Horatio’s Big Moment

I may have mentioned that I did not, at all, like Horatio in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet. It wasn’t just the over the top hipster characterization. He just didn’t … do, anything.  He’s a nonentity in almost all of the play.  When we see him in the unusual scene one he’s little more than a messenger with something very important to say, who is dismissed by Hamlet before he gets to say it.  Later it almost seems like he’s heading out of town, having given up Hamlet for dead.

Except for one scene.  Hamlet’s back, he’s relayed the ridiculous story of how he escaped the pirates, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are No More.  This takes Horatio a second to piece together, or maybe it just takes him a second to work up the guts to say it, but:

HORATIO
So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to’t.

HAMLET
Why, man, they did make love to this employment;
They are not near my conscience; their defeat
Does by their own insinuation grow:
‘Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensed points
Of mighty opposites.

HORATIO
Why, what a king is this!

He yells that last line at Hamlet.  I think it’s the only time he raises his voice.  Took me by surprise, actually. But I liked the interpretation.  Hamlet is in the middle of justifying how he’s left two “friends” to their death and that he doesn’t think twice about it, and Horatio has to say, “LISTEN TO YOURSELF! Were you supposed to be king? Is this the kind of king you would have been?”

Bardfilm tells me that this line can be interpreted as meaning Claudius — agreement with Hamlet, getting back to the original “It was them or me, Claudius is the one that sent me to my potential death” argument.  If that’s the case, then at least in this production Horatio would still be just a sniveling toady.  Hamlet’s told him that he killed two guys and doesn’t care, and Horatio’s all, “Yeah, screw them!  Claudius is the real bad guy here, not you! Let’s go get a scone and an espresso, I want you to read my Nanowrimo entry…”

(P.S. I feel obliged to point out here, for those that do not have the text handy, that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do NOT typically know that they are taking Hamlet to his murder.  I wonder if Hamlet knew that, if it would have given him pause?)

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