In act 1, scene 1, Barnardo and Marcellus have recruited Hamlet's friend Horatio to come up to the castle ramparts and wait for the ghost of the old King Hamlet (who is dressed in full armor, as though ready for battle). Horatio, even before he sees the ghost, thinks that the ghost's appearance may be related to the threat of war from Norway, in part because of the preparations that Denmark appears to be making for such a war. He explains that, in the recent past, the king of Norway, old Fortinbras, started a war with old King Hamlet, and the Danish forces defeated the Norwegian armies; during this time,
[Old Hamlet] Did slay this Fortinbras, who by a sealed compact,
Well ratified by law and heraldry,
Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
which he stood seized of, to the conquerer (1.1.98–101).
In other words, Norway lost not only its king, it also lost a great deal of land to Denmark as a result of the conflict. Now, according to Horatio,
Of unimproved mettle hot and...
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