After two or three brief exchanges that reinforce Horatio’s presence (his name is repeated three times–always a good idea to help reinforce information for the audience), the action moves on to more important matters. However, Shakespeare begins “vaguely” by having Horatio refer to “this thing.” Something undefined works more on the imagination than does something spelled out explicitly?? This idea is reinforced by Marcellus’s remark that “Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy.” Quickly the implied suggestion is that Horatio is more rational and grounded, yet “fantasy” has wider implications. The “thing’s” image is built up by “dreaded sight” and “apparition.” (Incidentally, Marcellus’s evidence is strong since he reports having seen the thing “twice.” Also implied is the notion that the Ghost is wandering, in search of something, not settled, and even religious notions). Note Horatio’s dismissive “’twill not appear,” a sure sign, of course, that it will! and lo and behold just as Bernardo is about to recount their previous encounters the Ghost makes its entrance (we should remember yet again that all this is stage in daylight in Shakespeare’s day, and so this verbal atmosphere building is very important). Of importantance is the nature of the Ghost’s actual appearance, namely that he is “In the same figure like the king that’s dead” (the point, like others, is repeated to make sure we get the point). Notably Horatio is the one to actually speak to it:
What art thou that usurp’st this time of night
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march?
Note the points stressed here: usurp, night, fair/warlike, buried Denmark (incidentally an example of metonymy for those that like to identify such matter). All these things are troublesome, indications of disorder, and suggestive of themes that will be taken up as the play progresses. And yet, having made the suggestion, having provoked the audience’s attention and curiosity, Shakespeare has the Ghost leave–for the obvious reason that this is a basic dramatic technique. Raising questions in the audience’s mind that it wants answered (and that the play will eventually do so). As one might say, we haven’t seen the last of that Ghost since there are numerous questions to be answered
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