Read the opening speech of King Claudius in Act 1 Scene 2. What do you learn about the royal family and Denmark's foreign affairs from this speech?


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This scene begins at the court of Claudius and Gertrude, the King and Queen of Denmark. They have just been married. This marriage has followed quickly after the death of the former King of Denmark, Old Hamlet, Claudius’ brother. Claudius addresses the quickness of the marriage, representing himself as in mourning for a lost brother even as he is joyful for a new wife, his one-time sister. Claudius also addresses the question of the young Fortinbras’ proposed invasion. He says that he has spoken to Fortinbras’ uncle, the King of Norway, who has made Fortinbras promise to halt any plans to invade Denmark. Claudius sends Cornelius and Voltemand, two courtiers, to Norway to settle this business. Finally, Claudius turns to Laertes, the son of his trusted counselor, Polonius. Laertes expresses a wish to return to France and Claudius grants permission.