Atmosphere of Act One, Scene One in Hamlet

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Essay on the atmosphere of Act one Scene one in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet constitutes as one of the best known pieces of literature and theater throughout the world. The manner in which the story unfolds makes this tragic play a work of art. Shakespeare is renowned for writing excellent opening scenes. Act one, Scene one of Hamlet places the audience into the story by using atmosphere and cultural references. This scene effectively sets a strong mood for the events to come, gives important background information and introduces one of the round characters. The most important task it serves consists of determining the general tone for the rest of the play.

When the reader is first introduced to the main characters outside the castle, they are suspiciously asking one another to identify themselves. Everyone seems to be on edge from the very beginning, as if anticipating something. Other features that reveal the characters' wariness and caution are the darkness, the chilling air and "the bitter cold". This evokes a mood of foreboding and mystery. One of the flat characters, the watchman Fransisco, ends his watch because, "he is sick at heart". Shortly after the atmosphere is created, the audience is introduced to the idea of a ghost, which sets an augmented tone of dread and eerieness. The men speak of the ghost with great fear and show much apprehension to the idea of witnessing its appearance again. It establishes the impression of death and the supernatural. This scene focuses on the character of Horatio. Without sacrificing the forward flow of action or breaking the atmosphere of foreboding, Shakespeare establishes that Horatio is a good humored man who appears educated, intelligent and skeptical of supernatural events. Before he sees the ghost, he insists; “Tush, tush, ’twill not appear” and even after seeing it, he is reluctant to give full credence to stories of magic and mysticism. When Marcellus says that he has heard that the crowing of...
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