What is the prevailing atmosphere in act 1, scene 1 of Hamlet?

The atmosphere in act 1, scene 1 of Hamlet is one of suspense and tension. The setting of the castle's ramparts at night, the appearance of the ghost, and Horatio's discussion of omens contributes to the sense of mystery and unease. The fact that young Fortinbras is marching an army towards Denmark adds to the scene's tension. 

Expert Answers

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

An atmosphere of eerie foreboding and anxious unease permeates the first act of this play. The setting—the ramparts of the castle in the middle of the night—lends an eerie, Gothic backdrop to the scene, while the several appearances of the ghost bring the supernatural to the forefront.

The appearance of the ghost frightens Horatio and the guards. Horatio fears it is a bad omen, a sign that something terrible is about to happen. He states,

This bodes some strange eruption to our state.

To add to the strangely unsettled atmosphere, Horatio describes for the guards similar happenings before the death of Julius Caesar, saying that

the sheeted dead

Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.

The eerie appearance of the silent ghost of the dead king is framed as a sign that there is some rupture in the ordered universe that is allowing the dead to escape their ordinary places. Horatio assumes that something is deeply wrong if this is occurring. Adding to the anxiety, the guards ask him about all the...

(The entire section contains 6 answers and 1021 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team