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Horatio. Horatio. Horatio. Horatio. Horatio. Horatio. Sabine Audige Christopher Troupis. Horatio. Horatio is referred to as “Hamlet’s friend” in the list of characters, and throughout the play his exact rank and place at court remain a mystery.

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Sabine Audige

Christopher Troupis


Horatio is referred to as “Hamlet’s friend” in the list of characters, and throughout the play his exact rank and place at court remain a mystery.

In Act I Scene I Horatio is told, “Thou art a scholar, speak to it [the Ghost] Horatio,” which informs the audience of his upbringing. This is enhanced by his use of iambic pentameter, which contrasts with the soldiers’ more blunt method of speaking.

He is only Hamlet’s friend, but Horatio is the only friend who remains loyal to Hamlet throughout the entire play.

Horatio threatens to commit suicide but is deterred by Hamlet. This wish suggests Horatio is devoted to Hamlet and wishes to follow him in death, or that he is distraught by all the destruction around him. Either way this is evidence of Horatio’s humanity and compassion.


# 1

- - -

Act I, Scene I

Lines 112 - 139

HORATIO A mote it is to trouble the mind's eye. In the most high and palmy state of Rome, A little ere the mightiest Julius fell, The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets: As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood, Disasters in the sun; and the moist star Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse: And even the like precurse of fierce events, As harbingers preceding still the fates And prologue to the omen coming on, Have heaven and earth together demonstrated Unto our climatures and countrymen.—


But soft, behold! lo, where it comes again!

I'll cross it, though it blast me. Stay, illusion!

It spreads his arms

If thou hast any sound, or use of voice, Speak to me. If there be any good thing to be done, That may to thee do ease and grace to me, Speak to me.

Act I, Scene I


Horatio tells of the doom that occurred with the death of Julius Caesar. His spiel foreshadows the imminent disaster in Castle Elsinore. The ghost appears, Horatio orders it to speak multiple times, but when the rooster crows it disappears.


The omens that Horatio mentions in his story, imply that Horatio may be superstitious.

When the ghost appears, Horatio does not run or cower, but orders the ghost to speak to him (fruitlessly). He also orders Marcellus to stop the ghost from leaving. This may imply Horatio’s expectance to be obeyed, a sign of his high rank.

If thou art privy to thy country's fate,Which, happily, foreknowing may avoid,

O, speak.

Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life Extorted treasure in the womb of earth, For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,

The cock crows

Speak of it. Stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus. 


Only Horatio speaks in this passage, although it is broken up by various stage directions for the ghost.

Horatio’s forewarnings act as a prologue to the main act of seeing the ghost.

The extract was set at night, although it ends with the ghost’s disappearance at dawn. The night setting is essential to setting an atmosphere appropriate for the appearance of the ghost.

Literary Techniques:

Much repetition is used, when Horatio orders the ghost to speak. As he asks the ghost to speak in excess of five times, this helps to heighten the tension of the ghost’s immobility.

Horatio speaks in unrhyming blank verse

Metaphors are used to emphasise the disasters that befell the world upon the death of Julius Caesar.


# 2

- - -

Act I, Scene II

Lines 192 - 220

Act I, Scene II


After agreeing to stay in Denmark, Hamlet discusses his mother’s hasty marriage in a soliloquy. Horatio arrives to tell Hamlet about the ghost.


Horatio proves his loyalty to his friend, Hamlet, when he tells him of the ghost of Old King Hamlet. Even though Horatio and the Guards are shocked, he thinks Hamlet will want to hear the news.

Horatio speaks in an aristocratic manner, and does not just blurt out the existence of the ghost, but leads up to it in detail. This is consistent with Horatio upbringing, he his referred to as a “scholar”.

HORATIO Season your admiration for awhile

With an attent ear, till I may deliver, Upon the witness of these gentlemen, This marvel to you.

HAMLET For God's love, let me hear.

HORATIO Two nights together had these gentlemen, Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch, In the dead vast and middle of the night, Been thus encounter'd. A figure like your father, Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe, Appears before them, and with solemn march Goes slow and stately by them: thrice he walk'd By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes, Within his truncheon's length; whilst they, distilled Almost to jelly with the act of fear,

Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me In dreadful secrecy impart they did; And I with them the third night kept the watch; Where, as they had deliver'd, both in time, Form of the thing, each word made true and good, The apparition comes: I knew your father; These hands are not more like.

HAMLET But where was this?

MARCELLUS My lord, upon the platform where we watch'd.

HAMLET Did you not speak to it?

HORATIO My lord, I did; But answer made it none: yet once methought It lifted up its head and did address Itself to motion, like as it would speak; But even then the morning cock crew loud, And at the sound it shrunk in haste away, And vanish'd from our sight.

HAMLET‘Tis very strange.


This passage uses iambic pentameter, in unrhyming blank verse. Horatio generally speaks in iambic pentameter throughout the play, due to his upbringing.

The passage essentially recounts the events on the gun platform from the past three nights, culminating in the divulgence of the ghost.

Literary Techniques:

This extract makes use of many metaphors, including ‘almost to jelly,’ and ‘stand dumb.’ These techniques emphasise the fear instilled in Horatio and the guardsmen by the ghost, foreshadowing the dark events to come.


# 3

- - -

Act V, Scene II

Lines 341 - 382

FORTINBRAS Where is this sight?

HORATIO What is it ye would see?If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.

FORTINBRAS This quarry cries on havoc. O proud death,What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,That thou so many princes at a shotSo bloodily hast struck?

First Ambassador The sight is dismal;And our affairs from England come too late:The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,To tell him his commandment is fulfill'd,That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:Where should we have our thanks?

HORATIO Not from his mouth,Had it the ability of life to thank you:He never gave commandment for their death.But since, so jump upon this bloody question,You from the Polack wars, and you from England,Are here arrived give order that these bodiesHigh on a stage be placed to the view;

Act V, Scene II


The fight between Hamlet and Laertes leads to the death of Gertrude from the poison offered by Claudius. Laertes forgives Hamlet and Hamlet gets his revenge on Claudius, then dies from Laertes’ poisoned sword. Fortinbras arrives at the court where only Horatio is left alive.


This scene is one of Horatio’s most important scenes in the play, as although Hamlet has just died (after stopping him from committing suicide), Horatio still wishes to protect his good name. When the Ambassador asks who the cause was of the deaths, Horatio is sure to tell him it was not Hamlet.

Horatio also asks for the bodies to be put on display, and to be able to address the populace and tell them what happened in Castle Elsinore. Horatio wishes for the truth to be known, and for his friend to be praised.

Horatio also supports Fortinbras’ claim to the throne of Denmark, as per Hamlet’s dying wish.

And let me speak to the yet unknowing worldHow these things came about: so shall you hearOf carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,And, in this upshot, purposes mistookFall'n on the inventors' reads: all this can ITruly deliver.

FORTINBRAS Let us haste to hear it,And call the noblest to the audience.For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune:I have some rights of memory in this kingdom,Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.

HORATIO Of that I shall have also cause to speak,And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more;But let this same be presently perform'd,Even while men's minds are wild; lest more mischanceOn plots and errors, happen.


This passage is a dialogue mostly between Horatio and Fortinbras, but with an appearance by the English Ambassador.

The passage is mostly spoken in iambic pentameter, and both Fortinbras and Horatio mourn for the dead.

Literary Techniques:

Horatio uses simile to honour the memory of Hamlet (‘like a soldier’). For the most part, Horatio speaks in iambic pentameter, although there are some instances where he does not use the required number of syllables.

FORTINBRAS Let four captains Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage; For he was likely, had he been put on, To have proved most royally: and, for his passage, The soldiers' music and the rites of war Speak loudly for him. Take up the bodies: such a sight as this Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss. Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

A dead march.

Exeunt, bearing off the dead bodies; after which a peal of ordnance is shot off