Why does Horatio consider killing himself and what does Hamlet say to stop him?

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Hamlet has an incredibly difficult time finding people he can trust, but Horatio proves to be his reliable confidant throughout the play. Through his conversations with Horatio, the reader is able to learn of Hamlet's true nature and deepest fears.

Just before the "play within a play," Hamlet says...

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Hamlet has an incredibly difficult time finding people he can trust, but Horatio proves to be his reliable confidant throughout the play. Through his conversations with Horatio, the reader is able to learn of Hamlet's true nature and deepest fears.

Just before the "play within a play," Hamlet says this to Horatio:

Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
As e'er my conversation cop'd withal. (III.ii.47-48)

Horatio embodies all the qualities that Hamlet expects he could possibly find in a man. And later:

Does thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
And could of men distinguish her election,
Sh'hath seal'd thee for herself. For thou hast been
As one, in suff'ring all, that suffers nothing;
A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta'en with equal thanks... (III.ii.56-62)

Hamlet has chosen Horatio as his friend because he accepts hardship and his fate graciously. Throughout the play, Horatio is bold on behalf of Hamlet (Remember how he aided Hamlet in speaking with the ghost early in the play.) and never betrays Hamlet's trust.

In the final scene as he sees his friend dying, Horatio cries out,

I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.
Here's yet some liquor left. (V.ii.341-342)

Loyal to the death, Horatio cannot imagine a world without his friend in it and is prepared to die with him. But Hamlet ends this plan with these words:

O, God, Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story. (V.ii.346-350)

Hamlet believes that his honor is ruined without someone left to explain his story and knows that he can depend on steadfast Horatio to vindicate his name and honor. As Fortinbras enters, this is exactly what Horatio is seen doing; he begins to ask for his attention so that he can explain the "incestuous, murderous, and unnatural acts" which have culminated in his friend Hamlet's death.

In the end, it is loyalty that remains.

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We don't precisely know why Horatio would want to commit suicide, but Horatio is a rationalist, and events are unfolding in such a way that ending his life could easily seem preferable to staying alive. Hamlet, his best friend, is dying, and the room is littered with the corpses of people Horatio knows well. Beyond that, an invading army led by Fortinbras is at the doorstep. His friends are dead or dying and his country conquered: this is not a hopeful scenario for him. His desire to drink the poison seems to arise from feeling no reason to stay alive.

Hamlet, however, wisely provides the logical Horatio with a rationale for surviving. Hamlet convinces him that his life has meaning as a witness to the events that occurred. He is the only one still living who can tell the true story of what happened from start to finish. Just as Horatio bore witness to the reality of the ghost early in the play, now he can bear witness in a reasoned and even-handed way to the tragedy that has befallen the royal house of Denmark.

Hamlet knows his friend and says that if Horatio loves him ("If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart"), Horatio will give up the happiness of an immediate death ("Absent thee from felicity awhile"), and suffer the pain of being alive ("in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain") in order to tell his best friend's story. The loyal Horatio obeys his friend's dying request.

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The play doesn't actually make it quite clear what Horatio's motives are. But he sees it, just like a historical Roman, as more noble to commit suicide. When Hamlet says

Horatio, I am dead;
Thou livest; report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.

Horatio disagrees -

Never believe it.
I am more an antique Romanthan a Dane.
Here's yet some liquor left.

Hamlet says

As th'art a man,
Give me the cup. Let go! By heaven, I'll have't.
O God, Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.

In short, Hamlet wants Horatio to be around to tell the story of why Hamlet did what he did, and exactly what happened. There needs to be a witness for history to judge him kindly. And what Hamlet doesn't realise within the play, but Shakespeare realises without it, is that history, is of course his story. The play - Hamlet - does exactly what Hamlet asks Horatio to do.

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