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Hamlet. The Dramatic Purpose of a Scene Yusuf, Claire and Khadra. Act 1: Scene 4 Demonstrate contrast. Point In this scene, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus waited for the ghost at midnight. The dark and mysterious scene made a contrast to the grand setting in scene two and scene three.

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The Dramatic Purpose of a Scene

Yusuf, Claire and Khadra

Act 1 scene 4 demonstrate contrast
Act 1: Scene 4Demonstrate contrast


In this scene, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus waited for the ghost at midnight. The dark and mysterious scene made a contrast to the grand setting in scene two and scene three.

Also, the quiet and dark place Hamlet is staying in this scene contradicts the noise made by Claudius during his celebration.


“The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold.”

“It is a nipping and an eager air.”

“What hour now?”

“I think it lacks of twelve.”

“No, it is struck.”

“Indeed? I heard it not. It then draws near the season. Wherein the spirit held his wont to talk.”

A flourish of trumpets and two pieces of ordnance goes off.

“What does it mean, my lord?”

“The king doth wake tonight and take his rouse, Keeps wassail and the swaggering upspring reels, And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down, The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out the triumph of his pledge”


Act 1 scene 4 presents useful information
Act 1: Scene 4Presents Useful Information


In this scene Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus wait for the Ghost a little past midnight. They are on the platform where soldiers keep watch, and below them they can hear the trumpets and cannon at the King's drinking party. Horatio asks if it is "a custom" to drink so much and make so much noise. Hamlet replies that it is, but one that he wishes the Danes would drop. It makes "other nations" call the Danes drunkards and it detracts all the other noble and good things that the Danes are known for.


“They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase     Soil our addition; and indeed it takes     From our achievements, though perform'd at height,     The pith and marrow of our attribute.     So, oft it chances in particular men,     That for some vicious mole of nature in them,     As, in their birth--wherein they are not guilty,     Since nature cannot choose his origin--     By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,     Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,     Or by some habit that too much o'er-leavens     The form of plausive manners, that these men,     Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,     Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,--     Their virtues else--be they as pure as grace,     As infinite as man may undergo--     Shall in the general censure take corruption     From that particular fault: the dram of eale    Doth all the noble substance of a doubt     To his own scandal.”


  • Hamlet explains that other nations see the Danes as drunks and he compares the effects of the custom to similar effects on individuals. An individual, he says, may have "virtues . . . pure as grace," and just "one defect," but that defect may be all that anyone sees or pays attention to.

  • Hamlet says that the perception other nations have of Danes being drunkards detract from their achievements and lessen their reputations. It’s just like what happens to certain people who have some birth defect or some habit or compulsion that changes their personality and character completely. That one little defect in these people, despite how talented and amazing they are, will make them look completely bad to other people. It can also be interpreted as first impressions where, first impressions are what last in people’s minds about a person, even though the person might have all these amazing qualities and attributes, people make a judgement about a person mainly based on first impressions.

Act 1 scene 4 develops suspense
Act 1: Scene 4Develops Suspense


In this scene, the main plot of this scene is that Horatio and Marcellus want to show Hamlet the Ghost that they say took the form of Hamlet’s recently dead father. Hamlet is determined to speak to this Ghost, no matter what it takes. Horatio and Marcellus try to stop him from when it motions Hamlet to follow it, but Hamlet is persistent and decides not to hold back.



 Look, with what courteous action     It waves you to a more removed ground:     But do not go with it.

HAMLET It will not speak; then I will follow it. HORATIO  Do not, my lord. HAMLET

Why, what should be the fear?     I do not set my life in a pin's fee;     And for my soul, what can it do to that,     Being a thing immortal as itself?     It waves me forth again: I'll follow it.


You shall not go, my lord. HAMLETHold off your hands. HORATIO

Be ruled; you shall not go. HAMLET My fate cries out,     And makes each petty artery in this body     As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.     Still am I call'd. Unhand me, gentlemen.     By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!     I say, away! Go on; I'll follow thee.


  • Hamlet displays his persistent attitude and with the atmosphere and nature of the scene that is developed, creates a powerful suspense as to what will follow in the next scene and Hamlet’s encounter with the Ghost. The Ghost does not answer, but "beckons" Hamlet to go away with it. Both Horatio and Marcellus are frightened and tell Hamlet that he should not go. Horatio thinks that the Ghost could be evil, so evil that it could change into a "horrible form" which would drive Hamlet mad, and make him jump over a cliff to his death.

  • Hamlet says that he doesn't care a pin about his life, and that his "fate cries out." His friends lay hands on him to try to stop him, but after a brief struggle he breaks free and follows the Ghost. This creates more suspense because it suggests that the Ghost may be evil and also Hamlet reinforcing the fact that he does not care about his life one bit, so he essentially feels like he has nothing to lose. The scene then ends on a note where the audience is left hanging in suspense when Marcellus and Horatio exit the scene by deciding to follow Hamlet.