Horatio is represented as being a scholar. How does Shakespeare reveal this characteristic in Hamlet?

Horatio is a scholar, who believes in dialogue. He remains the voice of reason throughout the play. In modern terms, he is a professional man with a job to do. With his friends, he engages in conversation about the events of the day. He probably knows how to fight and shoot a gun (military training). Like any other college student, he seeks knowledge and wisdom. The fact that Horatio survives shows his ability to understand human nature and to survive in any situation or social environment.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hamlet is an allegorical hero.  He interacts with other characters who reflect his possible options in taking revenge:

  1. Laertes reflects the limitations of instant revenge
  2. Fortinbras reflects the limitations of political revenge
  3. Ophelia reflects the limitations of madness
  4. Horatio reflects the limitations of talk

From the very first scenes of the play, Horatio establishes himself as a talker.  When he first hears of the Ghost, he says:

Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more;

  • Horatio doubts the supernatural:

Tush, tush, (quiet, quiet) 'twill not appear.


Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.

  • Marcellus says this about Horatio:

Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.


Question it, Horatio.

  • Horatio tells the Ghost:

by heaven I charge thee, speak!


stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!


If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me:
If there be any good thing to be done,
That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
Speak to me:

Later, after Marcellus says, "We do it wrong, being so majestical, To offer it the show of violence;" Horatio knows that dialogue and not violence is the only way to deal with the world.

When Hamlet sees the Ghost, he follows it.  Horatio warns against this.  Thus, Horatio is a passive scholar and a doubter.  He is a man of books, a college student who only believes what he sees, and he can only engage is discourse, not action.  He is no soldier (like the Ghost), no general (like Fortinbras), and no passionate reactionary (like Laertes.  In this way, he only offers Hamlet his advice in words.

Hamlet, thus, makes the mistake throughout the play of engaging others in dialogue (Polonius, his mother).  Other times, he doesn't engage in dialogue at all (silent interview with Ophelia).  Certainly, words contribute to much of Hamlet's delay.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team