Act 1 Scene 1:
On a bitter cold night, three watchmen Bernardo, Marcello and Horatio (friend of Hamlet) encounters a ghost of King Hamlet, whom has appeared on the castle ramparts for the past two nights. Horatio was sceptical at first, however the ghost appears (wearing the armour that the King wore in the war with Norway) and then suddenly vanishes. Horatio then declares that the ghost must bring warning of a military attack to Denmark, recounting the story of the king’s conquest of lands belonging to Norway, saying that Fortinbras now seeks to reconquer the lands. The ghost appears for the second time and leaves at the first hint of dawn, however the ghost doesn’t respond to them. Horatio suggests that they tell Prince Hamlet, believing that the ghost would be willing to speak to his son.
Act 1 Scene 2:
The next morning, Claudius holds court, trying to make his marriage to Gertrude sound normal, saying that is it possible to balance woe and joy. Claudius received a message from Fortinbras demanding Denmark to give up the lands, he then sends Cornelius and Voltemand with a message to Fortinbras’ uncle, the King of Norway. Laertes asks to be allowed to be returned to his studies in France, Claudius agrees. Next, Claudius and Gertrude wonders why Hamlet is still dressed in mourning clothes. Hamlet replies that he is upset, and that his clothes can’t capture his true mourning. Claudius says it’s natural for fathers to die and sons to mourn, but mourning for too long is not normal and unmanly. He wants Hamlet to see him as a father, and also not to return to Wittenberg to study. Gertrude seconds the request and Hamlet promises to obey his mother. All exit but Hamlet, he continues in a soliloquy, wishing that he could die and condemns the marriage. He says Claudius is inferior to his father and in anguish, describes Gertrude as a lustful beast. Horatio, Marcello and Barnardo enter. Horatio tells Hamlets about the ghost and Hamlet decides to watch with the men that night.
Act 1 Scene 3:
Laertes warns Ophelia not to fall for Hamlet as he prepares to leave for France. He claims that Hamlet’s passions will change and a prince must marry to preserve the ‘sanity and health’ of the state. Ophelia promises but tells Laertes to listen to his own advice. Polonius comes and scolds Laertes for taking so long, then gives him advice about how to act. Laertes leave. Polonius asks Ophelia what she was talking to Laertes about. She tells him it’s about Hamlet, explaining that Hamlet has expressed his love for her. Polonius tells her that Hamlet is pretending to love her in order to sleep with her, and forbids her to talk to him.
Act 1 Scene 4:
On the ramparts, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus keep watch. Meanwhile, from side the castle there’s a roar of revelry, Hamlet condemns Claudius’ constant merry-making, saying that it makes the nobles look corrupt. The ghost appears and beckons Hamlet to follow. Horatio and Marcellus refuses to let him go, saying that the ghost may be a demon trying to trap him. Hamlet breaks free and follows the ghost. They run after Hamlet.
Act 1 Scene 5:
The ghost claims to be the spirit of Old Hamlet, murdered by Claudius. Although the official story was that he was napping in his garden and was stung by a serpent, in reality Claudius poured poison into his ear, murdering him and sending him to Purgatory because he was not given a chance to confess his sins before he died. The ghost wants Hamlet to seek revenge against Claudius for murder and stealing Gertrude, however he warns him not to harm his mother. The ghost disappears when drawn breaks. Hamlet promises to seek revenge. Horatio and Marcellus rush in, but Hamlet refuses to tell them what happened, but he does say he may pretend to be insane and makes them swear to silence on his sword. The ghost’s voice echoes ‘swear!’ and they swear.
Act 2 Scene 1:
Polonius sends a servant to spy on Laertes to test his son’s virtues. Then Ophelia enters,