Hamlet: The Court in Transition (I)
Part of the Contemporary Interpretations of Shakespeare book series (CIS)
Suddenly, unexpectedly, surveying the tragic waste of the Danish court, Horatio can stand it no longer and reaches for the poisoned cup.
It is an extraordinary moment, an attempt at final self-definition by a man aware of the many selves he has to choose amongst. The friend whom Hamlet admired for his stoicism in the face of suffering, a man who seemed ‘as one, in suff’ring all, that suffers nothing’ (III.ii.66), can suffer no more. The scholar selected to be spectator ab extra at the unfolding drama of the Danish court has been so deeply drawn into its goings-on that, like the Cumaean Sybil surveying the waste land of T. S. Eliot’s poem, he wants to die. In this most literary of plays, at this most critical of moments, Horatio strikes a classical pose: he will accept the role of the stoic in which he has been cast, the role most commonly opposed to that of the revenger in the revenge tradition to which Hamlet belongs,43 and — faced with a burden too heavy to bear — he will perfect it in honourable suicide.
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.
Here’s yet some liquor left.
KeywordsEurope Expense Gall Convolution Ghost
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© Graham Holderness, Nick Potter and John Turner 1990