There is a changing of the guards: Bernardo replaces Francisco. Soon two more characters arrive, Horatio and Marcellus. They were talking the ghost of king of Denmark, Old Hamlet. The two soldiers charge Horatio to speak to the ghost but he does not. The ghost disappears just as suddenly as it arrived. Old Hamlet has died, presumably weakening the Danes, there is a rumor that Fortinbras plans to invade Denmark and claim that lands that were forfeit after his father’s death. After Horatio has finished explaining this political backstory, the ghost of Old Hamlet appears once more. This time Horatio does try to speak to the ghost. This sound startles the ghost away. Horatio decides to tell Prince Hamlet, Old Hamlet’s son, about the apparition, and the others agree.
Claudius and Gertrude, the King and Queen of Denmark have just been married. This marriage has followed quickly after the death of the former King of Denmark, Old Hamlet, Claudius’ brother. Claudius also addresses the question of the young Fortinbras’ proposed invasion. Claudius sends Cornelius and Voltemand, two courtiers, to Norway to settle this business. Prince Hamlet declares that his grief upon losing his father still deeply affects him. Horatio tells Hamlet that he has seen his dead father recently – the night before. Hamlet decides to attend the watch that very night in hopes of seeing the ghost himself. Scene 3
Laertes advises her about her relationship with Hamlet, with whom she has been spending much of her time lately. He tells her to forget him because he, as Prince of Denmark, is too much to hope for as a husband. Ophelia confesses that they had been talking about her relationship with Hamlet. She tells Polonius that Hamlet has made many honorable declarations of love to her.
At the night watch, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus await the reappearance of the ghost. Hamlet goes on a short tirade against the Danish custom of drinking heavily. The ghost beckons for Hamlet to come away, apart from the others.
Alone with Hamlet, the ghost finally speaks. He tells Hamlet that he has come on a nightly walk from Purgatory, where his soul is under continual torment for the sins of his life. The ghost demands vengeance, telling Hamlet not to plot against his mother, whom he describes as merely weak and lustful, but to focus the whole of his revenge on Claudius. The ghost then disappears. Hamlet, overwhelmed and half-raving, swears that he will kill Claudius. The ghost of Old Hamlet, meanwhile, can be heard under the stage, insisting along with his son that they swear themselves to secrecy. Hamlet leads his friends to several different points on stage, insisting that they swear over and over again. After this final agreement, Hamlet leads the others offstage, uneasily determined to revenge his father’s murder.
First, Reynaldo is to find out from strangers in Paris about the prominent Danes in the city without revealing that he has any particular attachment to Laertes. Ophelia tells her father that Hamlet has frightened her with…