I'm supposed to "Pick one of the two parts of the graveyard scene and explain what, and how it contributes to the audience's understanding of Hamlet's character" Can somebody please help me figure out how exactly this essay should be done, I'm having a hard time with this play and I don't really understand it all that well.
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To me, this scene emphasizes how Hamlet is contemplative -- a thinker. It also emphasizes the fact that he thinks fate is inescapable.
We see this in his thinking about death and what it means for people. He spends so much time considering Yorick and what happens to people after they die. He thinks about how our fate mocks our efforts to make something of ourselves -- we try to do this and that in life, become powerful, whatever. But in the end we're there in the ground rotting...
The graveyard scene really brings home to the audience the idea of the absolute finality of death of the physical body, but also (particularly for an audience of Shakespeare's time) the hereafter - and the consequences of the quality of spiritual life we have each led here on earth. It shows Hamlet taking time to consider, and presents the idea of 'Death the Leveller.)
For the record, there are two graveyard scenes in Hamlet. The first is when Hamlet comes across the grave diggers, and he discovers the bones. Holding up the skull he says "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well." This is extremely significant to the audience. The presentation of something connected to death-bones, skulls and etc. was known in drama and to the audience as a momento mori. This was intended to cause the audience to think of their own mortality. Shakespeare was the first to identify the momento mori on stage so this scene would have impacted the audience as much as or more than the struggle with Laertes at the graveyard.
Another interesting thing to notice about the totality of the graveyard scene -- all of Act 5 scene 1 -- is Hamlet's change in mood as the scene goes along. At the start he is somewhat light-hearted and making jokes and using word-play to talk to the grave digger, but as the reality of death becomes more personal and "real" be loses his sense of humor. He starts with joking about whose grave it being dug, but then starts to realize that the dead all return to ashes no matter who they were in life. Then he actually holds the skull of someone he knew in life, Yorick, and the whole thing isn't so funny or even theoretical anymore, it is very real. The absolute final straw is the actual dead body of Ophelia that Laertes wants to hold one more time. This action drives him over the edge. There is certainly nothing clever, funny, or thought-provoking about her death -- it is just profoundly sad.
Thank you guys this was a lot of help, now I will be able to finish this essay a lot easier, I really appreciate the help
It is in the graveyard scene, also, that the reader realizes that Hamlet truly does love Ophelia despite his denial in Act III and his cruelty to her. When he realizes that it is Ophelia that Laertes grieves for his sister and his mother throws "sweets for the sweet" to one she has hoped would marry her son, Hamlet is agonized,
What is he whose grief
Bears such an emphasis, whose phrase of sorrow
Conjures the wondering stars and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded hearers. This is I
Hamlet the Dane. (5.1.151-155)
Yet, in his agony, Hamlet also acquires a new sense of himself--he is "Hamlet the Dane," who is now nearly ready to rid Denmark of its corruption.
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