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Hamlet on SL Production Blog » Blog Archive

Act 1 Scene 1 Character Sketches by ina

I should probably have made these sketches available far before now, as I’m typically meticulous in details even for minor characters. I like having every character in medias reas—such that every character, however minor, has an evident backstory. I also like having long discussions over each character—but, since it seems like I most turn into a dictator on this aspect in order for any further research to be done, I guess I must pull on that persona…

Horatio Sketch (Viz) Francisco (mp3): He’s the solo guard on duty for the Castle of Denmark before midnight, and one wonders why. Perhaps the others guards are all too frightened, and he’s just this peasant-boy-become-sentry hired at the last moment? Moreover, Francisco does not seem to know anything about the ghost (but perhaps that is due to his watch ending before midnight). Francisco and Barnardo should be of different ranks or age, at least—they don’t seem to be well-acquainted enough with each other for B to ask F personal details on being “sick at heart.” (Or, perhaps, he’s assigned to guard a secluded part of the castle—but since the Ghost is prone to appear in this region, if he’s tuned in with the rest of the guards, he should have heard rumors at least.)
One possible interpretation: Francisco is a peasant (newly-hired-guard) and a teenager who’s lovesick (the literal interpretation).

Horatio Sketch (Viz) Barnardo (mp3): He opens the play by asking, “Who’s there” after hearing Francisco’s footsteps—and that’s a perfectly normal reaction for someone who’s both afraid of a ghost and expecting it. He’s of a rank higher than Francisco, but not as well connected as Marcellus. In fact, he seeks Marcellus’ help in networking with Horatio, a scholar who would make sense of this—so that they can gauge their sanity before reporting this to the King and other officials, if necessary. He’s bold enough to tell a good story, but also not the type who would overtease Horatio after his first sighting of the ghost—and drives straight to the point, going for Horatio’s scholarly opinion of this strange sighting.
One possible interpretation: Quite fitting for being the first to speak in the play, Barnardo is the guard who discovered the ghost, and seeks to retain discoverer’s credit (thus later tags along with Marcellus and Horatio to Hamlet, even though he barely speaks), and although he has a certain rank in the Guard, he humbly knows his place and is content with being whom he is. (Note that he doesn’t accompany M, H & H to the final ghost scene in Act 1.)

Horatio Sketch (Viz) Marcellus (mp3): Marcellus is the guard of the highest rank in Scene 1 (or at least the oldest), as he’s always the one who issues commands. He’s also the only person who’s certain enough to answer Hamlet in Scene 2, when he asks where they’d seen the ghost. He’s an officer who’s used to giving directions; note how he commands Horatio to speak to the ghost, and he’s the one who asserts that they should speak to Hamlet (after Horatio’s suggestion), as well as the one who commands Horatio to follow Hamlet across the threshold in Scene 4—bold enough to assert, “Tis not fit to obey [Hamlet, the prince].”
One possible interpretation: A high-ranking soldier, possibly also a courtier, who is well-connected and used to giving commands. He’s common sense, issuing orders after Horatio goes off in his scholarly contemplations, complementing Horatio’s scholarly sense.

Horatio Sketch (Viz)Horatio (mp3): Horatio is about Hamlet’s age, and from holistic given support from the text, I am inclined to see him as a typical college-aged youth – no more than 24. He comes into the story as a Ghost-consultant and visiting friend to Hamlet, but evolves into Denmark’s “next-in-line,” becoming the one who passes on Hamlet’s wishes to Fortinbras, Jr.
But before I expand in too much depth about Horatio’s character, I’d really like a good discussion from the group on this. (I do have a vision, but it’s always more fun to get everyone involved—and to see others take initiative.) For Scene 1, he should appear like a scholar who’d just arrived in Denmark and has barely had time to change out of his travel outfit before Marcellus (perhaps the two are old friends) pulls him out to see the phenomenon of the Ghost.

5 Scenes of Act 1 … in 1 word “thematic phrase” each:

  1. Strange discovery
  2. Status quo:
  3. Familial manipulation (microcosm):
  4. Crossing the Threshold:
  5. Vow for Vengeance & Swear for Secrecy!

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