Death is most featured in Act 5.1 of Hamlet. The scene in the graveyard is appropriate seeing as it is the final place a dead person would go. Hamlet looks with wonder at the skulls that the gravediggers dig up. He asks the question of whom it may belong to and what occupation they might have had. The gravedigger replies that the grave belongs to no man nor woman as they are living things and the dead person is not. Hamlet picks up Yorick’s skull, which is a symbol of death, and is appalled at what he is seeing. He then comes to the conclusion that all men eventually become dust, even great men like Alexander the Great and Julius Caeser.
At the same moment, the funeral for Ophelia begins. Ophelia’s death was a controversial one as she committed suicide and therefore, could not receive a proper christian burial. While the gravediggers do acknowledge the fact the churchyard grave they are digging will be filled by a rich sinner who “willfully sought their own salvation” simply because they are rich, the two contently end the discussion by saying “come, my spade (shovel)” and continue to dig. Both gravediggers know that the power imbalance between the rich and poor is unjust, yet they do nothing about it.
Death plays a big role in affecting the characters and therefore, the events of the play. Even though ‘to be or not to be’ was contemplated throughout the play, for the majority of the characters in Hamlet, their fate was ‘to be.’
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