The graveyard scene plays an essential role, raising the theme of mortality. In Act 5, Scene 2, the gravediggers make comments on mortality, equality, injustice as they are digging a grave. Hamlet is preoccupied with the issue and reflects on death and murder.
This theme of morality runs through the play and connects the characters. The scene shows two gravediggers digging a grave for Ophelia. They are joking about death, discussing corruption, social injustice, and the equality of all people. The scene is significant and illustrates that death is inevitable. All people will end up the same sooner or later. This episode has an ironic tone and suggests that death equals everyone, no matter how rich and noble they are.
It is also the first time when Hamlet contemplates death in the graveyard. He is preoccupied with this issue throughout the play. Only in this scene, he realizes what it means to die. Pondering on murder and death, he holds Yorick’s skull. Hamlet reflects on the idea that all people – even the most energetic and powerful – in the end, die. It shows how much morality concerns the main character:
No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with
modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as
thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he
was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
(Act 5, Scene 5)
The gravediggers have a unique attitude towards death, which differs from the others. They discuss whether suicide is lawful and acceptable in Christianity. The issue of whether Ophelia deserves burial or not arises as well. She committed suicide, which goes against religious norms. If the woman weren’t noble, it would interfere with her being in the graveyard. The gravediggers regret that the poor do not have such freedom in committing suicides as the wealthy. They face death almost every day, and they treat it more easily, ironically. Their profession influences their attitude towards mortality. That is why they can even make jokes about it.