Hamlet Analysis of Act I, Scene 4
by William Shakespeare

In this short scene, the various elements of the play begin to come together. Hamlet, previously associated only with the bright inside of the castle, is now seen in the darkness outside. The sounds of Claudius’s carousing reach him outside in the dark, and his reaction continues to develop the motif of Denmark as a sick or injured body in need of healing. When the ghost reappears, Marcellus also notes this metaphoric “illness” with the now-famous line, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Hamlet’s decision to follow the ghost is based on a quandary: he does not know whether the ghost is legitimately his father, or is an evil demon tempting him to destruction. This quandary continues to haunt Hamlet throughout the play, regularly preventing him from taking decisive action.

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