Hamlet Act 5 Notes

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Scene 1
The gravediggers scene shows a great deal about the character of hamlet. Hamlet questions their frivolous nature when the joke about the dead. As they unearth skulls, hamlet ponders who they might have been and if they though highly of themselves and were pompous during their lifetimes. When one of the skulls is identified as Yorick, Hamlet becomes very thoughtful and ponders about life and death. He says no matter how high a person might be in life, in death, all are equal. Death is the great neutralizer making the king no greater than a pauper. This isn’t the first time Hamlet ponders life, its meaning and death. Most of his soliloquies get into these subjects such as the “To be or not to be” soliloquy. But this pondering at the sight of what seems to be Ophelia’s grave, shows what a deep thinker he is even in the midst of much personal turmoil, he is a man who thinks about man’s existence and its meaning. This pondering in the graveyard scene shows the audience that Hamlet isn’t terribly afraid of death, he is more curious than afraid. This brings out Hamlet’s intellectual curiosity and his speculative powers. He goes on to speculate that even Alexander the Great will have his corpse buried in the ground and decomposed and that nobility in life is cancelled out by death.

Hamlet has lost his father. Now dear Ophelia is dead. His losses are great. He has only reconciled wit his mother, and no one else but Horatio is there to take his part. He feels lonely and longs for the days when his family was whole and he could spend his time innocently with Ophelia. Loss, confusion, anger for the king’s actions and depression must reign over hamlet when he compares life as it used to be with the life he has now.

By this point of the play, Hamlet has been through quite a lot. He found out his uncle killed his father, he is extremely upset over his mother’s remarriage to his uncle, his deteriorating relationship with Ophelia, his old friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern betraying him, accidentally killing Polonius, and his uncle sending him t England to be executed which he luckily discovered and rewrote the note, but all in all, he is still in a bad situation. Hamlet is quite pleased with himself for doing what he had to do to preserve his own life and he is rather philosophical in discussion of what happens after death. He comes to the very logical conclusion that no matter who a person is in life, he merely return to dust after death. Whether the dead person was a great man like Alexander the Great, or a common man, both end up as worm food. Hamlet has worried about death and what comes after, and has talked about it through out the play but this is the first time he has seen it in such simple terms. This realization helps him take action against Claudius. As death becomes more real to him (like when he actually holds Yorick’s skull, a man whom he knew well) he realizes that death is a certainty and that it will come for all.

“Hamlet the Dane”

Point 1: What's most important to note here is the capital "D" in Dane. Hamlet is not merely referring to himself as a citizen of Denmark, but as The Citizen of Denmark--i.e., the rightful king. We haven't really heard anything about whether or not he wants to be King...except for his wry comment to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in 3.2 when he states he "lacks advancement." This is an oblique commentary on his royal status (or lack of). But here, in 5.1, he recklessly jumps forward, filled with rage at Laertes, and declares himself the rightful King. Why does he choose to do so now? Perhaps his rage alone propels him to admit this deeply held thought. Perhaps, since he is so bent on showing Laertes that he loved Ophelia more, he feels he can "one-up" Laertes even more by identifying himself as royalty. He then follows up this bold, public statement by mentioning to Horatio in 5.2 how Claudius "popped in between th' election and my hopes," indicating that he was, indeed,...
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