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Hamlet | Discussion Questions 61 - 65

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In Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1, Hamlet comes to realize that the gravediggers are digging whose grave?

Hamlet comes to realize the gravediggers are digging a grave for Ophelia, who has drowned. Because Hamlet was on the ship to England, he was unaware of her death. What's more: because Ophelia seems to have drowned herself, her death would be considered a suicide, which is regarded as a sin. In light of that, the gravediggers are questioning the privilege of a proper burial for someone who has gone against the teachings of the church—no matter who they are.

Shakespeare often uses characters such as the gravediggers in Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1, as comic relief. What is the gravedigger's response when Hamlet asks him, "Whose grave's this, sirrah?"

In Act 5, Scene 1, the gravedigger, when asked whose grave it is, responds to Hamlet by answering, "Mine, sir."

Laertes and Hamlet fight in the graveyard in Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1. Where, specifically, do they fight?

In this powerful scene, Laertes, in his grief, jumps into Ophelia's grave, mourning her and wanting to be with her one more time before they throw the dirt over her. Hamlet eventually joins him, and they fight. This bold image clearly foreshadows the coming fatal clash between these two characters.

In Act 5, Scene 2 of Hamlet, four people die in the mass confusion at the fencing match. In what order do they die?

In the final scene, which is a whirlwind of action, the four characters die in the following order: Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, and Hamlet. This puts the spotlight on the title character, giving Hamlet the opportunity to make one of the final important speeches in the play and to bless Fortinbras as the heir apparent to Denmark.

Consider how the theme of truth versus deception, so prevalent in Hamlet, comes full circle in Act 5, Scene 2.

The entire play rests on the idea of deception and, in particular, Claudius's original act of deception—murdering his brother King Hamlet and taking his crown and his queen. The chain of events his act sets in motion ends in this scene. In it, Claudius has put together yet another plot to secure his power, giving the play a feeling of having come full circle. That this particular scheme goes bad, costing Claudius his life, is an example of Shakespeare's situational irony. That his deceptions cause Gertrude's and Laertes's deaths—not to mention Hamlet's—is tragic. But ultimately, truth wins out and the trail of deception in Denmark, the "something rotten," comes to an end at last.

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