Which Excerpt From Hamlet Act 1 Scene 1 Is A Stage Direction?

Updated 8 November, 2023
In Act 1 Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the excerpt “Enter to him BERNARDO” is an example of a stage direction.
Detailed answer:

William Shakespeare does not provide his readers with many direct stage directions in his plays. In contrast, he leaves his audience with many indirect stage directions. Here, the reader has to find hints in the actors’ speeches that tell him how the stage-settings and actors should look like, what mood they are in, and thus how they should speak and move.
In act 1, scene 1 of the play Barnardo and Marcellus are on guard accompanied by Horatio. In this scene, the excerpt “Enter to him BERNARDO” is a stage direction. It is midnight, as Barnardo mentions, and “bitter cold,” according to Francisco who has just finished his guard. If this play would be performed on an early winter evening, the temperature and light would be suitable for this scene. The guards might hold torches, so the audience would be able to see them. It would be difficult to create a dark and cold scenery in an outdoor-theatre during the day.
The appearance of something, which Marcellus and Barnardo have seen before, is expected. Since Horatio should talk to it, it must have some similarity to a human being, but is called a “thing” or an “apparition”. The audience is aware of this because of the dialogue they hear before the ghost appears on stage. The attention of the audience is led upwards where Barnardo might point telling them about a star and the illumination of a certain part of the sky by that star. The ghost enters during Barnardo’s speech, probably unseen by the audience at first, because they are following Barnado’s pointing.

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