As the play Hamet opens, Bernardo comes to relieveFrancisco who stands watch; then, Horatio and Marcellus join Bernardo. Bernardo seeks to convince Horatio that he has seen a ghost the last two nights. Shortly after he says this, the ghost appears, and Bernardo wants Horatio to speak with it, This "dreaded sight, twice seen" who has passed Marcellus and Bernardo on their watch, walking with a "martial stal"; that is, a warlike stride.
Struck with apprehension, Horatio fears a disturbance to the state. For, the figure has the same "warlike stance" as King Hamlet when he fought the King of Norway and won his lands; in addition,
Such was the very armour he had on
When he the ambitious Norway combated. (1.1.73-74)
This ghost of King Hamlet in armor is a warning figure, Horatio believes, because he is the same "king that was and is the question of these wars" (1.1.125). Certainly, Horatio's apprehension seems justified since the old king of Norway's son, Fortinbras, has been reinforcing its troops, having ships built, purchasing "brazen cannons" and other "implements" of war.