Paige M. Erb
Yorick died, Yorick was buried, Yorick returneth to dust: Just like Alexander With nearly every discovery, comes a light bulb moment or instance of sweet realization. Hamlet experiences this epiphany in Act 5 Scene 1, when he comes into contact with the skull of Yorick. Trauma is considered a two-stage mechanism and neither of its stage scan can be detected on its own (Hamlet’s First Course, Hirschfeld.) This second “mechanism” is the moment when Hamlet is holding the skull of Yorick, the beloved family court jester of whom Hamlet adored. This snippet of Act 5 Scene 1 brings the audience to Hamlet reminiscing about the times Yorick used to cart him around on his back and generally makes a melodramatic scene about all the jokes and laughs and dances Yorick used to do, but now can't. Hamlet asks Horatio if this is the fate of all men, great and small, to be rotten and disintegrating and otherwise dead. Hamlet particularly asks after Alexander the Great, wondering if you could trace his dust until you found him stopping up a "bunghole" (which was literally the hole in a barrel or cask of drink, but has been slang for "anus" since the thirteenth century.)
Prince Hamlet is introduced as a reflective, slow-to-act character. While he stays true to this characterization for almost the entire play, he does undergo a transformation by the end of the play. By the end, Hamlet decides that he is no longer going to deprive himself of the revenge he so badly desires against Claudius, so he kills him. At this point, Hamlet is existential. He is the only character who fights back against Claudius’s usurpation of the throne, and he accepts the consequences of his actions (i.e. death) without a flinch. This final existential act is what qualifies Hamlet as an existential character in an existential drama at a time when existentialism did not exist in literature. The author brought in Hamlet...