In the opening scene of Hamlet, Shakespeare establishes a tense, unsettling atmosphere as the two sentries stand guard outside Elsinore Castle on a dark, cold night. The presence of the sentries indicates the possibility of conflict, and the dark, uncomfortable setting contributes to the foreboding atmosphere. On the outskirts of Elsinore, the sentries are removed from society, which contributes an element of isolation to the setting. Marcellus and Horatio then appear and begin to discuss the ambiguous apparition that has been haunting the battlements. As Bernardo attempts to elaborate on the apparition, the Ghost appears but refuses to respond to Horatio's inquiries. The Ghost's appearance and silence add to the mysterious, unsettling atmosphere of the opening scene as the audience shares Horatio and Marcellus's concerns regarding its motivation.
In addition to the Ghost's appearance, Horatio voices his concerns regarding the state of Denmark and explains to Marcellus why they are standing guard and preparing for war. Horatio says that Fortinbras's son is planning an invasion and that Denmark’s soldiers are preparing to defend the country. Barnardo and Horatio also wonder whether the Ghost's appearance is associated with the impending military conflict, and Horatio mentions that similar omens appeared before Julius Caesar's assassination.
The Ghost reenters the scene and once again refuses to speak to Horatio, who is determined to inform Prince Hamlet about the enigmatic apparition. Overall, Shakespeare manages to cultivate an atmosphere of mystery, tension, and fear surrounding the dark setting, the enigmatic Ghost, and the impending military conflict. The audience is on edge and curious about the nature of the apparition and how the impending conflict will...
influence the play’s story line.