How is the audience prepared for the appearance of the main character in "Hamlet"?character

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The exposition of "Hamlet" sets the tone of unrest, deception, skepticism, and distrust, all the characteristics of Hamlet. The play begins at night with a changing of the guard; Marcellus and Bernado are anxious about the appearance the night before of a ghost.  This ghost appears again, and Horatio, friend to Hamlet sees it this time.  Although skeptical, Horatio worries, "This bodes some strange eruption to our state." He fears an invasion by Fortinbras, son of a king slain by Hamlet's father whom the ghost resembles. When the apparition will not speak, Horatio hopes that it will talk to Hamlet. 

In the second scene, Hamlet's mother enters with her new husband, King Claudius, brother of Hamlet's father.  Claudius, too, is concerned about Fortinbras and orders two of his men to travel to the uncle of Fortinbras and negotiate.  Laertes, son of Polonius, Lord Chamberlain, requests that he be allowed to return to France now that the wedding is over.  Claudius tells him, "Take thy fair hour...."then he sees Hamlet: "my cousin Hamlet, and my son--" to which Hamlet makes a derisive joke aside to the audience: "A little more than kin, and less than kind." 

When Claudius asks, "How is it that the clouds still hang on you?" and the Queen tells him to "cast thy nighted color off..."the audience has been prepared for the melancholy of Hamlet by the night of unrest and distrust in the previous scene.