From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Horatio is a character from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. A friend of Prince Hamlet from Wittenberg University, Horatio's origins are unknown, though he is evidently poor  and was present on the battlefield when Hamlet's father defeated 'the ambitious Norway'. Horatio is evidently not directly involved in the intrigue at the Danish court; thus, he makes a good foil or sounding board for Hamlet. He is often not identified as any specific court position, but simply as "friend to Hamlet."
Horatio is Hamlet's most trusted friend, to whom Hamlet reveals all his plans. Several times Hamlet swears his affection to Horatio in a way he does for no other character. Horatio swears himself to secrecy about the ghost and Hamlet's pretense of madness, and conspires with Hamlet to prove Claudius's guilt in the mousetrap play. He is the first to know of Hamlet's return from England, and is with him when he learns of Ophelia's death.
"Horatio, thou art e'en as just a manAs e'er my conversation cop'd withal."
|— Hamlet to Horatio in the play Hamlet|
Not only is Horatio loyal and supportive, but he is also rational. The guards in the opening scene call upon Horatio to bear witness to the presence of the ghost, trusting in his unbiased opinion. Without proof, Horatio is skeptical of the ghost: "Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy,/ And will not let belief take hold of him." The fact that Horatio sees the ghost has been used to refute the theory that the ghost is a figment of Hamlet's imagination.
At the end of the play, Horatio proposes to finish off the poisoned drink which was intended for Hamlet, saying that he is 'more an antique Roman than a Dane', but the dying prince wrestles the cup away from him and bids Horatio to live, help put things right in Denmark; "If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, / Absent thee from felicity a while, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story." Hamlet's last request creates an interesting parallel between the name Horatio and the Latin orator, meaning "speaker".
Horatio is present through most of the major scenes of the play, but Hamlet is usually the only person to acknowledge that he is present; when other characters address him, they are almost always telling him to leave. He is often in scenes that are usually remembered as soliloquies, such as Hamlet's famous scene with the skull he calls 'Yorick'. Horatio is also present during the mousetrap play, the discovery of Ophelia's madness (though the role of an anonymous gentleman-courtier has been substituted in this scene), Hamlet's display at Ophelia's grave, and the all-important final scene. He is the only major main character to survive all the way to the end of the play.
In performance, the part of Horatio is the only part in the play that can't be doubled, i.e. that can't be played by an actor who also plays another character, since he is present in scenes involving nearly every character.