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Free MonkeyNotes-Hamlet by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Summary
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ACT I, SCENE 4

Summary

The setting shifts to the outside battlements of the castle at Elsinore. As earlier planned, Hamlet arrives with Horatio and Marcellus, just before midnight in order to watch for the Ghost. While they are speaking to one another, a flourish of trumpets and canon fire is heard in the distance. Hamlet explains in disgust that this is a sign that the new King, his uncle and stepfather, is engaged in his customary drunken revelry.

Suddenly the ghost appears. Hamlet addresses the apparition as "King, father; royal Dane" and implores it to reveal the reason for its nocturnal wanderings. The ghost simply beckons Hamlet to follow it to another place. Horatio and Marcellus beg Hamlet not to obey the ghost, fearing it would be dangerous and could even lead to his death; but Hamlet ignores his friends' warnings, breaks away from them when they try to physically restrain him, and follows the Ghost. Horatio and Marcellus are convinced that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" and decide to follow Hamlet.

Notes

The setting again returns to the eerie battlements of the castle at midnight, serving as a flashback to the first scene of the play. The only interruption to the dark quietness is the distant sound of revelry at the castle; it is supposedly a celebration in honor of Hamlet, who has decided to stay at Elsinore rather than return to Wittenberg. Hamlet, obviously not in attendance at the celebration, expresses his disgust for the drinking orgies of Claudius. In his ensuing speech, Hamlet states that alcoholism is rampant not only in Claudius' court but also throughout Denmark. He sees it as the mark of the profound sickness that engulfs the entire society. Hamlet particularly feels that Claudius' indulgence for drink indicates his bestial qualities as well as his abandonment of reason and virtue.


The ghost appears as soon as Hamlet is finished philosophizing about the downfall of man. He wonders aloud whether the apparition is a "spirit of health or goblin damned." Eager to find out more about the king's death, Hamlet addresses the ghost as "father," showing his eagerness to speak with it. Hamlet is then willing to take a risk and follow the ghost. When his friends try to reason with him and physically restrain him, Hamlet says he will kill them if he has to in order to follow the apparition and find out some answers to his questions. Throughout the scene, Hamlet displays himself as the noble and sympathetic symbol of the grief-stricken son, willing to do anything to learn more about his dead father and how he died.


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Free MonkeyNotes-Hamlet by William Shakespeare-Free Online Plot Synopsis



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