The play Hamlet depicts a tragedy written by the author in the period between 1599 and 1601 (Shmoop 1). The story of the play is about the prince Hamlet whose father was the king of Denmark. The king was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle Claudius who also married Hamlet’s mother Gertrude. The play is centered on Hamlet’s anxiety and indecision on how to avenge his father’s death.
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Following his father’s death news emerges of a ghost that roams the castles battlements that looks a lot like the dead king. Hamlet hurries to meet the ghost and receives news that his father was murdered by Claudius who poisoned him while he was sleeping (Shmoop 3). The ghost orders young Hamlet to remember him through seeking revenge for his untimely death. In response to this, Hamlet devises a plan to act like a madman while scheming to avenge his father’s death.
With the intention of ascertaining whether the ghost is telling the truth, Hamlet decides to make a play in which a king is murdered in the exact fashion his father was killed. As he continues with the preparations he often plays the madman throwing wild accusations to all women. He even suggests committing suicide in a speech to further convince his audience of his insanity (Shmoop 3). Upon watching the play his uncle admits guilt for the crime and Hamlet decides to kill him to avenge his father’s death (Shmoop 5).
The scene that is the subject of this report refers to a scene in the play that takes place at the graveyard following the death of Ophelia (Shmoop 23). In this scene the author depicts Hamlet’s observations on life from the perspective of the grave. In light of the events that unfold at the graveyard Hamlet encounters the skull of a childhood accomplice and is forced to stare death in the face as he reminisces on his childhood.
It may even be argued that events that surround the scene play a significant role in the actions that preceded it and those that will follow. In this report an analysis will be presented of this scene and how it was affected by previous actions and how it affects scenes that follow in the play.
As it has been mentioned the scene in the graveyard is the result of the death of Ophelia. In earlier scenes of the play we are introduced to Ophelia who is a sister to a young lord known as Laertes (Shmoop 7). The images in this scene indicate a strong relationship to what preceded due to the fact that the young lady’s death was the result of an accident that resulting from hamlet’s plot in the play. It has been established that the murder of her father that prompted her suicide was an accident as hamlet intended to murder King Claudius.
It appears that Ophelia’s adamant position following her brother’s censure and father’s advice may have prompted her hasty decision to take her own life (Shmoop 7). This point is based on evidence of her father’s address following his intervention on a discussion between Ophelia and her brother.
It is therefore possible to assume that her disappointment overwhelmed her given that both her loved ones had warned her about hamlet. Her eventual suicide that leads to the scene at the grave suggests she possibly held herself responsible for the death of her father and was tormented by guilt.
This supposed guilt appears to emanate from the scene when Hamlet begins his plan to act mad and bursts into Ophelia’s room startling her in his disheveled state (Shmoop 9). In the confusion Hamlet grabs Ophelia by the wrist and appears to express frustration over love for her. In this scene it is suggested that the young lady was taken by feelings of love suggested by hamlet.
It is evident given that both the father and daughter are both convinced by this display and appear to reconsider their judgment (Shmoop 9). The graveyard scene further draws reminders to the bond between Ophelia and her father given her repeated assurances of her fidelity. The eventual suicide draws us to conclude on the bond between the two that the death of her father so seriously affected.
At this point it is wise to note the accident that leads to the scene in the grave is the result of a failed murder attempt as hamlet finds the King deep in prayer. (Miller & Shakespeare 8). Hamlet is then forced to reconsider his plan and makes a hasty decision to hold on a while before completing his mission.
Following the reconsideration the King instructs his wife to meet hamlet. It was during the meeting that accidentally hamlet stabs Polonius and prompts Ophelia’s death (Miller & Shakespeare 8). Based on the events in this scene it is clear to see the significant role they play in the drama as a series of events unfold soon after. Without the events depicted in this accident scene it is unlikely the graveyard scene would have been included in the play.
The graveyard scene also has a major impact on the events that follow in the play as is seen in the delivery of the news of Polonius death by Gertrude. In the events immediately after receiving news of her father’s death and Hamlets departure Ophelia goes insane and commits suicide. The news of Ophelia’s death is presented to Laertes by Gertrude as an accident but it later emerges that it appears to have been a suicide (Shmoop 23).
It may be suggested that these attempts to shroud the news further aggravate the situation. Already angry her brother promises to revenge the murder and a match to facilitate the murder of hamlet is arranged (Miller & Shakespeare 8). This anger and plans for revenge are all made to appear useless in the graveyard scene which depicts how valueless life becomes after death. Hamlet is shown a head of an old acquaintance and realizes how little value life has after death.
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The question of life after death becomes evident as Hamlets sees the gravediggers throw up two skulls as they dig and ponders on the lives of these men. He is astounded by the fact that a man’s life and work come to the exact same thing upon conclusion, nothing (Shmoop 23). It would appear that Hamlet in fact questions the purpose behind his quest given the nature of treatment the dead receive. However, the anger that precedes this scene has already set in motion events that hamlet can no longer avoid.
It would appear the author is throwing a question to the viewer and the scene acts as evidence of the futility of life pursuits. This appears to be depicted when hamlet collects a skull handed to him by the grave digger and is informed the skull belonged to a childhood friend of his father. He remembers the good times he had with him as a child and is astounded by the events that surround death (Shmoop 23).
As already mentioned the anger that precedes the scene plays a major role in the events that follow as Hamlet and Horatio happen upon the grief stricken Laertes and a fight almost ensues (Miller & Shakespeare 8). With Laertes seeking revenge hamlet is left in a position where he must fight to save his own life and avenge his father’s death (Miller & Shakespeare 8).
This is a position that occurs only as a result of the events just before the graveyard scene. In this duel that now must follow both Hamlet and Laertes are mortally wounded. In the process, Hamlet’s mother also dies after mistakenly drinking from a poisoned cup meant for Hamlet (Miller & Shakespeare 8). These deaths all appear the result of events that precede the graveyard scene. In addition to that Hamlet manages to murder King Claudius and avenge his father’s death.
The grave yard scene for this reason appears to play a pivotal role in the play. This is based on the fact that the entire beginning of the play has scenes that direct us toward the scene at the grave and the death of Ophelia.
At the same time the entire play after the graveyard scene is the result of the events that must come to be based on the anger and betrayal that are caused prior to Ophelia’s death. However, it is worth noting that despite these events Hamlet manages to name a successor and is buried with dignity. This can also be related to the grave yard scene given that a decent burial was among the things Hamlet sought when he began to plot revenge.
Miller, Joanne K. and William Shakespeare. Hamlet. Printed in the USA, Research & Education Association, 2002. Print.
Shmoop. Hamlet. Printed in the USA, Shmoop University Inc., 2010. Print.