Character Analysis Of Horatio in Hamlet by Shakespeare

“…. For thou hast been

As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing;

Hast ta’en with equal thanks; and blessed are those

Whose blood and judgement are so well comingled,

That they are not a pipe for Fortune’s finger

To sound what step she please. Give me that man

That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him

In my heart’s care, ay, in my heart of heart,

As I do there.”

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This is how Hamlet esteems his friend, Horatio. We have to take Hamlet’s word for his friend’s character. In the play Horatio is a mere on-looker having little to do with the action of the play. Yet Horatio is essential to the play.

Hamlet must have somebody to look to, communicate his thoughts to. But as there is little action for Horatio in the play, there is no means of judging his character adequately. Hamlet makes him out to be a man of balanced will and sound judgement—a man always self-possessed and dispassionately observant of the things of life. Hamlet fairly judges human character, and we have no reason to challenge his judgement here. But there is something common between the two objectives of outlook and a desire for fair play and justice. In Horatio Hamlet admires all that he personally lacks-balanced will, cultivated intelligence, chastened affection, controlled passion, superiority to joys and sorrows. It is after all a Stoic ideal. It involves a deeper issue here. Horatio may be the picture of the rational man-which is the aim and objective of Stoicism. Shakespeare himself seems to have been imbued with Stoicism.

Shucking writes, “It is not surprising, therefore, that in a certain sense nearly all the tragedies of Shakespeare show the antithesis of the Stoic doctrine of the rational man. That what is tragic in the non-Stoic, in other words, the man not governed by reason, should have slowly become to Shakespeare almost the essence of tragedy, may not be due simply to a philosophic theory, but to his terrible experience of life-in point to face to the lamentable fall of Essex, and of his own patron, Southampton (1601). For no dramatist has ever written a more impressive tragedy about the sudden destruction of a hero whose path is laid amongst the highest in the land and who falls because, blinded by his passions, he can not be guided by reason, than the tragedy of Essex, written by history itself.”

Perhaps Horatio has been designedly kept apart from the action of the play. Hamlet turns to him for relief from the storm and stress of life above which he is placed. We may also contemplate him as a serene and unclouded mind, yes, unclouded by passion, that true to the kindred points of heaven and earth, pursues its path-an objectification of Shakespeare’s ideal. We do not know that he is pre-eminently a man of action-and we have no reason to believe that Shakespeare admires most a man of action.



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