The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0332 Monday, 22 June 2009
Date: Friday, 19 Jun 2009 09:59:47 -0500
Subject: 20.0312 What ho, Horatio
Comment: RE: SHK 20.0312 What ho, Horatio
Alan Pierpoint writes, "It's hard to see how Horatio, mister information
in Act I, would not know of Ophelia's death."
Why? Horatio gets the letter from Hamlet (4, 6), reads it, agrees to
take the men to the king (or to someone who will deliver Hamlet's
letters), and indicates his intention to reach Hamlet as quickly as
possible. The stage clears. We shift to the king explaining to Laertes
why he couldn't try Hamlet for murder, whereupon he is interrupted by a
messenger bringing the letters from Hamlet. Claudius begins his plot to
murder Hamlet through the fake fencing match. After some time the queen
bursts in with news of Ophelia's death. We have no indication that
Horatio knew of the event.
It is dangerous, as several posts have reiterated, to depend too much on
reason in contemplating the plays, but we do need to keep recalling what
the audience understands from seeing, rather than what we understand or
imagine from multiple readings. The audience sees Horatio getting a
message from his friend asking him to join him as fast as possible. It
does not see him again until he arrives with Hamlet at the graveyard.
What happened between those two events we can imagine but cannot know.
You may choose to imagine that Horatio lingered about the castle long
enough to hear the news of Ophelia's death, or that he took horse
immediately and galloped off to meet his friend totally unaware of it.
As imaginings both are (it appears) equally plausible.
But the audience sees neither of these things. What they see is a
distinct separation between Horatio meeting with the piratical
letter-bearer and Claudius and Laertes hearing of Ophelia's death, with
another separation between that and the arrival of Hamlet and Horatio at
the graveyard. They are three different events and no imagined
back-story is needed.
[Editor's Note: It seems to me as if this thread proceeded for long
enough. I'll allow one more round, and then I am closing it. -HMC]
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