Hamlet Act 1 Short Scene by Scene Summary & Analysis

Scene I

Outside the castle, a guard named Francisco is posted who receives Barnardo in the middle of the night to take over his watch. Horatio and Marcellus, his partners, join him soon. Marcellus speaks of the previous sighting of a ghost to which Horatio is doubtful.

When the ghost enters, Barnardo notices its likeness to the dead king, the father of Hamlet. Horatio summons it to speak but to no avail. The ghost disappears. Together they confirm that it’s the ghost of the dead king and wonder why it is there.

Horatio ponders whether the sighting of ghost is ominous in nature. The ghost appears for the second time and Horatio requests him in many ways and the moment there is the sound of a co-ck crowing, it disappears. Together they talk about the nature of such ghosts and decide to inform Hamlet about it.

Scene II

In the castle, Claudius, king of Denmark, Gertrude the Queen, Polonius the king’s councillor with his son Laertes, Hamlet and others have gathered. Claudius remarks upon the state of Denmark and the queen Gertrude who before the death of her husband used to be his sister-in-law.

He talks of the young Fortinbras and sends Voltemond and Cornelius to the king of Norway regarding the issue. He farewells Laertes who is off to France after witnessing the coronation of Claudius. Then he addresses Hamlet regarding his mournful appearance.

Gertrude tries to console him out of mourning the death of his father. Claudius asks him to not leave for Wittenberg where he is a student and Gertrude tries harder to stop him from leaving.

All of them leave the court apart from Hamlet who alone ponders upon the death of his father very sadly and questions the nature of his mother who married his uncle so fast after her husband’s death.

Horatio, Hamlet’s friend, comes with Marcellus and Barnardo informs him regarding the sighting of the ghost who they believe is his father’s. Hamlet gets elated. He says that he wants to meet the ghost and asks them to maintain the secrecy of this news.

Scene III

Laertes meets Ophelia his sister one last time before leaving for France to talk about her dealings with Hamlet. He talks to her of youth’s vulnerability to temporary pleasures. He questions Hamlet’s integrity and warns his sister about the ills of impatient youth.

Polonius, their father comes and advices Laertes about his life abroad and bids him farewell. Once Laertes leaves, Polonius addresses Ophelia regarding her affair with Hamlet.

When Ophelia confirms, Polonius warns her of possible betraying nature of young Hamlet whom he thinks of as a youth of lowly characters. He asks her to stop any further communication with Hamlet to which Ophelia agrees.

Scene IV

Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus come upon a guarding platform of the castle. After a while, the ghost enters and Hamlet questions its nature. He addresses it in the name of his father, dead king of Denmark.

The Ghost signals Hamlet alone against which Horatio argues while worrying of Hamlet’s safety. Marcellus and Horatio start following the stubborn Hamlet who leaves with the ghost to the battlement.

The ghost reveals to Hamlet that he is the spirit of his father who was coldly betrayed into his death by his uncle who wears the crown now and has the queen into his lust. The ghosts ask Hamlet to revenge for his death but leave his mother the queen aside because she will suffer by her own conscience.

When the morning draws closer, the ghost tries to leave and Hamlet sharply despairs over the betrayal and swears the revenge of his father. He includes Horatio and Marcellus into this knowledge and both of them swear to keep it secret. He speaks of the ill time which is now and declares his wish to make it right by avenging for the betrayal.