He is a friend of Hamlet’s from his school in Wittenberg. His role in the play is that he is Hamlet’s most loyal and trusted friend, despite his poor status. While Hamlet’s other friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, turn on him, Horatio demonstrates his loyalty throughout the play. In the end, he is the only main character to survive and carries out Hamlet’s dying wish by telling his story to Fortinbras.
Horatio demonstrates his loyalty and trustworthiness in a number of ways in the play.
“Never to speak of this that you have seen. Swear by my sword” (I.v.156-157).
- After Hamlet talks to the ghost, he vows that he will get revenge and says he may act mad.
He then forces Horatio and Marcellus to swear upon his sword that they will keep what he said a secret.
- Horatio fulfills Hamlet’s wish by keeping the secret safe. This demonstrates his loyalty towards Hamlet as he continues to do so even when Hamlet’s madness is starting to appear real.
“Give him heedful note. For I mine eyes will rivet to his face, And after we will both our judgments join, In censure of his seeming” (III.ii.77-80).
- Hamlet greets Horatio and praises him. He then tells him his plan and asks him to watch Claudius during the play so that he can determine whether he is guilty or not.
- Horatio dutifully agrees and watches Claudius during the play. After Claudius leaves suddenly, they determine that his behavior is strange and fits one of a guilty man. The fact that Horatio goes along with Hamlet’s plan without hesitation proves how close they are and the loyalty he feels for Hamlet.
- Hamlet sends a letter to Horatio with the sailor. The letter tells Horatio that Hamlet has returned to Denmark with the help of pirates.
- This illustrates the strong friendship between Hamlet and Horatio as Horatio is the only one Hamlet can trust.
- Horatio does not want Hamlet to proceed with the duel.
- Horatio cares about his friend and fears something may happen to him. This confirms that he genuinely cares for Hamlet and is not just obeying orders because Hamlet is the prince.
“If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, Absent thee from felicity awhile, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell my story” (V.ii.344-347).
- Horatio wants to drink the poisoned goblet after he realizes Hamlet is about to die. However, Hamlet convinces him to live and tell his story to Fortinbras.
- This once again demonstrates Horatio’s loyalty towards Hamlet as he obeys his wish even though Hamlet is about to die.