The play scene by scene.
Elsinore, The Battlements.
The play opens on the battlements of the Castle at Elsinore, the Danish
Royal residence. It is midnight and bitterly cold. The night guard is
changing and Barnardo is very nervous because he fears “this thing”
might appear of this “dreaded sight”, the “apparition”.
It was seen last night at one o’ clock Barnardo says. Horatio, Hamlet’s
friend has reluctantly come to see this “fantasy”. Suddenly the ghost
appears and Horatio is terrified, “it harrows me with fear and wonder”. He
would not have believed it existed if he hadn’t seen it. Now he
recognises the old king Hamlet from the “very armour” he once wore. He
fears that there will be “some strange eruption of our state” – a disaster
Marcellus is curious to know why the army are costing cannon and
weapons, why they are building battle ships day and night.
Horatio explains that young Fortinbras in Norway is putting together an
army of “lawless resolutes” to regain lands his father conceded to old
Hamlet before he was killed in battle. Now the appearance of this ghost
frightens him because he thinks it’s a warning of something terrifying.
Then the ghost reappears so Horatio confronts it – “speak to me”.
But the ghost disappears with the coming of dawn,
“it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons”.
All ghosts return to their confine when the cock crows. Morning “in russet
mantle clad walks one the dew of you high eastern hill”.
Horatio and the others agree to tell young Hamlet what they have seen