Evans, Robert C. “Friendship in Hamlet.” Comparative Drama 33 (1999): 88-124.


This article modestly hopes to establish the general importance of friendship in Hamlet by showing its presence throughout the entire play (88). The opening scene initiates the play’s theme: Barnardo, Francisco, and Horatio begin to form a bond, which is strengthened by the shared experience of the Ghost’s appearance. The interaction among these friends works dramatically to contrast sharply with Hamlet’s social isolation in the following scene and to present Horatio with the potential of becoming a good friend to Hamlet. The friendship between Hamlet and Horatio that develops throughout the play eloquently culminates in the final scene; but the Hamlet/Horatio relationship is not the only example of friendship treated. Ophelia / Laertes, Hamlet / Rosencrantz / Guildenstern, Hamlet / Ghost, Hamlet / players, Claudius / Laertes, the gravediggers, as well as Hamlet / Laertes all receive attention. Line-by-line analysis of dialogue among these friends, potential friends, and false friends highlights linguistic ambiguity; but the multiple meanings behind every word “illustrates the difficulty of making clear, unambiguous interpretations of others’ motives—a difficulty relevant to the friendship theme” (105). Through their interactions, Shakespeare’s characters “easily seem as complex as our own friends or ourselves” (119).

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