The first line operates on several different levels. Dramatically, the line captures the attention of the audience, posing several questions. Firstly, who is the man speaking the line? He seems frightened, putting the audience on edge as well—they're wondering the same thing. This hooks the audience right away, giving them an unanswered question and creating intrigue.
Secondly, the question "Who's there?" also foreshadows the appearance of the ghost of King Hamlet and the ghost's ambivalent identity. No one—not the guards, not Hamlet, not the audience—ever really knows whether the ghost is truly the king's consciousness or a demon come to damn them.
The ambivalence extends to much of the play as well, which gives this brief opening line a great deal of power in hindsight. Like the guards in the opening scene, the audience is on...
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