Hamlet Summary of Act I, Scene 4
by William Shakespeare

That night, Hamlet keeps watch outside the castle with Horatio and Marcellus, waiting for the ghost to appear. Just after midnight, the watchers are startled by the sound of trumpets and gunfire; Hamlet explains that the new king is keeping a Danish custom known as “the king’s rouse,” and says disgustedly that such customs are better forgotten than kept, because they make Denmark look ridiculous to other nations.

Then, the ghost reappears. Hamlet calls out to it, and it beckons Hamlet to follow it. Although his friends try to stop him, afraid the ghost will do him harm, Hamlet announces that he will follow it. He doesn’t know whether the ghost is actually his father’s spirit or a demon, but he cares nothing for his own life and no ghost can harm his soul if it is truly immortal. He follows the ghost into the darkness. Horatio and Marcellus are stunned, and fear that the ghost’s reappearance bodes ill for Denmark. After a moment, they agree to follow Hamlet and the ghost.

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