What are the differences between Kent in King Lear and Horatio in Hamlet in their behavoirs?   

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shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question!  I've never actually thought of comparing Kent and Horatio, though both are loyal friends to the "mad" title characters of two of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies.

This could be a very long, insightful essay, so I'll just give you some places to begin:

  • Kent takes on a disguise in order to stay close to Lear, while Horatio does not.  The loyal Kent is banished from Lear's court for speaking out in favour of Cordelia's love, so he must adopt a disguise in order to return and serve his king.  In contrast to Lear, Hamlet actually welcomes Horatio at court and keeps him by his side throughout the majority of the play.
  • Kent stays as close to Lear in order to protect him as best he can from his enemies.  Horatio is simply around Hamlet, as best as can be determined, to provide moral support, and is curiously absent when Hamlet is in the most danger-- when he is arrested and sent to England (presumably to be killed).
  • Kent is an actual noble in Lear's court.  Horatio is neither a Dane nor a noble and is, we presume, simply Hamlet's friend from school.  So, Horatio is an outsider, Kent an insider.

I hope these general differences give you a jumping off place to look more deeply into how they operate differently in these tragedies.