A Man of Honor or Horatio's Confessions
by J. A. Nelson
Quill Point Press

"The story of Hamlet survives, truthfully told."

With his dying breath, Hamlet asks his best friend Horatio to live on and tell his story, to let people know what conspired at Helsingør. Horatio swears, but before he can grieve, Fortinbras and his army invade the castle, demanding to know what happened. Horatio seizes this opportunity to tell Hamlet’s story and fulfill his duty to his dead friend, appealing to Fortinbras’ nature. However, when Horatio finds himself risking his life and his honor in his quest to tell the story of Hamlet, he becomes tangled in a grab for power for the throne of Denmark. Can Horatio survive and successfully pass down the legend of Hamlet?

Horatio is a scholar and is more or less Hamlet’s trusted sounding board during the course of Shakespeare’s original play. Rational, practical, and given to lofty ambitions of what it means to be noble and successful, Horatio is the perfect character to carry on Hamlet’s story. In this version, he is quick-witted in his thinking and his speeches, although prone to exaggerating and lying a bit to make the best out of a situation. Horatio is accompanied by Margrete, a lady-in-waiting, and Lanier, one of Fortinbras’ men, in his duty and adventure to preserve Hamlet’s tale as well as the Gesta Danorum, Denmark’s cultural prize of history and folklore.

Thrown in the mix as an obstacle to Horatio’s task is the looming war between Fortinbras and Cristiern, a king who also has a claim on Denmark as the rightful heir to the throne. The two foes are similar in that both believe their reign will be good insofar as uniting Denmark, and Horatio is forced to blur his alliances so as to keep his mission alive. This political drama between the two men also centers the Gesta Danorum and Horatio’s role as a scribe. Since the book itself is a key part of the Danes’ culture, updating it to reflect the success of one of the conquerors is crucial. As a scholar, Horatio realizes the importance and weight of such a task, and finding a way to insert Hamlet’s story into the Gesta Danorum becomes a part of his mission. It is also a nod to the actual Gesta Danorum text, which includes the story of Amleth, which is where Shakespeare drew part of his information from.

Above all his traits, Horatio is determined to follow through on his word to Hamlet, and it is his word or his bond to Hamlet that seems to cause Horatio most of his troubles. Throughout the course of the novel, the protagonist finds himself reflecting on whether it is his task or his means of setting about his task that is the right way. In a nod to the original play, Horatio even finds himself haunted by Hamlet’s ghost. And in an intriguing twist, it is now Hamlet who acts as the soundboard or guidance for his scholarly friend. Horatio tends to pontificate on what it means to be a Dane or a Roman as well as how to act like a man with guiding principles. His journey throughout this novel tends to throw many of his beliefs against each other until he corrects his errors and actions. Paying homage to both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Gesta Danorum, this historical adventure novel imagines a post-script scenario of the actualization of Hamlet’s legend. Amongst the pages of an adventure is a story of one man’s commitment to his sense of honor and duty, as well as the importance and worth of legends.

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