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TOPIC: Act V scene I

Act V scene I 1 month 3 weeks ago #7464

  • Rain
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I wonder what you/everyone thinks is the reason for the scene in the graveyard; both H with the skull and the funeral/fight. While it is funny and emotionally moving, I don't fully see the reason(s) for it. We already know that H is back from his short lived trip to England and we can certainly assume that L hates or at least is angry with H.
Does H need to have the time with R's skull to become less flippant about death?
Why does H need to tear down L and his acts of grief in order to show his own?

Thank you for your time. I must of read this masterpiece a dozen or more times now and dont see the answer.
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Act V scene I 1 month 3 weeks ago #7465

  • Ron Severdia
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Hi Rain, welcome to!

I think there are a couple of reasons for this scene. Just a few thoughts that might help.

First of all, it serves as a "palette cleanser" from the heightened drama and intrigue of the previous scene where Claudius proceeds to manipulate Laertes (in a new role of "father by proxy") and the news of Ophelia's death. The scene marks a new beginning.

It provides a window into the plight of the common man in Denmark, and how oblivious they are to all the machinations going on inside the castle. It also gives some perspective on public events and social context of the main action.

It serves as a harbinger of the death that is to come. Hamlet has thus far been unable to kill Claudius. In this scene, he is getting more acquainted with the idea of death via the men who deal with it every day of their lives, possibly coming to terms with the act foremost on his mind. This is stylistically represented in the way Hamlet now speaks—more quietly and more detached than before.

In picking up the skull, Hamlet realizes that all men turn to dust and are indistinguishable after death—both King and jester.

Whose grave are they digging? Ophelia's, but Hamlet hasn't yet heard about her death and doesn't put two and two together when he's told it's a woman's. On a side note, this is also the scene that defines Hamlet as 30 years old (other scenes aren't specific, but assume he's much younger).

When the funeral begins, the style is different from the old King's. It's a more abbreviated court ceremony. News of Ophelia's death (and Gertrude's hope of her becoming Hamlet's wife) falls hard on Hamlet. He truly loved her, though his earlier behavior was contradictory. Laertes' combativeness comes out of his own grief and Claudius' manipulation in the previous scene (which he reminds Laertes of in an aside after Hamlet storms off). There's also some of the "I loved her more than you..." in their fight.
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Act V scene I 5 days 8 hours ago #7482

  • Russell Slater
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Hi Rain,
I think this scene has a functional role in setting up the drama in the scenes that follow, that are largely driven by an angry Laetres manipulated by Claudius. But from directing this play, I think it lets us see the contrast between thinking Hamlet - for all our words and deeds we all get eaten by worms, and feeling Hamlet - leaping in tombs. This contrast in Hamlet makes the character so delightful. Great question!
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