At the start of act I, scene ii, Claudius gives a speech in which he makes several important announcements. First of all, he explains his recent marriage to Gertrude. As Gertrude was his dead brother's wife, Claudius probably feels the need to assuage the uneasiness that some of his courtiers—not to mention his stepson, Hamlet—may have been feeling at what appears to be a violation of Scripture. Claudius justifies his marriage to Gertrude by saying, somewhat unconvincingly, that he wants to balance the gloom occasioned by his brother's death with the happiness of his marriage.
Claudius goes on to say that Fortinbras, nephew of the elderly king of Norway, has had the temerity to demand that the Danes hand over those lands won from the Norwegians by old King Hamlet. Claudius decides to go over the young whipper-snapper's head and make a direct appeal to his uncle to get him to thwart Fortinbras's plans. Though aging and bed-ridden, Fortinbras's uncle is still the king, and thus he controls Norway's armed forces. Claudius dispatches his two trusted messengers, Cornelius and Voltemand, to deliver his appeal to the king of Norway in person.