Opening scene of Hamlet

Topics: Plays

The audience observes the opening scene of Hamlet, where they see a man standing guard (Francisco) on the platform of the castle known as Elsinorea, at the dead of night. In films, this place is often depicted, as very high up on the walls of the castle, over looking the dark sea. This would portray quite a somber and haunting theme. Throughout the opening scene, Shakespeare is constantly addressing his audience, in the form of questioning, through his characters. Even, the very first words, uttered in this scene is presented to the audience as a question “who’s there?

” This portrays the character (in this case Barnardo) as fearful, since he is in the presence of something unknown.

This is Shakespeare’s attempt, to capture his audience’s interest. He does this, by trying to get his audience to show empathy toward Barnardo, making them also worried and fearful of the unknown, which makes the audience want to find out the answer to this rhetorical question, that they have been presented with by Barnardo.

Then the audience is allowed to find “relief” which they would have “much thanks” for (since they are now able to name this unknown presence as Francisco.)

The audience is then easily silenced, when they are presented with another question “Have you had quiet guard? ” making them worry yet again, if there could be another cause for concern. And also creating an atmosphere of tension and mystery, while at the same time leaving the audience in suspense.

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On the battlements of Elsinore. “‘Tis now twelve” and Barnardo has suggested to Francisco that he should “Get” himself “to bed”, since “‘Tis bitter cold”, and Francisco “is sick at heart”. Obviously the audience is given the impression, that this scene is set late a night.

Also at that point in time, the battlements of Elsinore wasn’t exactly the nicest place to be. There are two significant periods within this scene, which have a common factor the ghost (i. e. the theme of the super natural). Within the first period, Francisco speaking for the first time “Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself”. The idea that it might be the ghost terrifies him, so in demanding to know who he is in the presence of allows him to put his worries at ease, once he as been answered. Followed by the second period, where Horatio sees the ghost for the first time Horatio.

He is full of “fear” but at the same time “wonder”; at this point the audience would be sharing Horatio’s inquisitive, yet scared mannerism. The reader must remember that the Elizabethans were very superstitious and took matters of the super natural very seriously. Ghost were normal seen as representatives for good (as opposed to witches who were believed to be sent by the devil). Which is rather ironic, since Shakespeare does not establish whether or not the ghost is good or evil until later on in the play.

This may have been done to get the audience’s attention, making them want to know the purpose of this apparition (more that they would have if the answer had just been simple given to them). The dialogue in this scene is rather shot, suggesting tension. The two significant events contain the main sources of tension. The fact that there are long pauses and the language is not very descriptive also shows tension. Marcellus speaks of “peace, break thee off”, which suggests a rather rhythmic repetition of a beating drum (acting as an indication to war).

When Horatio is first introduced to the audience only “a piece of him” is there. Physically he is there but mentally is somewhere else (i. e. half-asleep). Horatio is simply enduing Marcellus and Barnardo. He is quite the skeptic and believes “’tis only but our fantasy”. So Horatio is rather a doubting Tom. The audience would be amused by the fact that his attitude is the complete opposite of the others. Also this is an interval between the two events, which just the presence of the super natural since texts becomes more descriptive and there are longer sentences.

This would also imply that the was less tension thanks to Horatio’s disbelief and the greeting of friends. The ironically Horatio’s attitude drastically changes confronted the ghost, he can not believe that he had see it “of mine own eyes”. He also refers to the ghost as a “thing” simply because it is not quite explainable what this thing really is. The apparition has “two nights” been “seen”. By this point the audience would be very curious and would be very interested to see the out some of this scene.

Before seeing the ghost Horatio believed that ” twill not appear”, the audience wouldn’t be able to comprehend whether the ghost was truth or illusion, heightening the suspense and making the audience eager to find out. Bernado sits down to explain what they had seen. The atmosphere would be calmer and the audience curious. When the ghost appeared, the audience would have been anxious and nervous. It is made clear to the audience that the apparition has taken on a “figure like the king that’s dead”, giving the impression that the deceased king had unfinished business (i.e. the matter of revenge to deal with).

After seeing the ghost, the audience would now believe what the soldiers had told Horatio. Horatio’s reaction proves that the ghost is not “fantasy”. The soldiers continue to talk about how the ghost looked like the king and how it was even dressed in his armor. This whole idea ” ’tis strange”. This begins an air of mystery and worry to the scene. The fact that the ghost is wearing armor may be some sort of indication that it has come to wage war against Denmark.

‘This bodes a strange eruption to our state’. This introduces the time theme of corruption (i. e. think of evil erupting like a volcano. ) The audience at this time believed in the divine right of kings, seeing the Sovereign as central to the affairs of the nation. They would be wondering what had gone morally wrong for the king to return. The second part of the scene appeals more to the intellect that to the emotions. The audience would be keen and interested to be told why the soldiers were on duty constantly.

They are told why Fortinbras is meaning to attack and filled in on historical facts, which will be important to their understanding of the play later. When Horatio begins to talk about what happened before Julius Caesar was killed. The audience would start to wonder whether the ghost’s appearance in Denmark would have the same effect. * He states that all of these things were a bad omen suggesting that the ghost’s appearance is a bad omen. The audience would therefore be interested to know if something like this happened in Denmark.

At this point the tension increases and the audience would be on the edge of their seats watching the guards cross themselves for protection. As the ghost spreads its arms they would be straining to listen and hear what it had to say. Each time Horatio Asked it to speck “what art thou”, they would be willing it to reveal why it was there. As the cock crows action occurs as the soldiers try to strike the ghost, The audience would be full of astonishment by the fact that the ghost is really. Horatio then tries to restrain the ghost from leaving by striking it, still, it vanishes.

Marcellus thinks that they have committed a grievous error in striking the ghost of the late king. The ghost had “started like a guilty thing/Upon a fearful summons”. Horatio recalls that traditionally the crowing of the cock was believed to awake the good of day and serve as a warning to all preternatural and erring spirits that the time has come to return to their confines. As dawn breaks, Horatio and the two officers decide to share the events of the night with prince hamlet, the late king’s son.

Now the audience would be thinking that the apparition was definitely evil. This scene ends on a hopeful note with the coming of the light the audience would have new hope that the ghost will speck to hamlet. They would be eager to find out his reactions. This scene ends on a note of suspense and mystery. This scene is full of devices to arouse the interest and silence a noisy audience. Tension, suspense and mystery are created through language and actions of the soldiers as they wait and confront the king ‘s ghost on the castle battlements at Elsinore.

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Opening scene of Hamlet. (2017, Jul 09). Retrieved from

Opening scene of Hamlet
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