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Hamlet Act 5 Scene 1
Transcript of Hamlet Act 5 Scene 1
So what just happened?
Two grave diggers (played by clowns) are preparing Ophelia's grave. As they pass the time joking about their work, Hamlet and Horatio approach and join in their conversation. Hamlet comes upon the skull of Yorick, a jester who entertained him in his childhood. Ophelia's funeral procession approaches and Hamlet learns Ophelia is dead. When Laertes expresses his grief by leaping into Ophelia's grave, Hamlet also leaps in and fights with him. As the scene ends, Claudius reminds Laertes of their plan to murder Hamlet.
* This scene takes part in a graveyard, and ironically enough, it is here where Hamlet seems to take life least seriously (or, at least, with a grain of salt.)
* As such, the theme of religion is brought up, as is often true whilst speaking of death, specifically when discussing the merits of a christian burial for a person who committed suicide (Line 1: Is she to be buried in Christian burial that willfully seeks her own salvation”)
* The theme of class presents itself majorly in this scene, specifically in dealing with religion and the Monarchy
* Ophelia, who is of a higher class, gets a christian burial simply because of her class as a noblewoman; The first grave digger does not understand this, but the second, who speaks with misplaced words and bad syntax, defends her (Line 9 “se offendo” rather than “se defendo”)
* QUESTION FOR THE CLASS: Is this a commentary on the nature or intelligence of those peasants who would agree with a class-system wherein things are less beneficial for them?
* The madness of hamlet is alluded to/parodied by the grave-digger singing. Line 65 “Hath this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at grave-making!” This is ironic, and brings up the motif of the Madness of hamlet himself, as he had done similarly inappropriate acts while attempting to be a prince, which was his job. This, again, could tie back to the fact that Hamlet and Ophelia were of a higher social class; there was much more leeway for them in life, and evidently death
* The motif of futility: The grave digger and hamlet argue circles around each-other, the grave digger making hamlets arguments pointless (I.e when he says that the grave is his own, because he is digging it). This almost serves to show that things can be spun in various ways depending on who you are. This motif is present throughout the book, in circumstances where stories are disputed, or arguments made futile (I.e when Gertrude doesn't see the ghost)
* The motif of entrapment in a pointless life; “Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now . . . ?”.
Imagery/ Literary Devices
Oxymoron: Lines 6-7 "How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her own defense?"
Hamlet and Yorik
Throughout the play, Hamlet toys with the idea of death and struggles with it's importance such as in his soliloquy "To be, or not to be" when it shows Hamlet contemplating about suicide. His turning point of realization comes in this scene. Hamlet stumbles upon the skull of Yorik, a court jester, and remembers the man he was fond of as a child. After seeing his skull though Hamlet realizes that death eliminates the differences between people. This skull could have been anyone, a lawyer, landowner, Julius Ceasur or Alexander the great. The hierarchical structure of society is just an illusion and ultimately crumbles into dust, just like the bones of those long gone. In this scene though we are told the skull is Yorik, there's a chance it could be any number of other people, what is the significance of the anonymity of the skull?
Water is mentioned at the beginning of the scene several times when the gravediggers discuss Ophelia's suicide (drowning) in lines 6, 10 and 15-19
"Give me leave. Here lies the water. Good. Here stands the man. Good. If the man go to this water and drown himself, it is, will he nill he, he goes. Mark you that. But if the water come to him and drown him, he drowns not himself. " This line discusses the difference between drowning and suicide and the ways in which it affects the potential for Ophelia to enter Heaven. As well another important mention of water is in lines 165-166
"your water is a sore decayer of your dead body. " This line shows water as a symbol for death and rotting.
Water is a sign of the Phlegmatic Temperament. Phlegmatic people are often associated with character traits such as being calm, patient, practical and NOT strongly influenced by emotion. Since water is used along side Ophelia this can be seen as a juxtaposition because of the contrasting state she was in prior to her death. Water is very closely associated with death in this scene but not as closely related to the phlegmatic humor. Why would Shakespeare use the phlegmatic humor to juxtapose Ophelia's suicide and death in general? What is the significance in this scene?
Another humor found in this scene is Melancholy. Dirt, clay , Earth and winter are all elements and seasons associated with the melancholy temperament and are mentioned in lines 203-211
"Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust, the dust is earth, of earth we make loam—and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
Oh, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall t' expel the winter’s flaw!"
These lines show Hamlet's melancholy because he is describing how everyone, even famous and rich leaders eventually die and become nothing more than dirt and something to fill holes with. This outlook is very pessimistic but also dramatic which shows Hamlet's stong emotion and sensitivity to death.
Finally the Sanguine temperament is shown in this scene through associations with Spring and flowers with both Laertes and Gertrude are relating to Ophelia. In lines 233-234 Laertes says
"And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! "
Gertrude then continues and says
"Sweets to the sweet. Farewell! (scatters flowers)
I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife.
I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave."
Both Laertes and Gertrude are commenting on Ophelia's innocence as well as her beauty and short life. The sanguine humor is also associated with charity, companionship, peace etc. It is said people with sanguine humor are optimistic, easily forgives, impulsive and easily led for good or bad. Do you think the Sanguine humor is reflective of Ophelia, why or why not? Which humor suits her the most?
Pun: Line 32-37
Was he a gentleman?
He was the first that ever bore arms.
Why, he had none.
What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the Scripture? The Scripture says Adam digged. Could he dig without arms?"
Metaphor: 56-57 "Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating." Which means don’t beat your brains out over it. You can’t make a slow donkey run by beating it. Also 279-282 "And thus a while the fit will work on him.
Anon, as patient as the female dove
When that her golden couplets are disclosed,
His silence will sit drooping.
Rhyming/Foreshadowing: Song woven throughout the scene sung by the gravedigger. Lines 61-64, 71- 74, 91, 94 and 117-118. Each verse in the song rhymes and the tale of the song is about the inevitability of death. The song begins about love but after Hamlet enters the scene and begins to speak the verses become about death. This foreshadows that death follows Hamlet.
Imagery: Line 86-87
Descriptive, diction that interests the audience. Also lines 249-253 Hamlet describing love and loss over Ophelia
Homonym: A word that is spelled and pronounced like another but has a different meaning. Seen in the banter between the first gravedigger and Hamlet in lines 114-131.
Dramatic Irony: Hamlet is unaware it's Ophelia's grave that has been dug but the audience is aware. Also shown in lines 212-216 " Here comes the king,
The queen, the courtiers—who is that they follow? And with such maimed rites! This doth betoken The corse they follow did with desperate hand Fordo its own life. 'Twas of some estate. Couch we a while and mark.
Hyperbole: Lines 263-265 and 268-278
Rhyming Couplet: Lines 238-239 "I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid, And not have strewed thy grave."
* There is a great deal of religious allusion here; the two grave differs speak about Adam in an almost comical sense, mocking the world as they know it.
* Hamlet alludes to some of the greatest men on the earth, realizing that they are naught but death. Hamlet tells Horatio that as a child he knew Yorick and is appalled at the sight of the skull. He realizes forcefully that all men will eventually become dust, even great men like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Hamlet imagines that Julius Caesar has disintegrated and is now part of the dust used to patch up a wall.
* QUESTION FOR THE CLASS: Was this allusion a way of Hamlet escaping his situation (justifying his actions [or inactions]) or was this rather a commentary on the legitimate futility of the monarchy as they know it?