What techniques has Shakespeare employed in the first scene of
“Hamlet” to present the mood and plot of the play?
In the environment of a modern theatre, advances in light and sound technology have made it simple to create the effect of the time of day, weather and even the moods of characters. Shakespeare, not having such liberties, had to indulge in a rich use of descriptive and emotive language to help create the audiences perception of the mood.
In the first scene of “Hamlet” Shakespeare uses the conversation between the characters to convey the setting and any necessary background to the plot. Through conversations between Barnardo, Fransisco, Marcellus and Horatio vital background information is established and brought to the attention of the audience. When the ghost first appears Barnardo comments:
“In the same figure, like the king that’s dead”
This immediately allows the audience to become aware that a king has just died. This is followed by further discussion- including Horatio directly addressing the ghost as having:
”…that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march”
This would clearly be of great significance in medieval Denmark and therefore would certainly be of great significance to the plot of Hamlet.
Another significant part of the plot, is that the country is on a war footing. This is only made clear to the audience after the ghost has made its appearance, during conversation between Horatio, Marcellus and Barnado. Marcellus begins by expressing curiosity to what he has noticed, “why such daily cast of brazen cannon”, “foreign mart for implements of war”, “why this impress of shipwrights” he asks “who is’t that can inform me?”. The curiosity of a character would lead the audience to think that something might not be right, as something significant is most definitely occurring yet not all characters are aware of why; audiences members could conclude that something secret is occurring, and wonder why some characters are unaware. Horatio goes on to explain the production of weapons and why Denmark is on a war footing, beginning: “That can I-