Hamlet and Horatio’s Relationship

Shakespeare wrote his drama Hamlet between the years of 1601 and 1603. The themes of death, love, friendship, and betrayal are central to the drama. Hamlet, King Claudius, Polonius, Queen Gertrude, Ophelia, Horatio, and Laertes are the play's major characters. (Shakespeare and Alan, 1). The drama centers on Hamlet, a young prince from the University who is depressed as he travels to Denmark to attend his father's funeral. Hamlet is horrified to discover his mother, Queen Gertrude, has already remarried when he gets home. As soon as King Hamlet passed away, Queen Gertrude wed Claudius. Claudius, the new monarch, was a relative of the late Hamlet's father. Hamlet is not happy with the marriage and views it as incest. Hamlet also finds his uncle Claudius already crowned himself as the new king of Denmark despite Hamlet being the right heir to the title. Hamlet is shocked by this deeds and suspects that things were not alright in his homeland.

A ghost of the late king appeared to Prince Hamlet in the castle. The ghost is unable to rest in peace and declares that he was murdered. The ghost claims that King Hamlet was murdered by Claudius when he poured poison into his ear while he was asleep (Shakespeare, and Alan, 17). The late king Helmet’s ghost wants Hamlet, his son, to avenge his death. Helmet at some point is not satisfied by the words of the ghost, and he seeks the help of a troop of players. The troop performed a play entitled The Murder of Gonzago. Hamlet adds scenes to this play, and he calls the new play, The Mousetrap (Shakespeare and Alan, 33). These scenes were to recreate the murder of his father. The play is a success to Hamlet’s plan as he finds out that Claudius was the killer. Hamlet decides that he will kill Claudius to avenge the murder of King Hamlet. In his quest to kill Claudius, he ends up killing other characters before he manages to stab Claudius with a poisoned sword. In the play, Hamlet and Horatio, are seen to be real friends throughout the play. Hamlet takes Horatio to be a confidant who helps the young prince to solve difficult situations that he finds himself in. Horatio also remains loyal and trusted a friend to Hamlet throughout the play. The two, Horatio and Hamlet, are the opposite of each other in all aspects except for the love and respect between them (Roberts, 9).

Character Analysis


Hamlet is a university student and the prince of Denmark. His father is the late King Hamlet while his mother is Queen Gertrude. Hamlet as a protagonist in the book is seen as a man full of contradictions. His character is not understood in the text, and he is at one point seen vigilant and another courteous. He is tender yet at the same play ferocious. When he learns that his father is dead, he reacts with lots of outrage, yet when he is responsible for the death of Rosencrantz, Polonius, and Guildenstern he shows no regret. When he is disgusted by the queen, he turns his cruel words to a fragile heart, Ophelia, he does not realize that his actions have affected Ophelia, a woman he once claimed to love. He is also full of hatred towards his uncle because he believes his uncle killed his father. He becomes obsessed with proving that his uncle is guilty.

Another character of Hamlet is that he behaves impulsively and rashly. When he killed Polonius, he stabs him when he is behind a curtain even without seeing who he is. He is also depressed and not satisfied with the state of affairs in his family and Denmark. He is first disappointed with his mother, Queen Gertrude, for marrying his uncle so quickly after the death of his father.


Horatio first appearance in the play is when the guards of the castle call upon him to address a ghost. The ghost only makes him deeply uneasy, and he is afraid of what the appearance of the ghost means to Denmark. When talking to this ghost, Horatio demands to know what the ghost had come to do. Either to confess some evil deeds or to predict the future of Denmark. Horatio meets with Hamlet when the young prince, Hamlet, comes to meet the ghost. Horatio tells Hamlet that his choice to follow the ghost is unwise and that wanting to know the reason for the appearance of the ghost may lead to madness and even thoughts to commit suicide. After following the ghost, they learn that Claudius killed King Hamlet by poisoning, the Prince swears he will avenge his father’s death. Horatio as an honest and trustworthy friend agrees to hang onto Hamlet’s secret, he says, "In faith, my lord, not I" (Shakespeare and Alan, 111).

Horatio is concerned about his friend Hamlet and the judgments that Hamlet makes. The first instance is when Hamlet found a letter in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s pack. The letter was from King Claudius telling the King of England that he, Claudius, must have Hamlet killed. Another instance when Horatio is concerned about Hamlet is when Hamlet declares that he will fight the son of Polonius, Laertes. Hamlet had already killed Polonius earlier in the play. With all the advice and warning that Horatio gave to Hamlet, the young prince did not heed any of these. Despite, Hamlet not listening to his friend, Horatio, Horatio loved Hamlet with all his heart, and he always spoke the truth to his friend.

When Hamlet goes to fight Laertes, he is killed, and Horatio is ready to take his life for his friend’s death. Hamlet makes a death request that Horatio open up about the secret Hamlet had been hiding for long. The request from Hamlet changes Horatio’s mind from killing himself with his sword. All these deeds from Horatio show how loyal and loving he was towards his friend Hamlet. Horatio is the only surviving main character, and he carries the wishes of his dead friend Hamlet. Horatio fulfills the wishes of Hamlet by telling the story to Fortinbras.

Hamlet and Horatio’s relationship

After the death of King Hamlet, his son Prince Hamlet needs a friend to be his monitor. He settles for Horatio, who is a cheerful and independent friend that Hamlet trusts. Hamlet represents confusions, while his friend Horatio represents strength. According to Hui (2013), Hamlet is seen to be reckless, and at the same time cautious, he is also very confused about what to do when caught in situations that affect him. His character of confusion affects how he acts throughout the play. When he learns of King Helmet’s death, he gets furious, but when he kills Polonius, he shows no guilt for his actions. The confusion in Hamlet is balanced by his friend’s calm character.

The friendship between Horatio and Hamlet is true throughout the play. Hamlet can trust Horatio and even shares his true feelings. In return to Hamlet’s trust, Horatio remains loyal. One of Hamlet’s plan is to see whether his mother’s new lover and husband, Claudius, is guilty of killing King Hamlet. Hamlet shares this plan with Horatio, who readily agrees to help Hamlet with his plan. In the play The Mousetrap, Hamlet tells Horatio to keep an eye on Claudius during the scene where King Hamlet is killed. Horatio was supposed to gauge the new King’s reaction. Horatio as a true friend responds, "Well, my lord. If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing, and scape detecting, I will pay the theft" (Shakespeare and Alan, 214). The characters show the high level of trust and loyalty between them.

When Hamlet meets the ghost of his dead father, he has an unpredictable behavior. The unpredictable behavior leads to other characters believing that Hamlet is insane. Despite this kind of behavior, Horatio remains a true and loyal friend this is evident when Horatio agrees to Hamlet’s beliefs and theories. One of the theories is when Hamlet wants to see if Claudius is guilty of the death of King Hamlet. Hamlet seeks for a second opinion from his friend Horatio. Horatio agrees to the plans of Hamlet without questioning the deeds (Hui, 162). Horatio through such acts is seen as a great friend. Another instance is when Hamlet is ready to follow his father’s ghost. Horatio comes in by giving advice to him, Horatio warns Hamlet that following the ghost might lead him into madness. The thinking of Hamlet is logical and helps give relief to the life of his friend.

Horatio is the voice of the voice of reason in Hamlet’s life (Hui, 169). Horatio is important in Hamlet’s chaotic character and helps to calm and control the young prince. Horatio is calm in all the chaotic events that they face in the play even at the end of the play when Hamlet is killed, Horatio survives to give a voice to the last wishes of Hamlet. Horatio responds to the wishes of dying Hamlet by saying, "Never believe it. I am more an antique Roman than a Dane. Here's yet some liquor left" (Shakespeare and Alan, 309). Before prince Hamlet dies of the poison that he drinks, Horatio says, "Now cracks a noble heart… good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!" (Shakespeare and Alan, 329)


The differences in the personalities of Hamlet and Horatio give a balance to their friendship. The characters have differences such as Hamlet is wild and driven by emotions while Horatio is calm and peaceful throughout the play. The chaotic life of Hamlet is brought to balance by Horatio. Hamlet places his trust on Horatio, and without him, Hamlet’s life would be in disarray. Hamlet has trust that his royal friend Horatio would not take advantage of his chaotic life and that he would protect him from the enemies he had in life.

Works Cited

Hui, Andrew. "Horatio’s Philosophy in Hamlet." Renaissance Drama, vol. 41, no. 1/2, 2013, pp. 151-171.

Roberts, Kevin. Helsingor: The True Story of Hamlet and Horatio. Saltspring Island, B.C: Pilot Hill Press, 2010. Print.

Shakespeare, William, and Alan Durband. Hamlet: Modern English Version Side-by-Side with Full Original Text. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2014. Print.

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