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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: February ::
Horatio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0352  Friday, 18 February 2000.

[1]     From:   Martin Mueller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 11:35:03 -0600
        Subj:   Horatio

[2]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 13:37:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0344 Re: Ur-Hamlet/Ur-Lear

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 19:20:03 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0344 Re: Ur-Hamlet/Ur-Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Mueller <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 11:35:03 -0600
Subject:        Horatio

What did Shakespeare expect his audience to associate with the name
"Horatio"? Hearing "ratio" in Horatio with David Bishop is not a bad pun
and is supported by some other Roman analogs.  Horatio is an Italian
form of Horatius, a famous Roman name because a) it refers to one of the
founding legends of Rome (the subject of Corneille's Horace) and b)
because it is the name of the famous lyrical poet whose "message" is one
of moderation and measure, qualities that Hamlet lacks but likes to
imagine in his friend (give me that man that is not passion's slave
etc.).  Horatio may be said to step right out of the pages of a
neo-Stoic conduct manual, and his name is a brand name.

Should one also think about the violence against women that is inscribed
in the name? Horatius, the sole survivor of the duels between the three
Horatii and Curiatii meant to settle the war between Rome and Alba Longa
killed his sister when she mourned the death of the Curiatius to whom
she was engaged. Not something the later day and moderate poet Horace
would have done, but very much in the ethos of early Romans. The Amleth
of the saga is explicitly compared to the first Brutus, who plays the
fool to get his revenge against the tyrants. Hamlet-Brutus has a friend
Horatius, whose namesake killed his sister. He must remind himself not
to be Nero to his mother, and his violent behavior towards Ophelia-no
analogs in the saga-fits in the brutal part of the Roman orbit. It's
possible-and within the parameters of an imaginative Elizabethan
schoolboy's knowledge of things Roman-that the name "Horatio" reinforces
the distinctly Roman ambivalence that is more obviously inscribed in the
name "Brutus" and is the subject of an explicit meditation by Plutarch
in the Life of Brutus, a work Shakespeare knew well and pondered deeply.

Martin Mueller
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.  USA

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 13:37:45 -0500
Subject: 11.0344 Re: Ur-Hamlet/Ur-Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0344 Re: Ur-Hamlet/Ur-Lear

As others besides me have said, the allusion uppermost in the Horatio of
Hamlet is the Horatius of Livy, he who defended the bridge, and thereby
established himself as the very type of the antique Roman Horatio
generally aspires to be, an ambition Hamlet recalls him to with "Absent
thee from felicity awhile" etc.

Stoically,
Dave Evett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 2000 19:20:03 -0500
Subject: 11.0344 Re: Ur-Hamlet/Ur-Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0344 Re: Ur-Hamlet/Ur-Lear

>Surely Shakespeare was more
>interested in Marlowe, and he worked through that influence long before
>Hamlet. I prefer to think Shakespeare liked the name Horatio, wherever
>he remembered it from, because it included "ratio", making it fit a man
>who is not passion's slave. In the absence of better facts, simplicity
>in a theory seems a virtue.

Let me then register my profound exception to this principle.  While I
agree that any relationship between the two playwrights can be only a
matter of speculation, I do not agree that a play whose denouement turns
on a play within a play, and which involves a ghost superintending the
revenge murder of father/son by a father/son could stage a character
named Horatio without every theater going Elizabethan making the
association.  It's just too distinctive a name to pass a second time
unnoticed.  Perhaps Shakespeare noticed the Latin connotation of the
name in Kyd's play and decided upon the role his Kyd-ish character
should play.

Simplicity may be a virtue in theory or theories, but the real world is
full of vices.

Clifford
 

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