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Other than the symbolism of Yorick's skull as memento mori. What other ways do you...

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raiinzen | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 13, 2010 at 2:30 AM via web

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Other than the symbolism of Yorick's skull as memento mori. What other ways do you see Hamlet as a memento mori play?

Here are some examples I already have: Hamlet telling Ophelia to go to a nunnery; Hamlet telling Gertrude that she needs to right her ways; All signs of becoming better before you die; Hamlet continually remembering his father's death and being unable to move past it; Hamlet's fascination with the concept of death in general, "To be or not to be.."

 This is what I want to write my essay on. Any other examples you can think of would be awesome.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 13, 2010 at 6:03 AM (Answer #1)

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The biggest example is Hamlet's father, the Ghost. The Ghost is a literal example reminding Hamlet of mortality; in Hamlet's case, it is not so much to "get right with God and morality before he dies." Rather, the Ghost as Memento mori, for Hamlet, is a reminder to avenge his father before he dies.

The word "time" appears 66 times in the play. Time and clocks may also serve as memento mori. Who knows if this was a conscious move on Shakespeare's part. It doesn't matter; it's there. Constant reference to time = fleeting nature of life.

Hamlet's dressing in black (I might have gotten that from viewing the play; not sure if it is in the text) and his general melancholy are constant reminders of his father's death. Hamlet's entire motivation (method to his madness) is built around vengeance of a death; a memento mori. And since memento mori can be translated as "remember your mortality," it can also be translated as "remember you will die." This can be applied to the "to be or not to be" speech as Hamlet confronts his own mortality and consequences of his actions. But, maybe you can interpret this as a threat, cloaked in melancholy: from Hamlet to Claudius. Hamlet is always morbid, making subtle remarks to Claudius and Gertrude; Hamlet is almost taunting Claudius with this; "remember, you will die."

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