Act 1 scene 1
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The ghost presents many philosophical, moral, and narrative questions. On a deeper level (and everything in this play is richly rewarding on a deeper level) it is one of the basic questions of philosophy. Who is there? Who are we? What is man? Who is Hamlet? What is Hamlet? In this most philosophical of plays, we begin with a moment of covert philosophy, a question simple on the surface, but profound when pressed; and the first scene continues this focus on questioning, giving us question after question. Horatio, the quintessential scholar, skeptical and empirical, begins by questioning the reality of the ghost; eventually, he is exhorted to “question” the ghost in a more literal way – to ask the ghost questions. In general, then, the first scene takes us from the no-nonsense world outside the theater, the world of Horatio and his doubts, to the magical, metaphysical, ultra-theatrical world of Hamlet. We may bring certainties to the play, but we are encouraged almost immediately to abandon them.