Hamlet – Act One, Scene One
The very opening of the play is set at the castle; it’s midnight and is bitterly cold. The guards are being changed, Barnado relieves Francisco. The scene begins with a question; Barnado says “Who’s there? ” Francisco replies “Nay answer me. Stand and unfold yourself. ” Immediately tension has arisen. The characters are on edge. By Barnado saying who’s there it suggests he is being weary of who is who. Francisco claims to be “sick at heart” this remains an unexplained phrase but anticipates the images of physical and mental illness which play a big part in the whole play.
Barnado and Marcellus claim that they have seen a ghost, because of this fact they are all uneasy, and anxious as to whether they will witness another sight of it. However, Horatio insists it is their imagination, although joins them on watch. Barnado and Marcellus explain to Horatio that they have seen the ghost for two nights in a row now, and just as they say this, the ghost appears. There are many broken rhythms throughout the scene which generates an atmosphere of apprehension and confusion. The ghost looks like the dead King.
Barnado and Marcellus ask Horatio to speak to the ghost. The importance of Horatio having to speak to it is that he is a scholar; scholars speak Latin as do ghosts. Horatio does actually speak to the apparition however it turns away and goes without a word. This could be because Horatio was quite aggressive towards it and also persistent as it went to leave. The ghost is of much importance to the play it is used as revenge. Horatio is shaken up by what he has seen and now agrees the apparition is the image of the dead King and now assumes that this is a warning, an omen.
Something bad is going to happen. Marcellus asks Horatio about the state of alert. He tells of a previous battle between Norway and Denmark, with land as the prize. King Hamlet won. Hamlet now wants to win reclaim the land. This leaves the question to me, why isn’t young Hamlet King? Horatio then remembers back to when before Julius Caesar was murdered there were some natural warnings. The ghost then appears again, Horatio wants to know why. I believe this also leaves the reader feeling full of anxiety.
Horatio gets time to actually string some words together to the ghost this time, but again gets interrupted, by the cock crowing. The scene is having trouble flowing, which means all this will have to be carried on at different intervals throughout the play, leaving the reader wanting to read on. There is argument at this stage over whether the apparition is good or bad or both. Although there is no doubt over its existence or its striking resemblance to the late King of Denmark.
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