Which Theme In Hamlet Is Reinforced By The Scene With The Gravediggers?

In Act 5.1 of Hamlet, death is a prominent theme. The graveyard is the perfect setting for this, as it is the last place a deceased person would go. Hamlet is astonished by the skulls that the gravediggers are unearthing, and he inquires about who they belonged to and what their job was. The gravedigger responds that the grave is not for a living person, and Hamlet picks up Yorick’s skull, a representation of death, and is horrified. He then realizes that all people, even great ones like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, will eventually turn to dust. At the same time, the funeral for Ophelia begins. Her death was a contentious one, as she took her own life and was not able to receive a proper Christian burial. The gravediggers acknowledge that the grave they are digging will be filled by a wealthy sinner who “willfully sought their own salvation” due to their wealth, but they just say “come, my spade” and keep digging. They understand that the power imbalance between the rich and poor is unfair, yet they do nothing about it. Death has a major influence on the characters and the events of the play. Even though the phrase “to be or not to be” is repeated throughout the play, for most of the characters in Hamlet, their destiny is “to be.”


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