Hamlet Act 1

Hamlet The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius. Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncle’s scheming and disgust for his mother’s sexuality. A reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to rash and impulsive acts.
Claudius new King of Denmark; Hamlet’s uncle. Plays antagonist. Calculating, ambitious politician, lust for power and hatred for Hamlet
Gertrude The Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother, recently married to Claudius. Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth.
Polonius The Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, a pompous, conniving old man. Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia.
Horatio Hamlet’s close friend, who studied with the prince at the university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story.
Ophelia Polonius’s daughter, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered.
Laertes Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother, a young man who spends much of the play in France. Passionate and quick to action, Laertes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet.
Fortinbras The young Prince of Norway, whose father the king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlet’s father (also named Hamlet). Now Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s honor, making him another foil for Prince Hamlet.
The Ghost The specter of Hamlet’s recently deceased father. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon Hamlet to avenge him. However, it is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is or where it comes from is never definitively resolved.
Marcellus guard at Elsinore that experiences hamlets first encounter with the ghost
Bernardo Guard who replaces Francisco and sees the ghost first
Francisco Guard at Elsinore castle
What had Bernardo seen at a prior watch? King Hamlet’s ghost
Why does Marcellus think Horatio should speak to the ghost? Because he knew king Hamlet personally and was more respected and academically advanced.
What does young Fortinbras want to do? Young Fortinbras wants to regain the lands his father had lost and avenge his father who was killed by old King Hamlet
Where does Claudius send Cornelius and Voltimand? He sends them to the King of Norway with letters asking the King to try to keep young Fortinbras from going to battle.
What does the King tell Hamlet? He tells Hamlet to stop grieving for his father’s death, and to think of him as his father. Wants his to stay and not go back to Wittenberg
What news does Horatio bring Hamlet? About seeing a ghost believed to be his father
What does Hamlet decide to do after he hears Horatio’s news? He decides to keep watch in order to see his fathers ghost
What does Laertes warn Ophelia about? He warns her not to become too attached to Hamlet because he cannot pick his wife
What is Polonius’ advice to Laertes? Polonius tells Laertes to not always voice his thoughts, to be familiar but not vulgar, to hold on to his closest friends, to beware of getting into quarrels, to listen to everyone but not to always give advice, to listen to others’ opinions without always judging them, to buy good clothes, to not be a borrower or lender, and above all else, to his own self be true.
At the end of Scene III, Ophelia agrees to “obey.” What will she do? She agrees no no longer see Hamlet
Hamlet is upset for two reasons. What are they? 1. Hamlet is upset because his father died.2. Hamlet is also upset because his mother married his Uncle very quickly after his father died, less than a month.
What does the ghost tell Hamlet? He says that Claudius poured poison in his ear and caused his death. He tells him to seek revenge but not harm Gertrude
Hamlet swears Horatio to two things. What are they? Don’t speak about the ghost and never question hamlets behavior
What superstitions about ghosts are revealed in the behavior and conversation of Horatio and the guards? They are a bad omen and mean there is unrest in the country, deed undone and a disruption in nature.
What three matters of business does King Claudius take up at his first Council session? -He announces his marriage to Gertrude-Allows Laertes to leave for France -Asks hamlet to stay-Dispatch two ambassadors to stop Fortinbras’ attack
Why is Laertes, but not Hamlet, permitted to leave Denmark? Claudius wants to keep an eye on Hamlet
How does hamlet show contempt for Claudius? Hamlet refuses to recognize the marriage between Claudius and Gertrude.
Soliloquy A long speech expressing the thoughts of a character alone on stage
physiognomy (n.) – the art of judging human character from facial features
What does hamlet soliloquy reveal? He is sad and hopeless, despises his mother’s remarriage.
What does Ophelia tell laertes? To follow his own advice
What kind of person is polonius? long winded, betrayer, hypocrite, vain, pompous
What do the cannons in hamlet represent? Claudius drinking and partying which aludes to his addiction
What do Horatio and Marcellus fear will happen to Hamlet if he follows the ghost? It will lead to his possible destruction
Explain hamlets comparison between state and individual. What motivates him to think this? He thinks Denmark’s people are drunkards and ruined reputations led by Claudius drinking
What is hamlet told about Gertrude’s last behavior with Claudius She was seduced by Claudius
How does Shakespeare establish a supernatural aura? Describing how unnatural and miserable it is
What change in behavior in the future does Hamlet prepare us to expect? He will pretend to be crazy in order to deceive others into trusting him
Hamlet is surrounded by people who habitually mask their true selves. Which characters are clearly not what they seem to be? Claudius Gertrude and Polonius
What does hamlet mean by “a little more than kin and less than kind.”? Claudius and hamlet are related but they dislike eachother
Marcellus Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
Why does hamlet pretend to be insane? So he can get away with murdering Claudius
What country does Denmark rule? Norway
Analogy A comparison of two different things that are similar in some way
Imagery Description that appeals to the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)
Personification A figure of speech in which an object or animal is given human feelings, thoughts, or attitudes
Tone of hamlet Mysterious and tense
Recurring theme of hamlet Rotting and desease
synechia Type of metaphor that uses a part to represent a whole
Allusion A reference to another work of literature, person, or event
Main theme Loyalty vs betrayal
Hamlet act 1 scene 1 On a dark winter night outside Elsinore Castle in Denmark, an officer named Bernardo comes to relieve the watchman Francisco. In the heavy darkness, the men cannot see each other. Bernardo hears a footstep near him and cries, “Who’s there?” After both men ensure that the other is also a watchman, they relax. Cold, tired, and apprehensive from his many hours of guarding the castle, Francisco thanks Bernardo and prepares to go home and go to bed.Shortly thereafter, Bernardo is joined by Marcellus, another watchman, and Horatio, a friend of Prince Hamlet. Bernardo and Marcellus have urged Horatio to stand watch with them, because they believe they have something shocking to show him. In hushed tones, they discuss the apparition they have seen for the past two nights, and which they now hope to show Horatio: the ghost of the recently deceased King Hamlet, which they claim has appeared before them on the castle ramparts in the late hours of the night.Horatio is skeptical, but then the ghost suddenly appears before the men and just as suddenly vanishes. Terrified, Horatio acknowledges that the specter does indeed resemble the dead King of Denmark, that it even wears the armor King Hamlet wore when he battled against the armies of Norway, and the same frown he wore when he fought against the Poles. Horatio declares that the ghost must bring warning of impending misfortune for Denmark, perhaps in the form of a military attack. He recounts the story of King Hamlet’s conquest of certain lands once belonging to Norway, saying that Fortinbras, the young Prince of Norway, now seeks to reconquer those forfeited lands.The ghost materializes for a second time, and Horatio tries to speak to it. The ghost remains silent, however, and disappears again just as the cock crows at the first hint of dawn. Horatio suggests that they tell Prince Hamlet, the dead king’s son, about the apparition. He believes that though the ghost did not speak to him, if it is really the ghost of King Hamlet, it will not refuse to speak to his beloved son.
Hamlet Act 1 scene 2 The morning after Horatio and the guardsmen see the ghost, King Claudius gives a speech to his courtiers, explaining his recent marriage to Gertrude, his brother’s widow and the mother of Prince Hamlet. Claudius says that he mourns his brother but has chosen to balance Denmark’s mourning with the delight of his marriage. He mentions that young Fortinbras has written to him, rashly demanding the surrender of the lands King Hamlet won from Fortinbras’s father, and dispatches Cornelius and Voltimand with a message for the King of Norway, Fortinbras’s elderly uncle.His speech concluded, Claudius turns to Laertes, the son of the Lord Chamberlain, Polonius. Laertes expresses his desire to return to France, where he was staying before his return to Denmark for Claudius’s coronation. Polonius gives his son permission, and Claudius jovially grants Laertes his consent as well.Turning to Prince Hamlet, Claudius asks why “the clouds still hang” upon him, as Hamlet is still wearing black mourning clothes (I.ii.66). Gertrude urges him to cast off his “nightly colour,” but he replies bitterly that his inner sorrow is so great that his dour appearance is merely a poor mirror of it (I.ii.68). Affecting a tone of fatherly advice, Claudius declares that all fathers die, and all sons must lose their fathers. When a son loses a father, he is duty-bound to mourn, but to mourn for too long is unmanly and inappropriate. Claudius urges Hamlet to think of him as a father, reminding the prince that he stands in line to succeed to the throne upon Claudius’s death.With this in mind, Claudius says that he does not wish for Hamlet to return to school at Wittenberg (where he had been studying before his father’s death), as Hamlet has asked to do. Gertrude echoes her husband, professing a desire for Hamlet to remain close to her. Hamlet stiffly agrees to obey her. Claudius claims to be so pleased by Hamlet’s decision to stay that he will celebrate with festivities and cannon fire, an old custom called “the king’s rouse.” Ordering Gertrude to follow him, he escorts her from the room, and the court follows.Alone, Hamlet exclaims that he wishes he could die, that he could evaporate and cease to exist. He wishes bitterly that God had not made suicide a sin. Anguished, he laments his father’s death and his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle. He remembers how deeply in love his parents seemed, and he curses the thought that now, not yet two month after his father’s death, his mother has married his father’s far inferior brother.
Scene 3 In Polonius’s house, Laertes prepares to leave for France. Bidding his sister, Ophelia, farewell, he cautions her against falling in love with Hamlet, who is, according to Laertes, too far above her by birth to be able to love her honorably. Since Hamlet is responsible not only for his own feelings but for his position in the state, it may be impossible for him to marry her. Ophelia agrees to keep Laertes’ advice as a “watchman” close to her heart but urges him not to give her advice that he does not practice himself. Laertes reassures her that he will take care of himself.Polonius enters to bid his son farewell. He tells Laertes that he must hurry to his ship but then delays him by giving him a great deal of advice about how to behave with integrity and practicality. Polonius admonishes Laertes to keep his thoughts to himself, restrain himself from acting on rash desires, and treat people with familiarity but not with vulgarity. He advises him to hold on to his old friends but be slow to embrace new friends; to be slow to quarrel but to fight boldly if the need arises; to listen more than he talks; to dress richly but not gaudily; to refrain from borrowing or lending money; and, finally, to be true to himself above all things.Laertes leaves, bidding farewell to Ophelia once more. Alone with his daughter, Polonius asks Ophelia what Laertes told her before he left. Ophelia says that it was “something touching the Lord Hamlet” (I.ii.89). Polonius asks her about her relationship with Hamlet. She tells him that Hamlet claims to love her. Polonius sternly echoes Laertes’ advice, and forbids Ophelia to associate with Hamlet anymore. He tells her that Hamlet has deceived her in swearing his love, and that she should see through his false vows and rebuff his affections. Ophelia pledges to obey.
Scene 4 It is now night. Hamlet keeps watch outside the castle with Horatio and Marcellus, waiting in the cold for the ghost to appear. Shortly after midnight, trumpets and gunfire sound from the castle, and Hamlet explains that the new king is spending the night carousing, as is the Danish custom. Disgusted, Hamlet declares that this sort of custom is better broken than kept, saying that the king’s revelry makes Denmark a laughingstock among other nations and lessens the Danes’ otherwise impressive achievements. Then the ghost appears, and Hamlet calls out to it. The ghost beckons Hamlet to follow it out into the night. His companions urge him not to follow, begging him to consider that the ghost might lead him toward harm.Hamlet himself is unsure whether his father’s apparition is truly the king’s spirit or an evil demon, but he declares that he cares nothing for his life and that, if his soul is immortal, the ghost can do nothing to harm his soul. He follows after the apparition and disappears into the darkness. Horatio and Marcellus, stunned, declare that the event bodes ill for the nation. Horatio proclaims that heaven will oversee the outcome of Hamlet’s encounter with the ghost, but Marcellus says that they should follow and try to protect him themselves. After a moment, Horatio and Marcellus follow after Hamlet and the ghost.
Scene 5 In the darkness, the ghost speaks to Hamlet, claiming to be his father’s spirit, come to rouse Hamlet to revenge his death, a “foul and most unnatural murder” (I.v.25). Hamlet is appalled at the revelation that his father has been murdered, and the ghost tells him that as he slept in his garden, a villain poured poison into his ear—the very villain who now wears his crown, Claudius. Hamlet’s worst fears about his uncle are confirmed. “O my prophetic soul!” he cries (I.v.40). The ghost exhorts Hamlet to seek revenge, telling him that Claudius has corrupted Denmark and corrupted Gertrude, having taken her from the pure love of her first marriage and seduced her in the foul lust of their incestuous union. But the ghost urges Hamlet not to act against his mother in any way, telling him to “leave her to heaven” and to the pangs of her own conscience (I.v.86).As dawn breaks, the ghost disappears. Intensely moved, Hamlet swears to remember and obey the ghost. Horatio and Marcellus arrive upon the scene and frantically ask Hamlet what has happened. Shaken and extremely agitated, he refuses to tell them, and insists that they swear upon his sword not to reveal what they have seen. He tells them further that he may pretend to be a madman, and he makes them swear not to give the slightest hint that they know anything about his motives. Three times the ghost’s voice echoes from beneath the ground, proclaiming, “Swear.” Horatio and Marcellus take the oath upon Hamlet’s sword, and the three men exit toward the castle. As they leave, Hamlet bemoans the responsibility he now carries: “The time is out of joint: O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right!” (I.v.189-190).

You Might Also Like