Hamlet First Gravedigger Scene Analysis

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Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a bleak tragedy, with its plot revolving around grief, greed, betrayal, injustice, corruption of the State, madness and death. Moments of comic relief in the play are rare, but in Act V Scene I, also known as ‘The Gravedigger scene,’ two Gravediggers provide a comedic, sharp social commentary as they dig a grave for the deceased Ophelia. In our IB performance, a classmate and I acted the first half of Act V Scene I. In this scene, I played the role of the First Gravedigger, while my classmate alternated between the Second Gravedigger and, later in the scene, Hamlet. Our performance objective was to provide the audience with comic relief, a break from dramatic tension, respite from the play’s grim events, and to provide…show more content…
This minimalism gave us the freedom to move on stage unencumbered, which helped us Transform the text and to achieve our comedic purposes. We referred to physical and slapstick comedy, which usually requires space to release the intricate choreography. The alcohol enables ‘ham acting’ in sections. For example, the First Gravedigger says that Ophelia’s death must have been “se offendendo” (5.1.9). This is a perversion of the self-defense plea (‘se defendendo’), a serious legal term. I felt that such creative play on words fell right into the domain of funny, witty drunks. When I deliver this line in the scene, I am lying on my back, giggling, and I give the other gravedigger a short slap on the buttocks. This heightens the humour and also further plays on ‘se offendendo’. This sexualized gesture transforms the seriousness of the scene, and uses the comedy to get the audience off guard. This prepares them for the acerbic social message as they are being led to think what this transformation demands, how unfair it is that Ophelia should receive a church burial when others cannot. The hypocrisy is implanted in the…show more content…
Indeed, inequality stretches into death in that Ophelia is allowed a Christian burial. This is further juxtaposed against the unceremonial manner in which the remains are being dealt with. Even the nobility must rot in that manner that Yorick did. In the scene more generally, I transform the language. I muffle some words whilst exaggerating others. I stoop and almost fall into the grave, thus highlighting disrespect for death and the false solemnity and disrespect that I have for the mockery of this Suicide who is permitted a Christian burial because of rank. The scene begins with me standing stage right, holding the shovel and drinking. The stage is dark, with the lighting consisting of Fresnel lights, equipped with cold blue gels, imbuing the setting with a dark fluorescent hue. The depressed lighting is in contrast to the comedy, and serves to show the audience that this is, still a graveyard, and thus serious. This is consistent with the second half of our performance objective. The second Gravedigger wanders onto stage from stage left, and our conversation begins. Our lighthearted and comedic banter begins, setting the makeover. This is achieved in two ways. First, we chose to take a physically playful approach to the scene. As I ask the opening question, I give the other Gravedigger a playful shove,
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