Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is the purpose of act 5, scene 1 in Hamlet? What is a plot summary and structural analysis of the scene?

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The purpose of the scene is to illustrate further the theme of death. In particular, it highlights Hamlet's belief that, in the final analysis, death makes fools of us all. Lawyers or kings, princes or paupers, we will all one day die. It makes no difference how great we think we are as we walk upon this mortal earth; we are all destined to participate in the great democracy of the dead.

It's not just Hamlet who displays such a mordant take on our common fate; the gravediggers share a similar attitude towards death. As they go about their grim task, they engage in witty badinage, treating this darkest of subjects as if it were nothing more than a big joke.

It's only later on in the scene, when Ophelia's burial takes place, that the mood starts to change. Laertes openly blames Hamlet for Ophelia's death, and the two...

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