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We hear about young Fortinbras, a prince of Norway, in the very first scene of the play. In that scene, Horation, Marcellus and Bernardo have just seen the ghost and they are discussing what it might mean. They talk about some of the problems Denmark has been having and that makes them mention Fortinbras.
Hamlet (the dad) killed Fortinbras's dad. And now young Fortinbras wants revenge. He is invading Denmark. He wants to take back for Norway the lands that his father lost to Hamlet senior.
Fortinbras will be allowed to pass through Denmark to go fight in Poland. On his way back, at the end of the play, Hamlet will name him as the next king of Denmark.
Young Fortinbras has asked for permission to cross Denmark on his way to a military engagement with another country. The problem this presents for Denmark is that Hamlet’s father has killed Old Norway (Fortinbras’ father) in previous military engagement between the two countries. Another issue here is that Fortinbras is acting without the sanction of his king, who is also his uncle, as Claudius is to Hamlet. Hence, there is the possibility of revenge. Because Denmark is in a state of unrest over the death of Old Hamlet and Claudius’ succession, Fortinbras could easily intend to invade Denmark and stage a military coup.
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