Hamlet – Quotes from Act 1 Scene 1

Barnardo: ‘Who’s there?’ The opening sentence of Hamlet. Sets up a scene of ambiguity since the question indicates an air of confusion or paranoia.
Barnardo: ‘Tis now struck twelve’ Midnight is seen as the ‘witching hour’ – the time most likely for spirits to come out and play.
Francisco: ‘For this relief much thanks: ’tis bitter cold,/ And I am sick at heart.’ After Francisco is relieved from his guarding duties he gives Barnardo an insight into the unsettled atmosphere which has left him feeling ‘sick at heart’, anxious or worried.
Marcellus: ‘What, has this thing appeared again tonight?’ The ghost is introduced, but the guards are unclear how to refer to it. It appears to envisage the old King Hamlet, but instead in their lack of clarity they refer to it as a ‘thing’.
Marcellus: ‘Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy/ And will not let belief take hold of him.’ Horatio is introduced as a man of rationality, not taken aback by claims of this ghost. At first, he believes the ghost to be a figment of the imagination merely.
Barnardo: ‘Sit down awhile,/ And let us once again assail your ears,/ That are so fortified against our story,/ What we two nights have seen.’ The guards attempt to convince Horatio by ‘assailing his hears’ and telling him the story- as a man of reason, Horatio is ‘fortified’ against the idea of the ghost- unwilling to budge on the matter.
Barnardo: ‘Looks it not like the King? Mark it, Horatio.’ The ghost appears to Horatio in the form of the old King Hamlet and Barnardo encourages him to look beyond his reasonable judgement to see what is before him, ‘mark it.’
Horatio: ‘Most like, it harrows me with fear and wonder.’ Horatio is unable to provide an explanation for the ghost, but is afraid of it rather than trusting.
Horatio: ‘What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,/ Together with that fair and warlike form/ In which the majesty of buried Denmark/ Did sometime march?’ Horatio calls upon the ghost to explain itself – firstly, he does not believe that the ghost is truly King Hamlet. Secondly, he questions why he is dressed for battle in a ‘fair and warlike form’, since this would suggest an oncoming struggle. (Foreshadowing)
Horatio: ‘Before my God, I might not this believe/ Without the sensible and true avouch/ Of mine own eyes.’ Horatio notes how he could not possibly permit this to be true without seeing it for himself; the ghost defies rational belief. This also removes the possibility that Hamlet is mad in the sense that he imagines the ghost, since we have the testimony of other characters who are equally bewildered by the ghost.
Horatio: ‘This bodes some strange eruption to our state.’ Horatio presumes that the appearance of the ghost means something is wrong with the state of Denmark: purgatorial ghosts usually need to ‘fix’ something before they are able to pass on.
Horatio: ‘Now, sir, young Fortinbras,/ Of unimproved mettle hot and full,/ Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there/ Sharked up in a list of landless resolutes.’ Horatio tries to piece together the reasons for why Hamlet’s ghost has appeared; he postulates that it is down to the threat of Fortinbras, since the old King Hamlet did slay his father.
Marcellus: It faded on the crowing of the cock.’ They all note how the ghost disappeared as daylight came, which tells them that the ghost can only be communicated with at night.
Horatio: Let us impart what we have seen tonight/Unto young Hamlet, for upon my life,/ This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.’ They decide to tell Hamlet of his father’s appearance and assume rightly that the ghost will speak to Hamlet and tell him why he has come.

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