Hamlet act 5 scene 1

Act 5 scene 1: what’s the
point? Couldn’t we do
without 5.1?
 As far as the plot of the play is concerned, the
only thing that happens in the scene is that
the threat to Hamlet's life is intensified.
 Is the scene important? (hint: YES )
 What is the purpose of the scene?
 A major purpose of the scene is to show the
development of Hamlet's character. But
development in what direction?
 He banters about death with the gravedigger,
with Yorick's skull, and with Horatio, then
flashes into anger at Laertes' grief over
 This is a scene about Hamlet’s character
(there have been many), but what’s missing?
There’s no soliloquy!!
 This scene is where we solidify our ideas on
Hamlet’s character, and we are not given the
benefit of Hamlet’s soliloquy to guide us.
 So what do we still need to solidify in our
 Is he mad?
 Did he love Ophelia?
The Gravediggers
 What is their purpose?
 They are “clowns” meant to be funny.
 If this scene is performed correctly, it is laugh out loud
 Ironic because they are portrayed as ignoramuses, but
they are very philosophical and profound in their
words (although this is almost always overlooked).
They underscore the suicide and make us question it.
 They are a very common man, yet even they know of
Hamlet’s madness
 They help Hamlet realize that death happens to
everyone and life goes on
Line 9
 First Clown offers the idea that it wasn't
suicide if she drowned herself in self-defense.
 Trying to sound smart, he proves his point by
offering a fragment of fractured Latin: "It
must be "se offendendo "; it cannot be else“
(killing someone)
 If the clown knew what he was talking about,
he would have said "se defendendo“ (killing in
self defense)
 But how do you defend yourself against an
offense committed by yourself in defense of
 This is absurd and we would be laughing,
 their absurdities are not so absurd
 In fact, we think that the most common
reason for suicide is that people "can't stand
it anymore." They commit suicide because
they are in unremitting pain, physical or
psychological. So they do commit suicide in
self-defense. Hamlet said so much when he
asked why anyone would put up with the
insults of life, "When he himself might his
quietus make / With a bare bodkin? (3.1)
What do we learn from
Hamlet’s exchange with the
 Hamlet is quick-witted
 He seems normal?!
 ?
 ?
 ?
Line 261
 Laertes curses Hamlet, then leaps into
Ophelia's grave, saying "Hold off the earth
awhile, / Till I have caught her once more in
mine arms./ Now pile your dust upon the
quick and dead.“
 Why is Hamlet so angry that he is willing to
jump in (stepping on Ophelia) to fight with
 What matters, as he explains to Horatio in 5.2, is
that "the bravery of his grief did put me / Into a
towering passion."
 What does he mean?
 What does this tell you about Hamlet?
 If Hamlet hadn't rushed out to join Laertes in the
grave, would Laertes have actually stayed in
there while the gravedigger shoveled dirt onto
 Why is Hamlet so enraged by Laertes’ words and
Line 267
 "What is he whose grief / Bears such an
emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow / Conjures
the wandering stars, and makes them stand /
Like wonder-wounded hearers?"
 What does Hamlet mean?
 Is there any irony?
 What is he bothered by?
Line 285
 “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers /
Could not, with all their quantity of love, /
Make up my sum“
 What does it mean?
 Are you surprised?
Let’s talk about language
 Remember, Shakespeare used language,
literary elements, poetry and form to inform
us about characterization.
 Hamlet’s way of speaking differs according
characters involved and circumstance.
 Consider Hamlet’s soliloquy and dialogue
with Ophelia in 3.1?
 How can we characterize his speaking?
 Why does Shakespeare write his speaking that
 What is the result of his speaking that way?
 Now, consider Hamlet’s dialogue with the
characters (particularly Laertes) in 5.1:
 How can we characterize his speaking?
 Why does Shakespeare do this?
 Ultimately, what do YOU decide about Hamlet as
a result of his language / speaking choices?
As a result of 5.1, do we
solidify our thoughts on:
 his mental state?
 his feelings for Ophelia?

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