What is the significance of the crowing cock in Hamlet?

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The crowing of the cock is significant in Hamlet because it signals that daylight is approaching and causes the ghost to quickly exit. It also alludes to the Classical motif of roosters guiding the souls of the dead.

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In act 1, scene 1 of Hamlet, a cock's crow interrupts the ghostly figure of King Hamlet as it approaches Horatio and Marcellus. Crowing cocks are indicative of the approaching dawn and the end of the night. It seems as though the ghost was going to say something important, but it must quickly leave before daylight arrives. According to folkloric tradition, ghosts can only wander the earth during the darkness of night. Therefore, the crowing cock lets the audience know that daylight is near and that the ghost must depart before it has delivered a possible message to Hamlet's friend, Horatio.

There may also be a classical significance to the crowing cock in this scene. Ancient Greek mythology sometimes included the motif of a cock that guided the souls of the dead to the Underworld. Shakespeare often includes classical allusions in his works, so this may have some significance here. Perhaps the crowing of the cock is a signal to the ghost that it is time for it to leave the world of the living.

Horatio and Marcellus are aware that there must be some connection between the cock and the ghost. Horatio knows from his studies that

The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day, and, at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
Th' extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine, and of the truth herein (1.1.149–154)

Marcellus goes on to say that cocks crow on Christmas night to keep evil spirits away. Horatio seems to think that it could very well be the case that this spirit was banished by the crowing of the cock.
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Why is the cock's crow important in the opening scene of Hamlet?

In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, a cock crows in Act 1, scene 1, signaling the dawn just as the ghost of Prince Hamlet’s deceased father exits the stage. The rooster crowing seems to interrupt the ghost before he can speak. After encountering the ghost, Horatio comments on the rooster’s crowing, calling the animal a "trumpet to the morn” that wakes up “the god of day,” who sends the ghost away.  

The cock crowing could be a religious allusion to Christ’s return and a symbolically new day. Horatio’s reference to the "god of day" would support this interpretation. Similarly, the fact that the rooster’s crow seems to frighten the ghost away supports this view; spirit creatures would not be able to harm people under Christ’s protection.

The ghost’s quick departure at the cock’s crow is echoed in ancient Jewish and Christian writings that describe wandering demons in the night as quickly scattering when they hear a rooster’s crow. Just as the cock’s crow banishes darkness, the symbolic cock’s crow banishes that which is dark and evil.

Thus, the cock’s crow is an important element of the opening scene because it establishes the ghost as a likely malignant presence.

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Why is the cock's crow important in the opening scene of Hamlet?

Yes, the cock crowing does reveal the scene.  It also lets the audience know that (at various points in the play) that the ghost (and ghosts in general) roamed the earth at night only - they disappeared/ were not seen during daylight.  This idea also adds a musters tone to the play.

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Why is the cock's crow important in the opening scene of Hamlet?

Roosters (cocks) announce the beginning of a new day; therefore, the simplest reason for the rooster is to set the scene.
On a deeper level, the rooster was (and still is) extremely significant in the history of developing cultures around the world.
The Greeks, for example, believed that the rooster guided souls to the under-world (the "kingdom of deaths"). This exlaination is pertinant to "Hamlet," because the ghost exits almost immediately after the sound of the crow.

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