June 30 , 2007


The Loyal Friend of Prince Hamlet


In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Horatio is a trusted friend who serves as a sounding board for the prince. But who is Horatio? How did he meet the prince? How does he view the people and events in the royal household? And what does he seek for himself in life?

The events in Shakespeare’s play take on fresh meaning when seen from the perspective of characters other than the prince himself. In this novel, Horatio has a life of his own. We see him as a sensitive, scholarly man who dreams, falls in love, struggles with fear, and pursues his own course of action. What he sees and does affects life in the castle, but he knows that his own destiny lies elsewhere.

The son of a Danish cloth merchant, he has grown up in Copenhagen. He goes to the University of Paris to pursue his interest in philosophy. Some stormy exchanges leave him disenchanted, and he moves to the University of Wittenberg, where he develops a friendship with Hamlet and Marcellus. Learning of the death of his father, Hamlet returns to Elsinore. Knowing he must also return soon, Marcellus urges Horatio to come with him.

Sharing quarters in the city with two royal guards, Horatio spends much time at the castle. A young lady catches his eye, and a passionate romance begins to flourish. But he also has a succession of encounters with a shrewd and devious courtier, whom he suspects of seeking to manipulate events in the royal household. Ultimately faced with dire events he cannot control, he looks forward to a better life far from the castle.

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