The mood of Hamlet is dark and mysterious throughout. From the opening scene onward, the presence of death and violence is oppressively felt. Because the play’s plot is cast into motion by the murder of the previous king, the audience feels as though the atmosphere of the play is already predetermined and ominous. As the main character, Hamlet does little to brighten the play’s mood. He is obsessive about death and mortality, and his vow to seek revenge makes it impossible for him to choose another way. The inevitability of his path toward destruction makes the audience feel especially pessimistic. Very little hope is offered to them, and the play’s ending in tragedy destroys the possibility of redemption.
However, the presence of mystery in the play makes it more complicated than this kind of one-note darkness. In Act 1, Scene 5, after the ghost’s reappearance, Marcellus says: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." This observation is an obvious one; there is danger and violence in the heart of Elsinore, and chaos is growing. The audience has felt the presence of darkness since the play’s first scene. The question of what is rotten, however, is never answered. The cause and significance of the violence that overtakes and kills almost every character is murky. In his obsession with morality, Hamlet tries to account for the nature of his world, but it consistently eludes him. The mood of the play is therefore greatly affected by his inability to find purpose and meaning in the events that transpire. Instead, his confusion and frustration grow, and the audience is left to wonder why things went so far afoul.