In "Hamlet," how does Horatio respond to Marcellus' question as to why is the country in a watchful and armed posture?No

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 1, sc. 1, when Marcellus and Bernardo bring Horatio along to see the ghost that they have seen, they ask Horatio why it appears that Denmark is preparing for war.  Marcellus says that they have nightly sentry duty and that people are working hard casting armaments (weaponry).  Horatio explains that Norway's former head of state, Fortinbras, challenged King Hamlet to combat and was killed.  They had agreed prior to the combat and according to the laws regarding combat, that the winner would receive the lands that the loser possessed.  King Hamlet won that battle.  Young Fortinbras, the son of the now dead Fortinbras, a rash, impulsive young man who was quick to anger and revenge, has gathered a bunch of mercenary thugs from outlying areas to attempt to get back those lands his father lost.  Shakespeare has let the audience know right away in this first scene that there is one son in the play trying to avenge his father's death who is quick to action.  Fortinbras will remain a contrasting character to Hamlet throughout the play and ultimately come back at the end of the play to prevail.