Why does this scene begin with two clowns trading jokes?  Do their jokes make any sense in the context of the play?Act 5

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jseligmann | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Comic relief is the easy answer. Poor Ophelia has gone mad, and in that madness she has drowned herself. How heavy and very sad is her demise, and as a contrast to her death, and in a way to cast light upon it, the humor is shocking and funny at the same time.

But there is more going on here than just comic relief. The clowns are engaged in a kind of discourse that mocks intelligence. There is a cold, scientific and legalistic sense about their banter that makes fun of a reasoned attitude toward death. It's as if they are making fun of Hamlet's kind of cerebral approach to existence and its opposite.

If they were to hear Hamlet say, in all seriousness, "To be, or not to be, that is the question..." they'd have another good laugh. You can just hear Clown One quoting his creator: "Life's a tale told by an idiot, sweet Prince, relax!"

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