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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: June ::
What ho, Horatio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0277  Sunday, 31 May 2009

[1] From:   Arnie Perlstein <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 27 May 2009 12:43:16 -0400
     Subj:   What ho, Horatio

[2] From:   John Wall <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 27 May 2009 12:55:50 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0269 What ho, Horatio

[3] From:   Steve Roth <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 27 May 2009 10:18:44 -0700
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0269 What ho, Horatio

[4] From:   Alan Pierpoint <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 27 May 2009 14:00:05 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0269 What ho, Horatio


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Arnie Perlstein <
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Date:       Wednesday, 27 May 2009 12:43:16 -0400
Subject:    What ho, Horatio

""Horatio is like tofu." Can we have that put on a T-shirt?

Lynn,  one day I might just do that, thanks very much for the 
suggestion!  ;)

And revisiting Horatio as tofu . . .

"For one thing Horatio does not invite psychological investigation the 
way Hamlet does."

David, to say that no character in all of world literature invites 
psychological investigation the way Hamlet does would be the 
understatement of a millennium. I think you've set the bar a wee bit too 
high.

Many in this group probably are aware that there must be at least 40 or 
more separate scholarly investigations of Horatio, in print (whether in 
separate articles, or as parts of books or articles about Hamlet), 
dating back at least to the early 19th century, of the mysteries, 
contradictions, and anomalies of Horatio's character, attempting to 
assess his character's psychological dimensions. Not only is there no 
consensus on Horatio, in fact, among those reactions, there are only 
pockets of agreement, with many different explanations competing, and no 
clear winner, other, perhaps than "There is something strange going on 
with Horatio and I don't know what it is!"

To me, that is exactly the sort of literary character who DOES invite, 
indeed beg for, psychological investigation.

Again, as I said before, the one thing i am extremely confident of is 
that this fuzziness about Horatio is 100% intentional on Shakespeare's 
part. I have my own ideas as to why.

I think sometimes Shakespeare liked tofu . . . literarily speaking. ;)

Arnie

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       John Wall <
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Date:       Wednesday, 27 May 2009 12:55:50 -0400
Subject: 20.0269 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0269 What ho, Horatio

The issue for me with the Hamlet/Horatio relationship has always been 
not in their conversation after the play-within-the-play but in the 
scene later, in the graveyard, in which it suddenly becomes clear to us 
that in all the implied time since Hamlet has returned from his England 
trip Horatio has not thought to say to him, "By the way, while you were 
gone, your old girlfriend Ophelia drowned herself."

One would think that would be the first think he would think to say to 
Hamlet upon seeing him again. But he doesn't.

The issue here seems to be how much discussion we are to understand 
takes place between Hamlet and Horatio in the implied time off-stage. 
Their conversation following the play-within-the-play suggests to me 
that they have had a conversation in which Hamlet took Horatio into his 
confidence about his plans for the play-within-the-play.

But the way in which the graveyard scene plays out suggests that at 
least in this case the need for dramatic tension and on-stage 
confrontation trumps normal expectations about human interaction.

John N Wall
Professor of English
NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Steve Roth <
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Date:       Wednesday, 27 May 2009 10:18:44 -0700
Subject: 20.0269 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0269 What ho, Horatio

Anthony Burton:

 >So Hamlet has construed as proof of guilt for murder, an action
 >that proved only Claudius's unwillingness to tolerate an enactment
 >of how he got the "love" of Gertrude.

Exactly so. Though I would say this is only the final straw. (Which is 
not the same as the "second tooth.") Throughout the mousetrap (and the 
play, in fact), 16-year-old Hamlet's behavior is in-effing-sufferable 
(even if it is justifiable).

But the crucial point: Hamlet knows that the king rising gives him no 
proof -- there's a perfectly reasonable explanation absent guilt.

Horatio knows the same thing, though he is probably more willing to 
accept it than Hamlet.

Claudius, on the other hand, does learn something: from the moment of 
the dumb-show poisoning (which occurs almost exactly halfway through the 
play -- as highlighted by Hamlet with his "two hours" comment), Claudius 
knows that Hamlet knows.

And we  know that Claudius knows that Hamlet knows, though we also know 
that unlike us, Hamlet doesn't really know -- which is something that 
Claudius doesn't know. <g>

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Alan Pierpoint <
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Date:       Wednesday, 27 May 2009 14:00:05 -0400
Subject: 20.0269 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0269 What ho, Horatio

Arthur Lindley writes, ". . . why should anyone who has not been talking 
to the Ghost believe that the Mousetrap has proved Claudius' guilt? The 
court has just seen a play in which a nephew kills his uncle accompanied 
by Hamlet's mocking of his uncle. What would you conclude? Horatio, who 
knows about the Ghost's existence but not the Ghost's story, gives the 
appropriate, cautious, press-conference sort of answer."

I've always taken Hamlet's words in III.ii.81-2  ["One scene of it comes 
near the circumstance / Which I have told thee of my father's death."] 
to mean that Hamlet has related the ghost's story to Horatio,
and thus Horatio does know that story second hand, and that Shakespeare 
is taking care that the audience now knows that Horatio knows, to 
prepare it for the "unkenneling" of Claudius's guilt.
I would agree that The Mousetrap doesn't prove much to the other 
spectators, but it might confirm their suspicions. Regicide or threat of 
same was common enough, and that snake-bite story was pretty lame. Who 
would really believe it?

Hamlet's own prior doubts about Claudius's guilt will forever remain 
problematic.

Respectfully,
Alan Pierpoint

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