The ghost of the death king appears to Horatio and the guards. It was wearing full armour, and seemed about to speak, but then walked off, apparently offended by Horatio's words. Marcellus asks Horatio why Denmark is preparing for war, and why it is necessary to keep such a careful guard.
Horatio explains that an invasion is expected from Norway. Thirty years ago the old king Hamlet, young Hamlet's father, was challenged by the king of Norway, old Fortinbras, to single combat.
They agreed that the winner would take a part of the looser's lands. Old Hamlet killed old Fortinbras, and Denmark took possession of a part of Norway.
Now young Fortinbras,son of the dead king of Norway, has decided to invade Denmark to recover the lands lost by his father. At this point the ghost appears again. Again it was about to speak, but when the cock crew it disappeared. Horatio and Marcellus decided to tell Hamlet what they had seen.
After old Hamlet's death, old Hamlet's brother Claudius married the queen, Hamlet's mother Gertrude, and became the new king of Denmark. Now he appears in his first public audience at court.
He introduce Gertrude as his wife (an embarassing moment, since she used to be his sister-in-law), discusses the problem of the imminent invasion from Norway, and speaks to Polonius and his son Laertes, giving the latter permission to go to France.
Then Claudius turns to his nephew Hamlet. Hamlet appears at court with the king and queen. Claudius and Gertrude tried to convince him to abandon his black clothes (worn in mourning for his father) and not to go back to university at Wittenberg. Hamlet spokes sarcastically to his uncle, but agreed to stay in Denmark.
When he is alone he expresses all his desperate bitterness at his mother's marriage to his huncle, so soon after his father's death.
He was disgusted by life, and said that he wanted to die. Horatio and Hamlet meet: they are old friends from university.
Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost, and Hamlet decides to speak to it the next night.