In an audience chamber in Elsinore, Claudius, the new king of Denmark, holds court. After thanking his courtiers for their recent support, he dispatches ambassadors to Norway to halt a threatened attack from Fortinbras. He gives Laertes permission to return to France but denies Hamlet’s request to return to the university in Wittenberg. Hamlet, mourning for his father’s death, is left alone to vent his despair at what he regards as his mother’s all too hasty marriage to his uncle, Claudius. The audience learns that the marriage took place “within a month” of the former king’s death.
Horatio, Barnardo, and Marcellus arrive and tell Hamlet about the Ghost. Hamlet makes plans to join them that night.