The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0054  Sunday, 1 Feburary 2009

From:      Felix de Villiers <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:      Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009 10:56:21 +0100
Subject:   Heroes

Setting aside the last posts about the confusion of motives regarding 
the duel for the moment, I find David Basch's defence of his hero, 
Horatio, so charming, that I don't really want to contradict him. I 
promised him some time ago that I would reread Hamlet, to clarify my 
ideas. Alas, I had only begun, when I was interrupted. Well I'm starting 
again today, so will return to this subject. In the meanwhile, to keep 
the theme going:

I was relieved, in the first scene to find Horatio more human than I had 
expected: he grows pale with fear when he sees the ghost. Horatio is an 
important but nevertheless a supporting character, a bit of Greek chorus 
commenting on the passions of his master. Shakespeare doesn't go more 
deeply into Horatio's life: had he done so his "sterling qualities" 
(David) would soon be put to the test, as those of good Obama will be.

David is right, in a way, about Horatio trying to put straight a 
decadent aristocrat, but Hamlet tells us much more about life than he 
does. There is hardly a great play or novel in which the main characters 
don't struggle against their established social world.

The letters about the confusion and mixed motives surrounding the dual 
are interesting and make good reading. Donald rightly describes the 
whole situation as loopy. If we think, rather, of a dark destiny working 
it's way through people's lives, then all the loopiness falls into 
place. The mythical forces of destiny are not rational. Hamlet cedes, 
but his dying words seek a way out of the trap:

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.

Telling the story is a form of resistance against destiny. Hamlet makes 
this plea to Horatio, but it is Shakespeare who tells the story. Already 
a profound insight into myth takes a step out of it. It is true that 
Horatio is the man who stands aside, so he represents a point of 
resistance to the blind forces of myth. But I have to reread the play...


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