciting? Why? Well, after 200 biographies for real people I really miss fictional people, and I want to get to know them a little bit better too. But not just any fictional people, but the people who stand just off-center. The supporting characters who make good literature so much fun to read — or in this case, watch.]
This Saturday’s Secondary Character? HORATIO
By: William Shakespeare
Written: 1603 (ish)
Why: Horatio is there at the beginning, he’s there at the end, and he’s there for Hamlet. So he acts as both witness (to the ghost, to Hamlet’s true state of mental health, to the bloody body count at the end of the play, etc) and as sounding board (and best mate) for the protagonist.Pros: Loyal to his friends. Steady. Intelligent. Brave. Not politically motivated or ambitious. In a world where power and political position are everything…the unconnected, poor, fellow student of the Prince of Denmark navigates the court by being observant and unobtrusive. His loyalty to Hamlet is his sole commitment and he is willing to give everything for his friend, even his life. It is that friendship, steadfastness, and lack of deception in the den of sycophants and players at court that ground Hamlet and let him know that there are still good, true people in the world. He is also a voice of reason that tempers the storm of anger and emotion in his friend.
Cons: Compared to Hamlet, Horatio is a bit vanilla. He lacks flare and ambition. And as loyal as he is to Hamlet, perhaps he could have stood up to him a bit more and guided him to a safer path.With out Horatio we (the audience) would only know what Hamlet was really thinking through his soliloquies. He can be staged as “the shadow of Elsinor”, appearing (some times in a crowd, sometimes half hidden) in scenes where he doesn’t have a line and gaining information for both the audience and the Prince.
Here’s a clip from the BBC’s Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Derek Jacobi as Hamlet and Robert Swann as Horatio. I think it nicely shows Horatio’s patience…
And for you CSI hipsters here’s Horatio take on Hamlet (just for Maggie):