A few thoughts on the character of Horatio
The name Horatio bears a striking resemblance to Orator, which in latin means speaker. We see the charge a couple times from Hamlet at the end of the play—for Horatio to tell his (Hamlet’s) story. And then the play ends quite suddenly with Fortinbras and an ambassador to England arriving to the bloody scene. Leaving us to question Horatio’s fate. But alas, that does not matter. Horatio does not matter. The show is called Hamlet after all! I would like to argue that just as the play ends with questions, it begins with questions on this Horatio character as well. The first couple scenes leave many questions desired to be answered. How long had Horatio been in Elsinore before the guards sought him out to observe the Ghost of King Hamlet? Why has he supposedly been in Elsinore for a while and yet not seen Hamlet? After all, Shakesperare really only leaves us with the facts that Horatio is a friend to Hamlet and that they studied together at Wittenberg. I like to think that the bookending of these two scenes at both extreme ends of the show, serve as a contrast to the actual story of Hamlet. Wherin Horatio and these scenes leave us with many unanswered questions, the hope is that, muddy as it is, the story of Hamlet will have at least have resolution to it.
I also find it interesting that Horatio appears in most pivotal moments in the play, and yet, seems rather un-touched by these moments. The most striking is the Ophelia mad scene. Horatio is there and we see he is given the duty to watch over her. Ophelia’s pain is powerful and yet in the next act when Horatio reconvenes with Hamlet and is walking back to the castle, not a word on her madness. But just as a reporter is more apt to listen then to speak, so is Horatio in allowing Hamlet the floor whenever they are on together. So why doesn’t Horatio let Hamlet know that Ophelia has gone mad? As an actor, I choose to believe that it is because he is there for Hamlet and not Ophelia. This admittedly sounds harsh, but it may allow us to somewhat forgive this slip in action on the part of Horatio in informing his friend.
Horatio vs. Merrythought: The magic of different characters
The last play I was in with the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company was The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont. This is a hilarious show and I would highly recommend reading it if you have not done so before. Boy, could these parts be any different. In Merrythought we see a character that is a drunk, a partier and a comic-relief. Think Falstaff-esque almost! In Horatio, we see a character that is conservative, even-tempered and sober-minded. I’ve talked with a lot of actors and actresses who have done numerous plays with Pigeon Creek before and they all comment on how one of their most favourite things about the company is their ability to play a wide variety of characters and to make them their own. This is the third Pigeon Creek production that I am in and I have to agree; getting the chance to play a variety of different types of characters is such a treat. It forces the actor to really delve down in to the text and examine their role instead of like a robot just popping out the same product show after show.