A mood of mystery is set when
Marcellus talks about the apparition that he and Horatio have
seen while being on guard and suggest that forces beyond human control exist.
Claudius' conniving nature and animosity towards Hamlet are immediately evident.
He scolds Hamlet as if he were his parent and feigns concern. He also undermines
Hamlet by insulting him and telling him that he is inadequate to the task
of being king.
Hamlet's mistrust of Claudius is evident from the start as he suspects him
of numerous crimes. He is also extremely upset at his mother for marrying
Claudius, her late husband's brother.
Ophelia is seen as the quiet, trusting and obedient daughter and sister.
She dutifully follows the advice to stop seeing Hamlet even though her heart
tells her otherwise and she truly loves the prince.
When the Ghost appears, he reveals his identity to Hamlet and tells him the
cause of his death. In horror, the son listens with Horatio as the dead king
describes how his brother Claudius had seduced Gertrude, and how the two of
them together had arranged for his murder, while claiming that a serpent had
injected the fatal poison.
Hamlet is appalled - though not entirely surprised - at this revelation.
But he is even more shaken when the ghost makes a desperate plea. He orders
Hamlet to avenge his death by killing Claudius, but cautions that Gertrude
must be spared; heaven alone should punish her for her sins. Hamlet is not
a warrior and has an aversion against killing but he has been taught to obey
his father, so the Ghost's bidding presents a problem for him.