Hamlet was originally preformed in 17th century London at the Globe theatre, where of course there was no artificial lighting or extortionate sets. Therefore Shakespeare had to set the scene through what the actors said and how spoke to one another. When Barnardo says “Who’s there?” to Francisco, stood only a few feet away from him, it suggests that they are unable to see one another. Francisco reacts extremely similarly to Horatio and Marcellus when they arrive, again making it evident that sight is limited. The deliberate mention of the time, “’Tis now struck twelve”, further implies the night time scene and complete darkness the characters are surrounded by. This same technique is used again to imply the dawn. “I have heard the cock, that is the trumpet to the morn” and a few lines later a similar line of “it faded on the crowing of the cock” is deliberately added by Shakespeare to let the audience know that it is morning and the men’s watch is over.
Also in the first scene a lot of mystery and tension is created, straight away giving the audience an uneasy feeling which continues throughout. Francisco’s unexplained exclamation “And I am sick at heart” instantly establishes a unsettled atmosphere, developed further when Marcellus mysteriously asks “has this thing appeared again tonight?”. Of course this is made a whole lot heavier by the appearance of the late king’s ghost, which provokes a reaction from the audience, who under law and their religion, cannot believe in ghosts.
As there is no narrator to the play, the audience must be told about previous and present situations surrounding Elsinore, and Shakespeare uses literary techniques to do this. Background information is told through characters conversations to one another, such as Heratio’s speech about why the men watch the castle and why the now king, Claudius, makes his people work even on a Sunday.
Self-conscious theatricality is used by Shakespeare, possibly