Foul deeds will rise, though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes. Hamlet 1. 2.
For Hamlet’s plot up till now, see Hamlet So Far.
Act 1. Scene 1 (Continued). Let us not call Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo cowards. All three were brave veterans of Daddy Hamlet’s wars against Norway. They had seen some bad ass stuff that would scare most mortal men. War is like that.
If you had seen the Thing they saw that night, you would have been terrified. The Thing was no run-of-the-mill ghost. It was a different matter. It was supernatural. It might even have been the Devil. The Big D himself. There’d been stories of Lucifer showing up like a wedding crasher, coming around as a familiar just to raise a ruckus.
Needless to say, the three were scared. Shaking-in-their-boots scared and glad the Thing was gone and hoping it wouldn’t come back though they pretty well guessed it would. At least, not on a night like this. Let It pick a night when the moon and the stars were out and the sky wasn’t covered in darkness.
Horatio couldn’t believe his eyes. He couldn’t believe his ears. In all his twenty-two years on Planet Earth, Horatio had never ever seen anything like Thing.
He was the first to speak. “Did you see what I saw? Did you hear what I heard?”
Marcellus wondered, “It sure looked like Hamlet’s dad.” Hamlet is the dead king’s only son and heir to the throne once the new king, his uncle Claudius, is dead.
“Or at least it wore the old king’s armor,” Horatio said.
“Maybe he stole the armor,” Barnabas said.
“Not a chance,” Horatio said. “Ain’t no way that the old king would let go of that armor. I remember that armor from my squiring days with the king. Not all the hounds in all the hells of the nine circles of hell could get that armor away from him.”
Marcellus rubbed his hands to keep warm. “I really can’t blame the Thing for wearing the armor. Otherwise he’d be out there in his altogethers freezing his ass off.”
“I’m not sure what this means,” Horatio said, his teeth chattering from the ice cold coming off the sea, “but it sure feels like it’s a bad, bad thing. Could it be that it wasn’t a Thing but an omen?”
“Omen?” Marcellus and Barnabas asked.
Horatio continued, “Yes, an omen of terrible, terrible things ’bout to be. Just like the omens Shakespeare put in his play, ‘Julius Caesar’ ‘fore J. C. got the dagger.”
“We got a war a-coming” Marcellus said. “There’s ships getting built. Cannon readied. Soldiers training.”
Horatio agreed. “Norway has been cruising for a bruisin’ since the king’s death. He’s testing the new king’s resolve.”
Since the young Fortinbras is the head dude in Norway, the characters often refer to him as Norway. Folks did that in the olden days.
“He’s really smelling up the situation,” Barnardo said. Fortinbras means “strong underarms” so it was very appropriate for Marcellus to say this. In those days, a bath wasn’t needed to be a strong leader. His feet probably stank too. Fortinbras’ smell wasn’t nothing. Folks in Scotland could smell Macbeth miles away.
“His daddy got clobbered,” Horatio went on. “Now he’s coming back for more. He’s gonna get it too. We’re going to whop up on him good this time.”
“Just like Norway,” Marcellus said. “Those Norwegians are so Norwegian.”
They had relaxed, thinking it was safe to hang out. The Thing made a reappearance. Not willing to settle for one shakedown, Thing came back for the Big Boo.
This time Horatio wasn’t sitting still. He yelled out at the Big Boo-sky, “What you want?”
Boo was not talking. Maybe It couldn’t and maybe It could. It wasn’t.
“C’mon guy. Has the cat got your tongue?” Horatio shouted out.
Horatio was thinking. Here we go again. Just like college when nobody would talk to me. This Thing shutting me out. Not a word. All cause I am not aristocracy. Only Ham would speak to me.
The rooster did his cock-a-doodle-doo. Then The Thing was gone. The apparition had left the room. It slipped out into the fog and the sea. The night too slipped out to sea and the sun was pretty near up in the east.
Barnabas was the first to speak. “Did you guys notice how wet the Ghost was? It could have easily passed for Swamp Thing with a helmet and armor.”
“One thing is for sure,” Marcellus said. “We have a war coming. I saw it in the Thing’s eyes.”
Horatio pointed toward the sun, arising over the horizon and painting the sky red. “Look. The red glow of morning. Our watch is now over. Let’s go to young Hamlet. Perhaps the Thing will speak to him.”
Marcellus and Barnardo shook their heads in agreement. And off to find Hamlet, Prince of the City, they went. They were glad to be rid of the Thing.
But the shiver from The Thing, the moan lingered in the three men’s bones. So much so that, on dark, cold nights, their bodies would remind them. The shutter would course through their veins like a river.
So where does this leave us? This Opening Scene is a summary of the whole play. From the first words of “Who’s there” until the final “it’s up to Hamlet”. Hamlet, and only Hamlet.