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18 May 2009 @ 07:46 pm
random discoveries in my files  
Going through my files, as I try to look back on what sorts of things actually do interest me and what sorts of things I might be able to manage writing about, after all, and I found that I *did* actually write that defense of Horatio (a thing I keep wanting to do, especially after reading a batch of Hamlet criticism that reduced him to a mere watcher), sort of:

31 January 2008

The thing about Hamlet...I think I've said this before, but I'm always surprised when people talk about how Hamlet is over-familiar and people identify with Hamlet or think they know what he's about, and that this is a problem that gets in the way of the text. I've always felt that Hamlet was a foreign country--despite all the familiar lines and moments. My memory of first studying the play in high school consists of strange phrases and images: "I am more an antique Roman than a Dane"; the idea that pelicans were supposed to have fed their young with their own blood; the terrible, terrible price that family honor forces all the play's young men to pay.

And being totally capslock INCENSED about Hamlet's behavior at Ophelia's funeral, of course. We mustn't forget that. "This is I, Hamlet the Dane!" Yeah, well, no one asked you, actually. Like he's got the lock on histrionics in this play, and no one else can have any. "To outface me with leaping in her grave?" Dude, that's her brother. Not everything is about you. I always wonder what Horatio is thinking at this moment. And I wonder if this is something of a break between them--because in the next scene, they seem to be talking past each other, and when Hamlet relates the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Horatio's response seems, to me, rather horrified at Hamlet's callous policy: "Why, what a king is this!" And when Hamlet goes on to ask whether it isn't "perfect conscience" to kill the man who killed his father and attempted to murder him (I'm not sure if this is the first time he states it so plainly to someone else), Horatio doesn't answer. Instead he mentions that Claudius must shortly be aware of what happened in England, which is sort of the equivalent of "I, uh--hey, look over there!" That silence is so odd to me. It's a rare occasion when Hamlet asks a direct question of Horatio about his course of action, it seems like a moment of intimacy--almost like he's pleading for approval--and Horatio sidesteps it entirely. I feel like this scene doesn't get that much love because it's so full of exposition, and crammed full of crazy (pirates and handwriting and signet rings!), but I'd love to see a production someday that does something with Horatio's silences instead of just having him sort of standing around.

Oh, Horatio my dear. I know a lot of his dialogue consists of "Yes, my lord" and "Nay, my good lord," but he's actually kind of wry in this way that you totally miss if you blink--"You might have rhymed," for example, or "I knew you must be edified by the margin ere you had done." And "If your mind dislike anything, obey it" BREAKS my heart. He's trying so hard to hold Hamlet back, and he can't. He's been watching Hamlet worriedly, I think, since at least "These are but wild and whirling words, my lord," but all he can do is watch. Poor Horatio.
La Reine Noire: Vergillareinenoire on May 19th, 2009 08:58 am (UTC)
I have always considered Horatio to be the only sane person in Denmark...
tempestsarekind: opheliatempestsarekind on May 19th, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
I am sure this is true! I love it when productions follow F and have Horatio tell Gertrude of Ophelia's madness, too: it's this wonderful moment of urging her to be kind and to speak with Ophelia.
the_merope on May 19th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
I love Horatio. I played him once in college, and the fact that I had to be him, and therefore had to understand, or trick myself into thinking I completely understood, him probably has a lot to do with it, but that's exactly how I played him- at the beginning Hamlet is to him what Aragorn is to Faramir in The Lord of the Rings: he worships him, believes in his superiority to nearly every living creature, and during Hamlet watches him fall from every possible pedestal. And yet at the end, Hamlet is as dear to him as he was at the start; objective cataloguing of actual merits has nothing to do with it, after all. It's hands down my favourite friendship in fiction, and Hamlet's complex character has very little to do with why!
tempestsarekind: hamlet--though you can fret metempestsarekind on May 19th, 2009 08:14 pm (UTC)
And yet at the end, Hamlet is as dear to him as he was at the start; objective cataloguing of actual merits has nothing to do with it, after all.

Ooh, I think that's so true, and that's part of it as well. Horatio *sees* Hamlet in a way that the other characters don't, because Horatio always knows the madness is false (and I wonder how much of it also looks vindictive and unnecessary from Horatio's point of view, though Hamlet's "antic disposition" is one of my very favorite things about the play). But he's still there, and still devoted, without being blinded or dazzled by Hamlet.
the_merope on May 19th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Exactly. Which makes the situation all the more intriguing- the fact that there is a character who somehow understands Hamlet; it presupposes that Hamlet can be understood. As a reader, that's maddening, because hell if I can!
tempestsarekind: hamlet/horatio OTPtempestsarekind on May 19th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Hee, yes. Somehow Horatio *gets* Hamlet, and it is mysterious how he manages it when no one else can. Watching Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead recently really brought this home to me, because without Horatio there, to keep Hamlet a bit human, I really did find myself watching him and going, "wow, Hamlet's a jerk." Not that he isn't sometimes in the play itself, but still.

(I am trying *so hard* not to turn this into musings about the Tenth Doctor: about the dazzle, and the fall, and what keeps or makes him human. Darn it, I've already written that post!)
the_merope on May 19th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
I rather think what makes the tenth Doctor human is precisely that he isn't. It would be an 'explanation' of Hamlet, if he were a Time Lord! It'd open up a metaphorical door- he would no longer be bound by the 'laws' of 'humanness' that govern and necessitate some kind of consistency, especially of cause and effect. The Doctor is at his most human at the moments he is isolated, because of his difference- that's when he behaves in the most human way. At other times, in companionship with and in comparison with humans, he is something else entirely :)
tempestsarekind: ten has a secrettempestsarekind on May 20th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
I think that's very true, somewhat perversely. You'd think the companion would help to make him human, but I think the companions *remind* him of what it means to be human, which is not the same thing.