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A Hamlet timeline - chronicle of events

Claudius - planning my foul murder

King Hamlet's funeral - where was Hamlet?

Gertrude & Claudius - adultery or not?

Horatio - Hamlet's friend?

Hamlet feigns madness - protective "cover"

Polonius - the evil that men do

Ophelia's love? - did she love Hamlet?

Ophelia closetted - Polonius on love

      O help xxx ....... - Olivier's version

Ophelia's change - is Hamlet suspicious?

Is Hamlet mad? - Polonius's opinion

Horatio - is he passion's slave?

Hamlet kills Polonius - stabs the "Voice"

Laertes on Ophelia - madness & death

Ophelia's death - a recipe

Yorick - something rotting in Denmark

Hamlet's age - digging up the past

Betting on Hamlet - the fencing match

Hamlet fencing skill - better than Laertes

Horatio — is he Hamlet's friend?

Dramatis Personæ

Listing in the Dramatis Personæ: Horatio, Friend of Hamlet.

Is Horatio the friend of Hamlet before the events of the play? They are both students at Wittenburg but are they friends? They know each other by sight but have they ever met? King Hamlet has been dead for more than a month yet still Horatio has not spoken to Hamlet. Only after he has been approached by the watchmen and seen the ghost does he feel it is his duty to go to Hamlet. If Horatio had not seen the ghost would he have ever spoken to Hamlet? Horatio and the watchmen meet Hamlet:

Horatio: Hail to your lordship!
Hamlet: I am glad to see you well: Horatio, — or I do forget myself.
Horatio: The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
Hamlet: Sir, my good friend; I'll change that name with you.

Hamlet does not greet Horatio with words as to a friend but as to a stranger. Hamlet knows he is a student at Wittenberg and his name doesn't require much memory-jogging to recall it, but that is all. Horatio sounds stilted and formal. At best, the words imply no recent contact between them. If they are friends, why has Horatio not met Hamlet to express his condolences for the death of King Hamlet? Because Hamlet is of royal blood and Horatio is a commoner there is nothing to bring them together except friendship. Horatio is a courtier known to the watchmen who easily make contact with him. It would be just as easy for he and Hamlet to meet and yet there is not the slightest indication they have done so. Hamlet has not the foggiest notion of why Horatio is in Elsinore. Even now, Horatio arrives with the watchmen and departs with them — all in the line of duty — none of the informality of friendship. There is not the slightest difficulty for Horatio to make contact with Hamlet at this time, so why did he not earlier contact Hamlet, or Hamlet contact him, if they are friends? Though, Horatio is very formal, Hamlet responds informally, presumably to put the young student at ease. The simple explanation for the behavior of both is that they are not friends. When Hamlet says "my good friend" that is not proof of an existing friend­ship. It is a commonplace term one may use to address a complete stranger.

Hamlet doesn’t yet know Horatio’s qualities and addresses him as he might any student. He raises a popular student pastime — drinking. He’ll show young Horatio what drinking is all about while they talk about Wittenburg! Stein after foaming stein! Danes are great drinkers he will declare. Hamlet says he will "teach" Horatio to drink which indicates they have not drunk together before, otherwise it would have already happened.

Hamlet: But what is your affair in Elsinore?
We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.

Within a few minutes Horatio tells Hamlet of seeing his father’s ghost. Hamlet soon realises that this young man has a fine character with genuine, loyal qualities and he befriends him without reserve. When Hamlet talks to Horatio that night he drops the beer-drinking student bravado and instead bitterly condemns excessive drinking in Denmark.

Hamlet: This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations:
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition;

This diametric change of emphasis in only a matter of hours strongly suggests that they have only just met for the first time.
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