What is the importance of setting in act 1 of Hamlet?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Three of the five scenes in act 1 of Hamlet are set on a "platform before the castle" of Elsinore, at night. This is the place where sentries watch for possible threats and protect the castle. It is, therefore, open to the elements, intrinsically frightening and dangerous. This is a setting which emphasizes the tense atmosphere at the start of the play. The Danish court is threatened from inside and outside and is full of plots and rumors. The audience is made acquainted with some of these in this tense, hostile environment, where the soldiers and nobles must be on their guard constantly.

The other two scenes take place in a "room of state" and in a room in the house of Polonius. The grand, though somewhat nervous, public display of the new king of Denmark is therefore contrasted both with the intimate domestic setting that follows it and with the precarious military situation which is displayed and explained in the first scene.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team