The gravediggers serve to progress the themes of death and birth
and youth and old age. They set the mood for the end of the play
that will result in multiple murders. Just as Act I began with the
Ghost, Act V begins with the graveyard scene, showing that death
and decay will be man's end.
The gravediggers believe Ophelia killed herself and would
therefore not be entitled to a Christian burial, but the coroner
has said she can be buried with Christian rites. The
gravediggers say Ophelia is being given special consideration
because she's a member of the gentility. One of them sings about
how his youth is gone, and he is now victim to "age with his
stealing steps," which "hath shipped me into the land,/As if I had
never been such." He also reveals he's been digging graves since
Hamlet's birth, emphasizing birth and death in life.
Hamlet and Horatio enter the graveyard and notice the skulls the
diggers have unearthed. Hamlet's remarks to Horatio suggest that
man's natural end is death and decay. Their conversation of mixing
personal stories with political views highlights the revenge theme
shown throughout the play and the consequences of revenge.