How do I approach an essay linking class and humor in Shakespeare's Hamlet?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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One way to do this might be to examine the contributions of many of the ordinary people in Hamlet. Of course, most of the play takes place within the "bubble" of the Danish court. One noteworthy exception is the dialogue between the two "clowns," gravediggers who are preparing for Ophelia's funeral in the first scene in Act V. These men make several sardonic, witty observations about class in Hamlet, noting that if Ophelia had not been a "gentlewoman," she would have not been granted a sanctified burial, as she had, according to one of the men, committed suicide. They observe that ability to kill oneself is a privilege reserved for nobility. (It does turn out that she is not buried in fully sanctified earth.) They engage in a witty back-and-forth with Hamlet, even making a joke about the English which surely would have pleased Shakespeare's audiences. This is perhaps the most obvious example of the intersection of class and humor in Hamlet. Others might be the players and the Norwegian soldier Hamlet meets who sardonically observes that the land they are about to fight over is worthless. 

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