What is the significance of this quote and what element does it portray?If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o'...

What is the significance of this quote and what element does it portray?

If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o' Christian burial.

Act 5 Scene 1

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Hamlet Act V, scene i of Hamlet, the two Gravediggers (Clowns) debate the nature of Ophelia's death: was it suicide or an accident?  If it is suicide, the church would not have given her a Christian burial.  So, the gravediggers assume, Ophelia must have died by accidental drowning.

The "Other" Gravedigger / Clown says:

Will you ha' the truth on ’t? If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o' Christian burial.

Roughly translated, this means: "Do you want to know the truth? If this woman hadn’t been rich, she wouldn’t have been given a Christian burial."

So, the Gravediggers decide that Ophelia's death has no moral or ethical bearing in the church; rather, her family was rich enough to be given the benefit of the doubt.  Socio-economic status trumps religious standing.  So says Enotes:

The rustics believe Ophelia, as a member of the gentility, to have special privilege in regard to her burial; but Hamlet and Horatio note that the unearthed skulls might belong to a person from any social class.

Read the study guide:
Hamlet

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question