Sc. 1, Lines 74–108: What does the audience learn from Marcellus’s question to Horatio? How does Marcellus’s description of a military build-up as well as Horatio’s response affect the mood of this scene?
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Marcellus asks the other two why there has been such a massive mobilization of Danish war forces recently. Horatio answers, saying that the Danish army is preparing for a possible invasion by Fortinbras, Prince of Norway. We learn that Fortinbras’ father (also named Fortinbras), was killed many years before in single combat with Old Hamlet, the now-deceased king whose ghost we have just seen. Now that Old Hamlet has died, presumably weakening the Danes, there is a rumor that Fortinbras plans to invade Denmark and claim that lands that were forfeit after his father’s death.
After Horatio has finished explaining this political backstory, the ghost of Old Hamlet appears once more. This time Horatio does try to speak to the ghost. When the ghost remains silent, Horatio tells Marcellus and Bernardo to try to detain it; they strike at the ghost with their spears but jab only air. A rooster crows just as the ghost appears ready to reply to Horatio at last. This sound startles the ghost away. Horatio decides to tell Prince Hamlet, Old Hamlet’s son, about the apparition, and the others agree.