7. Horatio in the structure of Hamlet. Concerning the genesis of chorus in drama (in English)

Open-ended Hamlet and misleading Horatio

Hamlet is a dramatic work whose import and purport is uniquely open. It is not just an ordinary literary text, endowed with some connotations and open to diverse interpretations deviating to a greater or lesser extent from its literal version in accordance with its interpreters' understanding. On all the levels of its structure Hamlet presupposes on the part of its interpreters an active choice out of a multitude of alternatives. To understand Hamlet we must create our own interpretation of this play. The full perception of all the consequences of this rather simple thought encourages us to consider a more penetrating analysis of the drama in question. We believe that it would be useful to begin with genre characteristics and, even more appropriately, with the genesis of its structure. To our mind the key to the genre specification of Hamlet is the character of Horatio, which normally is not regarded as a complicated or significant issue. As far as we know, the general image of Horatio has been heretofore considered rather uncontroversial: Horatio is a friend (a school-mate, a confidant) of Hamlet. Although Hamlet, upon his first encounter with Horatio in the play, addresses him with the words My good friend, while Horatio recommends himself as your poor servant ever (1.2.1621), Hamlet's words don't really pretend to be a definition of their relationship: they can be understood as a standard form of address; in the same scene Hamlet calls Horatio a fellow-student an absolutely neutral expression. Perhaps we may occasionally find (albeit in a somewhat veiled form) Hamlet's intention to make Horatio his confidant: during the play we can see a few instances of Horatio acting as a confidant of Hamlet (3.2.7577; 3.2.300304), Horatio usually receives information about Hamlet's actions post factum (5.2.424), while Hamlet always neglects Horatio's advice. Already in the Ghost scenes (1.45) we can observe that Hamlet hardly treats Horatio as a good friend, at climax point Hamlet simply drives him away at that moment he

does not differentiate between his close friend and an absolute outsider (Marcellus), intimidating both of them (1.4.84, 89). After his discovery of the horrible truth Hamlet does not intend to share it with Horatio. He again ranks him with Marcellus, describing both of them as friends scholars and soldiers, and he keeps his secret intact (1.5.120145).

The examples mentioned above already enable us to regard the traditional interpretation of Horatio (a friend-confidant of Hamlet) as rather dubious. More than that, if we scrutinise the main character of the tragedy more closely, we will inevitably come to the conclusion that his inner constitution implies something like onto-logical solitude: the existence of a so-called bosom friend is hardly possible for Hamlet.

It is curious that in Russia there has recently emerged a quite opposite view on the character of Horatio: he is not a friend but a hidden enemy of Hamlet. Such a hypothesis seems to be the result of applying methods and criteria of studies on detective fiction. The adherents of these views make use of all frequently mentioned contradictions in Horatio's words and behaviour to prove their version: for example, why Horatio being in Elsinor for almost two months hadn't met Hamlet earlier? (Because of his cunningness, they answer.)

Both the supporters of the traditional point of view and the inventors of the newest interpretations try to endow Horatio with a specific individuality. Thus Horatio may be perceived as a typical foreigner (it's necessary to explain to him some Danish customs), or on the contrary as a Danish courtier, or as a philosopher, or as an aged officer, who had earlier served Hamlet's father. These contradictory features are more than obvious to anyone who had read the play attentively. But all the contradictions seem not to be particularly significant if we move Horatio out of the system of traditional characters. Of course he takes his place among them, but his real meaning and function in the play should be evaluated in terms of the dramatic system rooted in the norms and practice of Greek tragedy. This will help us to appreciate the proper status of Horatio and to reconstruct the special logic of his actions and words, which can be hardly accounted for in the light of the principles pertaining to situations and characters in early modern European drama.

Thus the first replies of Horatio (Friends to this ground 1.1.16, and A piece of him 1.1.23) seem to be out of place. Many scholars suggest different explanations of these words. For example, M. Morozov suggested that Horatio's answer to Bernardo's question (Say, what, is Horatio there? A piece of him) should be interpreted as a kind of joke2. But nothing in the whole text of the play supports this version: Horatio is never presented as a joker or even an ironically-minded person. However if we proceed from the chorus hypothesis, everything becomes patently clear. The first reply offers a definition of the chorus, which consists of friends in the most general sense of the word. This chorus of friends is the only point of stability in the volatile and unstable world of the tragedy. The world entangles the protagonist in its chaotic and unpredictable movement and only chorus-Horatio offers the hero some fleeting moments of stability. It becomes clearer why in the dialogue cited above Horatio replies A piece of him: on the meta-level of the tragedy his main part belongs to Hamlet. In the original text (both in the Second Quarto and in the First Folio3), Bernardo's question sounds even more enigmatic: Say, what is Horatio there?. This utterance may be understood as Who is that Horatio?, because there is no comma after what.

What is Horatio there?

Greek drama in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. included a component which was designed to bridge the gap between a protagonist and the world, between his specific situation and universal principles and at the same time to represent more accurately the hero's inner characteristics. All these functions were effected by the chorus, as an essential and genetically archetypal element of Greek drama (and especially Greek tragedy). We presume that the relationship between the title hero and Horatio in Shakespeare's Hamlet structurally corresponds to the frame of relationships between a protagonist and chorus (or a choragus) in classical Greek tragedy. Let us consider what this correspondence amounts to. The characteristic features of the Greek chorus have been selected from the works on classical Greek drama authored by V. Iarcho (the most outstanding scholar of Greek drama in Russia and one of the leading specialists in the world)4.

1. Unlike the usual participants of a chorus, who merely commented on the play's action and rarely communicated with actors, a choragus interacted with the protagonist and other characters5. Like the choragus, who (especially in the classical version of Greek drama) during his first entry on stage prepared the ground for the appearance of the main protagonist, Horatio occupied the stage long before Hamlet (1.1) and in an almost epic style presented the heroic past of the protagonist's father, the old king Hamlet, his battles and achievements, touching on the problems arising after his death. The choragus, Horatio, is accompanied by the rank and file participants of the chorus procession (Bernardo, Marcellus), all of them should guarantee, that the Ghost in the play is not the product of prince Hamlet's distracted mind.

2. A choragus usually made his last appearance in the final verses of a Greek tragedy. The last monologue of Horatio (5.2.391406) satisfies the characteristic properties of the choragus' final formula. Of course Horatio's ritual curtain speech is not tantamount to the responsible word, for the sake of which he was asked to stay alive by dying Hamlet.

3. One more task of a choragus is to comment on the current utterances of the protagonists6. For example, should Horatio be regarded just an ordinary character, his question to Hamlet Is it a custom? (1.4.14) would seem rather inexplicable (a fact noted by numerous critics). But from the point of view of our hypothesis this utterance is an obvious choric bridge7. Incidentally, we should recall that Hamlet himself plays the role of commentator during the play within the play scene (3.2.258259, ff.). In that scene Horatio is a silent chorus while Hamlet interprets all events (which have been unfolding on the stage) and compares them with his own suggestions. Thus the protagonist successfully implements his secret plan. Claudius finds himself in the net of a double chorus: the apparent one (Hamlet) and the hidden one (Horatio). The chorus (confined to the space of the stage) propels the tragedy to its culmination: the mousetrap springs shut because of the vibrations of the audience which constantly switches its attention from the artificial scene (directed by prince Hamlet) to the real one, spotlighted by the mirror of the artificial scene a beam of light concentrated by Hamlet's chorus support. On that new stage, created in the auditorium, Claudius becomes a protagonist as the result of his sudden rising when he "unfolds" himself publicly.

4. Passing from a choragus to chorus as a whole, we may note that the Attic chorus usually comprises not a randomly chosen abstract representation of the people, but individuals closely connected with the hero8. Although a chorus does not directly take part in the action, it always demonstrates its compassion for the protagonist. Accordingly, in Hamlet the composition of the chorus is motivated by the plot. It consists of sentinels headed by Horatio Hamlet refers to the chorus as scholars, soldiers (1.5.146).

5. As it is exemplified by the dramas of Sophocles, the choice of the chorus itself suffices to preclude any harsh condemnation of the protagonist, who usually enjoys a privileged social status and is bound with the members of the chorus by innumerable threads of explicable sympathy and social solidarity9. In this context we may turn to Horatio's self-definition: your poor servant ever. Recall again that it is in these words that Horatio introduces himself in the scene of his meeting with Hamlet (1.2.162). Before the mousetrap scene Hamlet addresses Horatio in a rather brutal manner What ho, Horatio (3.2.52). And Horatio again calls himself a servant. In his confusion Hamlet feels compelled to address him with a whole panegyric. The role of a faithful servant corresponds to the similar role of the chorus in Greek tragedy in terms of both functional purposes and status. The role of a servant has a fruitful continuation in early modern European drama: Truffaldino in A servant of two masters (Carlo Goldoni), Tristan in The Dog in the Manger (Lope de Vega), Leporello in The Trickster of Seville and His Guest of Stone (Tirso de Molina), Cosme in The Phantom Lady (Calderon de la area) constitute only tips of an iceberg in European drama. Furthermore, such structural pairs appear also in other literary genres. Sancho Pansa epitomises a typical constant chorus, which provides an absolutely necessary foil for Don Quixote. The example from the novel by Miguel de Cervantes has a special significance because Don Quixote is often interpreted in European and world tradition as a hero bearing an affinity to Hamlet.

The special status of Horatio (his oxymoronic constant presence-absence in the tragedy, i.e. the presence in the action without the exertion of any direct influence on the developments, the maintenance of some form of inner epic alienation) is obvious and compassion (a typical attitude of the Greek chorus to the hero) is the most important component of Horatio's attitude to Hamlet.

Thus, the chorus in Greek drama is a specific dramatis persona designed to present an emotional comment on the developments in the play rather than to participate in its plot10. Even the sophisticated mind of Hamlet requires the presence of a meta-observer, but unlike in the classical Greek tragedy, here this chorus-observer must be relatively free from the protagonist's emotional concerns to appreciate the unfolding events correctly. Consequently, we may call Horatio chorus of reason (ratio, in contradistinction to emotio), i.e. a crucial element which introduces into Shakespeare's play the spirit of Greek antiquity (in general rather more rational than emotional).

Shakespeare's Hamlet is mainly discussed in terms of its prospective significance, i.e. from the vantage point of the subsequent development of European literature (or even European culture) in general and of modern European drama in particular. As far as retrospective aspect of the play is concerned, it is usually limited to Saxo Grammaticus11, Spanish Tragedy and hypothetical Ur-Hamlet by Thomas Kyd. Against the background of this recent tradition Hamlet is evaluated as an undoubted masterpiece and as conclusive evidence for the thesis that Shakespeare's genius allowed him to transform rather mediocre texts into a genuine work of art. But it would be quite natural to extend the historical background of Hamlet. To achieve a more profound insight into this tragedy it is necessary to analyse its genetic links with the cultural traditions of ancient Greece. If we want to understand Hamlet within its global historical-cultural context, we have to consider it not only in connection with, for example, Saxo Grammaticus, but also in connection with Greek tragedy. After all, it is this context which defines the main structure of Shakespeare's play, some of his dramatic devices and the development of the genre which was manifested in the title12. We'll try to argue that Hamlet is the most classical tragedy by Shakespeare (and the most Renaissance one as well: we should keep in mind what type of culture was reborn at the end of the Middle Ages). Like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides the author of Hamlet retraces in his play an older myth13. The story of Hamlet's revenge was so popular in Shakespearian England14 that it can be compared with the vogue of Orestes' myth in ancient Greece. More than that, paraphrases of Greek tragedies by Aeschylus15, Euripides and probably Sophocles were commonplace in English theatre and literature of the Elizabethan period. The inner score of Orestes' myth16 is closely reminiscent of the inner score of Hamlet's story.

Ancient myth (aesthetically and ethically embodied in Athenian drama), in conjunction with mediaeval Christian mentality, has contributed to the creation of Hamlet as a play, as a performance and as a genre.

Shakespeare citing antiquity?

The affinities between Hamlet and the tragedies by Aeschylus and Euripides are not a novelty. Typological similarity of the central plots has been mentioned a number of times17. Specific scenes which Shakespeare could have borrowed directly from Greek classics were marked by scholars. We have performed one more comparative analysis of the texts. The results have confirmed the hypothesis about the influence of the Orestes myth on Shakespeare's Hamlet. We have identified several new cases of potential textual borrowing from well-known tragedies and have broadened the range of hypothetical sources to include poetic works by Homer and Dracontius. For want of time and space we will abstain from presenting numerous examples of corresponding fragments or proposing more detailed comparison of texts.

Something unusual in the hero's ethic

If Hamlet was a protagonist of a modern drama (and not a hero reminiscent of ancient Greek tragedy) he would be expected to control his emotions and to undertake necessary steps. These would presumably include: taking revenge, ascending to the throne, marrying Ophelia and ensuring further existence of the dynasty. We find a similar suggestion in a Russian text from the eighteenth century18. Of course, Hamlet could opt for another solution: conformity with the circumstances and coexistence with his father's murderer Russian history (again of the eighteenth century) offers us the example of Paul and Catherine II. But Shakespeare's hero chooses a third way heroism in the classical sense of the word. He has finished with the rotten dynasty, destroyed the life of his mother, rejected love, i.e. the possibility of being a breeder of sinners (3.1.122123). In other words he has broken the chain of endless revenge which was a significant motif of ancient Greek tragedy (Euripides Orestes 511). Consequently, Hamlet is a tragic hero, since as Ortega y Gassett claims, to be a hero means to be first and foremost oneself. Since resistance to customs and circumstances is tantamount to affirmation of the inner motivation of acts, when a person wants something he is not motivated by ancestors or modern customs but by his own desire. Ortega Gassett concludes that in the urge of the hero to be himself resides his heroism19. To control his own will is not enough for the hero: his own will may be directed by someone else if he can't control himself. What a tremendous difference to control our will and to control ourselves! Horatio symbolizes the idea of self-control in the tragedy. It is natural that he takes a very special place in Hamlet's mind:

Since my dear soul was mistress of her (my) choice,
And could of men distinguish<,> her election{,}
S'hath (Hath) seal'd thee for herself, for thou hast been
As one in suffering all<,> that suffers nothing,(.)
A man that fortune's buffets<,> and rewards
Hast (Hath) ta'en with equal thanks;(.) and blest are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commenddled (commingled).
That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger<,>
In my heart's core,(:) ay<,> in my heart of heart<,>
As I do thee. (3.2.6374)

In fact these words uttered by Hamlet express his ideal of the inner self. Before saying them he describes to Horatio his father (the old king Hamlet) in terms of a paragon of man. As for Horatio we know nothing about his fortune's buffets and rewards (mentioned in the above monologue by Hamlet): other scenes of the play are not informative on the subject. This encourages us to suggest that in his panegyric Hamlet merely constructs or formulates his own image of a perfect other. Such image of a perfect other is a necessary precondition for any person to acquire self-identity. Let us take a closer look at the genetic prerequisites of this image in Greek tragedy.

Chorus in Greek tragedy

The statement that ancient tragedy developed from choric dithyramb has achieved the status of an axiom: the songs and dances of the chorus preceded the emergence of the drama in the proper sense of the word. But of course it is impossible to imagine a tragedy which would comprise only the chorus: a tragedy without a hero-actor is inconceivable. Traditionally Thespis has been considered the first poet to substitute an actor for the leader of the chorus (in all probability, the choragus is a term of somewhat later origin). Perhaps this change can be accounted for by the fact that heroic-mythological action became the central subject matter of the tragedy and in his speech an actor could simultaneously describe the unfolding events and express this content, guiding the songs of the chorus in this direction. Accordingly the initial chorus of satyrs was moved into the so-called satyr drama.

Of course, much of what we may say about this prehistory is based on conjecture, but it is beyond dispute that classical Greek tragedy possesses a clearly organized structure and its minimal nucleus is the pair chorus tr. A play to be a real tragedy should combine both of these components. The development of the tragedy as a genre depends on the process of abstraction of individuality, i.e. of the extraction of an actor-protagonist from the chorus. Tragedy has always demonstrated this difficult birth of human personal uniqueness (for antiquity it is usually called individuality, for the Renaissance personality).

In ancient Greek theatre, largely due to the fact that the epos was recited by a declaimer, the hero acquires some degree of responsibility for everything which takes place on the stage. In the Renaissance the Attic hero in his fresh reincarnation, i.e. in the role of a secondary cultural phenomenon, could preserve his cultural identity, while simultaneously retaining his genetic link with the chorus. This link is largely veiled in Hamlet: the chorus is present in the form of Hamlet's friends (Horatio, Marcellus) or pseudo-friends (Rosencrantz, Guildenstern). The protagonist in Shakespeare's play is not the only character to be surrounded by a chorus. After all, Claudius also has his own chorus. In this case, however, it is not a chorus of ratio but a chorus of emotio. Perhaps that is why Claudius will never be a real hero, although his characteristics correspond to Ortega's definition: this type of chorus would be quite anachronistic in Shakespearian tragedy.

To sum up: the process of hero's birth in Greek tragedy was anything but simple. In Aeschylus' Oresteia the meaning and the role of chorus is more significant than the intentions and actions of the hero. In the first tragedy (Agamemnon) the chorus prepares Orestes' entry on stage: all the members of the chorus not only invite and await him but are ready to participate in the act of revenge (1651). In the second play (Choephori) the chorus and Electra try to persuade the wavering hero to kill his guilty mother. (Pylades becomes the key-figure of the moment because his single action encourages Orestes to commit murder, thus becoming also a key-figure in further transmission of the genre function of the chorus to Hamlet, described in greater detail below.) The chorus of the third play (Eumenides) is more active than those in the two preceding tragedies: the leader of the Erinyes (the choragus) in fact acquires the status of the antagonist of the hero and his substitutes, Apollo and Athena.

Euripides deprived the chorus of some of its traditional dramatic functions. But we should note a new phenomenon which may be labelled as the secondary activity of the chorus, e.g. in Orestes: a chorus of girls quite appropriately expressing their sympathy for the hero disobeys Electra and awakens Orestes. In this play Euripides modifies the traditional, mythological plot and uses the chorus as a patrol (12491295). Its parallel in Hamlet is the function of Claudius' chorus (Polonius, Cornelius, Voltemand and even Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who simultaneously pretend to be Hamlet's chorus). Another instance of this function is the behaviour of Hamlet and Horatio, who play spies in the cemetery scene.

Addressing Horatio, Hamlet has no intention of dealing with his rational alter ego because individual consciousness (even one so highly developed as Horatio's or his own) is incapable of perceiving time out of joint. Hamlet's address to Horatio is the presentation of a more profound view of reality, beyond the level of individual perception, a view which in Greek tragedy was naturally expressed by the chorus which occasionally could even divulge the truth about the hero and the world.


As early as in an 18th century commentary to Hamlet it had been noted that there exists a clear parallelism between such pairs as Hamlet-Horatio and Orestes-Pylades20. As Orestes' friend Pylades appears in the plays of all the three Greek tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides). But both Aeschylus and Sophocles treat him like a minor character, a mere epiphenomenon, and only Euripides presents the relationship between Orestes and Pylades as that of harmony between individuals of equal stature (Eur. Electra 8285; Eur. Orestes 11571161).

Orestes of Aeschylus shows few signs of hesitation, conceding all the doubts and all the responsibility to the chorus (a chorus of friends or a chorus of enemies). Electra of Sophocles (remaining, like his other heroes, in harmony with the chorus) accepts responsibility without any doubt and does not need any extraneous anchorman to act. Orestes of Euripides, whose heroes loose the organic connection with the chorus, even though he is an individual, is somewhat abject, lapsed into a drowsy physiological madness.

A somewhat weakened hero, the process of being deprived of his choric backing, is predestined to co-occur with another element designed to support the protagonist in a tragedy. Strictly speaking, this element did latently exist in the tragedies of the older dramatists, Aeschylus and Sophocles, in the form of a corresponding plot. As we have already mentioned above, in Aeschylus' tragedy Pylades plays a very important role facilitating Orestes' revenge (Cho. 896903). Barely three lines of his text sufficed to bend the will of Orestes, beforehand urged by the chorus to commit the crucial act. In Sophoclean version Pylades is marginalized by Orestes. The role of Pylades was even played by a mute. Both Aeschylean and Sophoclean Pylades is just a shadow-clone of Orestes.

It is Euripidian Pylades who ceases to be a mere shadow; the clone emerges from the hero's shadow to become a full-fledged dramatis persona. Pylades willingly shares the fate of Orestes, condemned to death, and explains this decision (to die together) by his participation in the murder of Clytemestra21. Later Pylades even briefly occupies the centre of the stage when he initiates the plan to save their lives by proposing a most contumelious and bloody venture.

Thus Euripides imparts to the clone of the hero some of the supportive functions of the chorus. By utilising the traditional mythological plot with Pylades as one of the characters, the author doesn't have to create any new character which could take over the role of the chorus (partly disencumbered of its functions by Euripides himself).

Turning to Shakespeare's tragedy, we may risk the conjecture that he, like Euripides, need not have searched or constructed any special figure to edge out the chorus or, given the time gap separating the two plays, to reinstate in some form the functions of the chorus. Shakespeare had taken the Orestes-Pylades pattern, itself a specific instantiation of the hero-chorus genre model, and, the great Britain appropriator that he was, utilized it in the form of the Hamlet-Horatio pair.

In the context of the structural parallelism between Orestes-Pylades and Hamlet-Horatio22 we could hardly make no reference to excerpts from the above mentioned Schleiner's article: My hypotheses about Pylades-Horatio and the churchyard scene are as follows. Early on in writing the play, Shakespeare drafted the scenes where Horatio is the Pyladean foreigner must have Danish customs explained to him, reminisces about Wittenberg, and so forth. As the writing proceeded, Shakespeare was working for scene from the Ur-Hamlet and had sometimes to assign Horatio the habitué kind of functions. The churchyard scene, like the foreigner aspect of Horatio, is, so far as anyone has known, an invention of Shakespeare's: the two features do not occur in Belle-forest's tale of Amleth, the source of the Ur-Hamlet, nor in Saxo Grammaticus, nor in Fratricide Punished. If these two features did appear in some source or analogue, it would be likely that they were in Shakespeare's immediate source, the Ur-Hamlet. In fact, we have no evidence that they appeared anywhere in versions of the Hamlet story before Shakespeare23. Sharing her textually based conclusions on the ancient Greek roots of Hamlet, we would like to add that the Greek sources of the tragedy not only rub off at the plot level, but also exert their influence at the level of the inner genre structure. We believe, furthermore, that the exact manner in which Horatio found his way into the structure of Hamlet (i.e. either via the so-called Ur-Hamlet or otherwise) is less important than his choric identity.

But in contradistinction to the classical tragedy, in which the two main elements of the genre convention (the chorus and the hero) are more or less equal (when Euripidian chorus became weaker, its function was partly reassigned to Pylades), it should be remarked that the Shakespearean hero tries to dissociate himself from his friends cast in the role of the chorus. The bearer of the spirit of ancient tragedy, Horatio, is always with Hamlet (at least mentally) but Hamlet himself is not always with Horatio. Hamlet needs choric support, but needs it not like Euripidian Orestes, as instantiated in the character of Pylades, first mute (Electra), then loquacious (Orestes). It's true that Hamlet during the play several times tries to demonstrate his distance from Horatio (1.5.131132, 3.2.402) and achieves some margin of independence (3.44.2), and occasionally even gives the impression that he would gladly abandon the strictures of Attic tragedy for the Greek romance (Hamlet's sea adventures, which he recounts to Horatio in writing and speech). But the 5th act reinstates everything to its tragic place: Hamlet is to the very end inseparable from his chorus-Horatio and consequently he perishes not just like a real classical hero but as a real classical hero.

It is necessary to emphasize that the hero's transfer from the Greek romance back to the tragedy is not an instantaneous and direct process: the hero finds his way back to the first genre via a connecting link provided by the ancient Attic comedy. It is common knowledge that Shakespeare had never been a slave of genre canons, however, as far as Hamlet is concerned, it is not necessary to explain the presence of comic elements in it by the special audacity of a genius who dared to violate all genre limitations to reflect reality more adequately. Yet Hamlet strictly conforms to the paradigm established by the classical Attic tetralogy, which culminates in the satyr drama24, generally classified as a comic genre. Besides (and this should be particularly significant for us) both the tragedy and the comedy, proceeding probably from the same source, were endowed with an almost parallel structure, comprising incommutable components, i.e. the chorus and its hero or, conversely, the hero and his chorus, depending on the phase of genre development. The single remarkable difference was the agon in the comedy, i.e. a scene of a contest between a protagonist and his antagonist. Such scenes are never found in tragedies where the hero on the stage battles only with himself or with his chorus. The tragic hero was the noblest character on stage and there was no question who should win the contest. In contradistinction to the antique tragedy, the ancient comedy demonstrates the battle itself (of course mainly in invective-rhetorical terms). This is precisely what happens at the beginning of the 5th act of Hamlet, where several agons coincide; in the same act there is also a comic chorus of clowns-gravediggers or, strictly speaking, a chorus of two clowns playing the roles of gravediggers.

Such labelling of the heroes in accordance with the specific roles assigned to them demonstrates the ancient quintessence of Hamlet in a particularly ostensive manner. In the relationship between actor and role, characteristic for antique Greek tragedy, the content of a role was not distinguished from its form: the clown is the gravedigger and not just a clown cast in the role of a grave-digger. However, Hamlet is, on the one hand, a protagonist struggling against an antagonist-clown and, on the other, the choragus of a comic chorus; he himself indulges in clownery playing with skulls (5.1.76114), while Horatio pretends to be a mere spectator. Of course, the leaven of comedy added by Shakespeare does not produce the same effect as satyr drama, this zyme is intended to help the reader-spectator to stomach the raw material of the Greek romance, woven into the scenes of the play, and helps to reinstate the tenor of a real Attic tragedy. Comedy will be back on stage in the 5th act of Hamlet and will stay there well into the duel scene witnessed by a comic dramatis persona. Thus, Shakespeare has found a way to show the demise of his hero right there, on stage, without contravening the conventions of Attic drama, by presenting it in the guise of Attic comedy. Such a solution is inherent in the structure of classical drama.

A few words about genre renascence

In the history of European literature Hamlet marks the first attempt to reconstitute ancient tragedy. It is also absolutely unique in this respect. In the Renaissance it was no longer possible to invoke the Attic hero directly. Intent on imitating antiquity, Renaissance humanists could not simply duplicate the conventions of classical tragedy, which itself was, according to Aristotle, an imitation of nature. Consequently, Renaissance dramatists could only imitate the imitation. As a result, the hero found himself in an ambivalent situation and the relations between genre and reality took on the characteristics of a game.

We can say that a new hero had been ripening in that very season, a hero who required a new literary genre, such as the genre of Hamlet or the genre of Don Quixote, where the new grows out of the old and plays with it a game rooted in a deep trust in the old classical sensibility. In the first case (Hamlet) this leads to the tragic element being permeated by the comic, and in the second case (Don Quixote) to the comic being saturated with the tragic. These two masterpieces represent genre formation in statu nas-cendi. They constitute matrices of literary genres to develop subsequently: the matrix of new drama (ultimately leading to modern anti-theatre) and the matrix of the novel (pointing toward the stream of consciousness).

1. All the quotations from Hamlet see: . . . / ., , . . .. . ., 2003.

2. .. . . ., 1954. . 446.

3. The First Quarto offers simply Say, is Horatio there?.

4. .. . . . ., 2001.

5. .. . . 107.

6. Ibidem. P. 108.

7. Ibidem. P. 110.

8. .. . . P. 108.

9. Ibidem. P. 109.

10. .. . . P. 114.

11. Shakespeare may have read the story in the Belieferest version (F. Belieferest. Histoires Tragiques. 1576).

12. The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke by William Shakespeare. Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie. At London, printed by I.R. for N.L. and are to be sold at his shoppe under Saint Dunfton Chuch in 1604.

13. See also: F. Fergusson. The Idea of a Theater. Princeton 1949. P. 98142.

14. Edith Hall. Greek tragedy and the British Stage, 15661997 // Cahiers du Cita 12 (1999). P. 113133: the first 'revenge tragedy' to be written in Renaissance England was John Pikeryng's Horestes (performed in London by 1567), a dramatic interlude exploring, through the classical analogue of the story of Orestes, Aegisthus, and Clytemnestra, the relationship of the English crown to Scotland. See also: John Pikerying. A New Enterlude of Vice Conteyning the History of Horestes. London 1567. Published in: Three Tudor Classical Interludes. Cambridge 1982. P. 94138.

15. See for example: John Kerrigan. Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon. Oxford, 1996. P. 173174.

16. For a detailed analysis of the myth of Orestes and its origins see: .. . // . . ., 2001. P. 3345.

17. However it cannot be said that that such remarks have been frequent. A classical work to consider is: G. Murray. Hamlet and Orestes The Classical Tradition in Poetry. Oxford 1927. P. 205240. A more recent source: L. Schleiner. Latinized Greek Drama in Shakespeare's Writing of Hamlet Shakespeare Quarterly 41(1990). P. 2948.

18. . . . ., 1782. Part X.

19. . --. . . .. . ., 1997.

20. See: Hamlet, dramatic Miscellanies, 3 vol. L., 1784, v. 3. P. 1152; Harold Bloom. Ruin the sacred truth. Cambrige, Mass., Harvard Univ. Press, 1987.

21. Clytemnestra is incorrect writing of the later time. See for example: Aeschylus. Agamemnon. Ed by Fraenkel. V. 2. Oxford 1950. P. 52.

22. Besides the textual and theatrical linkage I have so far traced through the truncated Latin Oresteia and the twin Agamemnon-Eumenides plays of 1599, we have interpretive reasons to pursue the question of parallels between Orestes and Hamlet. The Greek subtext to Hamlet, if such it is, will not only help account for the rebirth of full-fledged tragedy after two thousand years, it will also clarify Horatio's role and correct our own century's overemphasis on oedipal qualities in Hamlet (L. Schleiner. Latinized Greek Drama in Shakespeare's Writing of Hamlet. P. 3637).

23. Ibidem. P. 42.

24. Practically everything we know today about the satyr drama may be found in: .. . . ., 2001. P. 141154.