The play opens at midnight in Denmark as two sentries, Francisco and Barnardo, stand guard over Elsinore Castle. Francisco leaves, and Marcellus explains that he has brought Horatio with him to witness an apparition—one that Barnardo and Marcellus claim to have seen the past two nights. Barnardo is interrupted, however, by the appearance of a ghost bearing a strong resemblance to the deceased King Hamlet. Astounded and terrified, Horatio begins questioning the ghost, but it disappears without responding.
His time is short before he must return to Purgatory. He cannot share any of the secrets of life in Purgatory, but he has a tale of woe he desperately needs to pass on to his son.
Before he will give Hamlet any details, however, he charges the Prince to avenge his murder. The words of the Ghost horrify Hamlet, for they confirm his fears.
Hurrying because he can "scent the morning," King Hamlet tells his son that Claudius seduced his seemingly virtuous queen, and then crept to where his brother lay napping and poured a lethal poison in King Hamlet's ear. The poison quickly curdled King Hamlet's blood, robbing him of both his life and the opportunity for absolution.
The Ghost tells Hamlet to "Remember me," but only after he instructs him to leave Gertrude alone. So Hamlet must wrest retribution only from Claudius. The Ghost exits, leaving Hamlet incensed. Hamlet answers the worried calls of Horatio and Marcellus, telling them nothing specific but demanding that they both take an oath to tell no one what they have seen and heard.
In confidence, Hamlet tells Horatio that he will pretend to be mad so that he may spy on his mother and uncle. After Horatio has sworn allegiance, Hamlet bids the departed Ghost to rest and then curses his fate before exiting with the other men.
Analysis King Hamlet's ghost introduces himself in a way that most certainly evoked the sympathy of the Elizabethan audience. He tells Hamlet that his brother robbed him of everything he was, all that he owned, including his everlasting soul.
In the same way that the Bible engenders sympathy for Abel and condemns Cain for the fratricide, Shakespeare favors the murdered brother. Hamlet is quick to believe the Ghost because the spirit's words confirm his worst fear: Claudius murdered King Hamlet. Consider that the English people believed that their monarchs ruled by Divine Right, that God Himself appointed them to rule the land.
The Church of England went so far as to attribute to the monarch the highest order of executive power in the church as well. In all ways, the English monarch represented God on earth.
King Hamlet's murder makes the Ghost a most sympathetic figure to Shakespeare's audiences. No one would have questioned the existence of that Ghost, and few would have believed — even for a moment, as Hamlet does — that the Ghost could be a devil.
The fact that his mother's lover is also her husband's murderer exacerbates Gertrude's crime of incest. Hamlet is bereft of choice. He may have an aversion to violence, and he may live by strict Christian principles, but he must avenge his father's honor.
Hamlet sees no way to honor his father except by killing Claudius.
Doubly impelled by his father's orders and by tradition, Hamlet becomes a prisoner of his obligation for revenge. The major conflict here is obvious. Christianity negated the Hebraic notion of "an eye for an eye"; the notion seemed barbaric to the Renaissance population.
Society more often supported the notion of mercy and forgiveness, concepts Shakespeare explored in an earlier play, Merchant of Venice. In Merchant, the audience despises the antagonist precisely because he insists on a blood feud.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare asks the audience to empathize with Hamlet's desire for redress. Hamlet is a sympathetic character precisely because the notion of revenge drives him while his Christian morality and inclination simultaneously exhort him to be charitable.
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Scene 2. This scene begins at the court of Claudius and Gertrude, the King and Queen of Denmark. They have just been married. This marriage has followed quickly after the death of the former King of Denmark, Old Hamlet, Claudius’ brother. — Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3 The Ghost appears to Hamlet, claiming indeed to be the ghost of his father. He tells Hamlet about how Claudius, the current King and Hamlet's uncle, murdered him, and Hamlet swears vengeance for his father. Get free homework help on William Shakespeare's Hamlet: play summary, scene summary and analysis and original text, quotes, essays, character analysis, and filmography courtesy of CliffsNotes. William Shakespeare's Hamlet follows the young prince Hamlet home to Denmark to attend his father's funeral.
Approximately how much time has passed between the death of King Hamlet and the remarriage of Gertrude to Claudius?(Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, VOLTIMAND, CORNELIUS, Lords, and Attendants) KING CLAUDIUS Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death.
He asks Hamlet to see him as a father, since Hamlet is first in line to the throne. He asks Hamlet not to return to Wittenberg, Germany to study. He asks Hamlet not to return to Wittenberg, Germany to study.
A summary of Act I, scene i in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Hamlet and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Hamlet, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Florman, Ben. "Hamlet Act 1, scene 1." LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 22 Jul Web. 16 Sep Florman, Ben. "Hamlet Act 1, scene 1." LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 22 Jul Web.
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Hamlet, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. Florman, Ben. "Hamlet Act 1, scene 1." LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 22 Jul Web.
16 Nov Florman, Ben. "Hamlet Act 1, scene 1." LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 22 Jul Web. Literature Network» William Shakespeare» Hamlet» Act 1. Scene I. Act 1.
Scene I. SCENE I. Elsinore.
A platform before the castle. FRANCISCO at his post.
Enter to him BERNARDO BERNARDO Who's there? FRANCISCO Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself. BERNARDO Long live the king!