Speaking about the character of Horatio, it is essential to mention that this character is paid very little attention to, when the tragedy Hamlet is considered. However, if to look closer, it is possible to understand that this image was created by Shakespeare in order to help us understand the character of the main hero. As the readers and spectators can see, Horatio does not believe in forecasts. He had to recognize the fact of ghost appearance, but still kept adhering to his rational views. He is a man of reason. The characteristic given by Hamlet has special meaning:
Horatio, thou art een as just a man
As eer my conversation copd withal.
Nay, do not think I flatter;
For what advancement may I hope from thee,
That no revenue hast, but thy good spirits,
To feed and clothe thee?
Why should the poor be flatterd?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp;
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seald thee for herself: for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing (Scene II).
Horatio, a completely inactive character, plays a very essential role in the tragedy. Like a ghost he serves Shakespeare to reveal the ideal of a man. He is not a slave of passion in contrast to other characters, who are full of passions. Horatio is a calm, balanced man. He is rational and rejects the existence of ghosts. The main thing Hamlet emphasizes in the character of Horatio is philosophical view on life. From the characteristic given by Hamlet we see that Horatio is the follower of stoicism, an ancient theory that was revived by the thinkers of Renaissance. The followers of stoicism believed that some foresight rules the world, a rational man should obey its will and it is the reason that should direct the behavior.
Hamlet states that his ideal is the same:
A man that Fortunes buffets and rewards
Hast taen with equal thanks: and blesd are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled
That they are not a pipe for Fortunes finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passions slave, and I will wear him
In my hearts core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee. (Act III.Scene II)
However, is Hamlet free of passions? The very first monologue of Hamlet testifies that he is passionate. His mood is changing, he is not able to treat evil calmly, it irritates him and causes passionate protest. He cannot calm down watching immorality and evil. That is why there is a certain discrepancy between the ideal of Hamlet and his own behavior. However, this discrepancy took place only till the certain moment. Full of passions at the beginning, Hamlet has acquired the same view on the world as Horatio had. But in the case of Hamlet the obedience to destiny does not mean humility. He remains the enemy of evil and injustice. He did not care about his own destiny and is not afraid of death.
Moreover, if at the beginning Hamlet and Horatio have different life positions and the prince lacks the detachment from worries while his friend possesses it, in the final scene their roles are exchanged. Being wise and calm, Horatio loves Hamlet very much. He wants to share his destiny by drinking the poison. But Hamlet stops him:
As thourt a man,
Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, Ill havet.
O good Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
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 (Act V, Scene II).
Hamlet wants his friend to recollect his philosophy and follow it. Horatio obeys. The character of Horatio helps the reader and spectator understand the character of Hamlet better. Hamlet is passionate and Horatio is wise, but when Hamlet turns to wisdom, he did not want to submit to destiny. Through the analysis of the character of Horatio we see the answer to the very popular question: if Hamlet is mad or not. Hamlet is not mad at all, on the contrary he starts understanding the realities. But, being honest and noble, he does not want to obey, he decides to struggle.
Bate, Jonathan, and Eric Rasmussen, eds. Complete Works. By William Shakespeare. The hRSC Shakespeare. New York: Modern Library, 2007