Hamlet for the Shakespeare Impaired

Act 5, Scene 1

Elsinore. A churchyard. Enter two gravediggers with spades and pickaxes.

1st gravedigger: Let me get this straight. She killed herself, but they're going to give her a Christian burial anyway?
2nd gravedigger: That's right. The King's orders.
1st gravedigger: That doesn't make sense. Unless...maybe she didn't mean to drown herself. Or she had no other choice.
2nd gravedigger: They say she was out of her mind and didn't know what she was doing.
1st gravedigger: That must be the case. But if I drown myself on purpose, it implies I knew what I was doing. I bet she did it on purpose. If she did it on purpose, she must have planned it, so it was suicide.
2nd gravedigger: No, you don't get it.
1st gravedigger: Whatever. Just listen. Okay, imagine there's water at point A. There's a guy standing at point B. If the man goes from point B to point A and drowns himself, he meant to do it! But if the water comes from point A to point B and he drowns, it was just an accident. A guy can't help it if waters just comes up and drowns him.
2nd gravedigger: But is that what the law says?
1st gravedigger: Yes.
2nd gravedigger: Are you sure? I bet if this lady we're burying hadn't been a member of the nobility, she'd have been buried out of the churchyard in disgrace.
1st gravedigger: You said it, man. I guess if rich people kill themselves it's okay, but us poor people get shamed for it. Well, okay, hand me my shovel. Grave digging is the world's oldest profession. Even Adam did it. You know, in the Bible.
2nd gravedigger: Adam? Was he gentleman?
1st gravedigger: He was the first man, silly. The first that ever bore arms.
2nd gravedigger: I didn't think he had any arms.
1st gravedigger: What, are some sort of heathen? Don't you ever read the Bible? The Scripture says Adam dug. Could he dig without arms? Stupid. Can I ask you another question?
2nd gravedigger: Sure.
1st gravedigger: Who builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?
2nd gravedigger: The gallows-maker. The guy who builds things to hang people with. The things he builds outlive a thousand tenants.
1st gravedigger: Ha ha! I like your sense of humor. The gallows is a good answer. But it's only good for criminals. But that's not the answer I was looking for. Try again.
2nd gravedigger: Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?
1st gravedigger: That's the riddle. But what's your answer?
2nd gravedigger: Ooh, ooh, I think I know!
1st gravedigger: What?
2nd gravedigger: Oh, no, darn, I forgot.
[Enter Hamlet and Horatio some distance away.]
1st gravedigger: Well, never mind. You're too stupid to ever figure it out anyway. The answer is "a grave-maker." The houses he makes last until doomsday. Now go get me a beer.
[Exit 2nd gravedigger. 1st gravedigger digs and sings.]
1st gravedigger:"It was an itsy-bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini, that she wore for the first time that day..."
Hamlet: That guy sure is tacky to sing happily while he's digging graves. He should be serious.
Horatio: I suppose if you dig graves every day, after awhile you don't even really think about it any more.
Hamlet: That must be it.
1st gravedigger: [Sings.] 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beeeeer! Take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall!
[Gravedigger hits a skull with his shovel. The graveyard is old and no coffins are used, so he has to move old bones to make room for the new bodies. He throws up a skull out of the grave, and it lands by Hamlet and Horatio.]
Hamlet: If that skull could talk, I bet it would yell at that rude man for tossing it aside like a piece of garbage. That could be the skull of a very respected person. A politician, maybe?
Horatio: Politician? Respected? Now I know you're insane!
Hamlet: Or maybe a prosperous merchant.
Horatio: It might be.
Hamlet: Or of a courtier, a polite, well-bred man. This might be a great Lord So-and-so. Couldn't it? I mean, it could have been anyone!
Horatio: Yes.
Hamlet: And now that poor person's head has become nothing more than rubble in the way of that gravedigger's shovel. Eaten up by worms.
(1st) Gravedigger: [Sings.] Ooh, the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play Penuckle on your snout!" [Tosses up another skull.]
Hamlet: There's another another one. He could have been a lawyer, perhaps. What happened to all his cases and legal jargon? What did you ever do to deserve this demeaning treatment? Having your head knocked around with a dirty shovel. He must have had lots of land, and money, and influence. And now his head is full of dirt. What a waste.
Horatio: It sure is.
Hamlet: Isn't this parchment made of sheepskin?
Horatio: Yes. And of calveskins too.
Hamlet: At least dead sheep and calves have a use after they're dead. Hey, you! Down in the grave! Whose grave is this?
Gravedigger: Mine, sir. [Sings.] "Daylight come and me wanna go home..."
Hamlet: Well, sure, it's yours because you're in there digging it at the moment.
Gravedigger: Yes, but luckily I won't be in here for too long. Yet since I dig it, it is my grave. Ironic, isn't it?
Hamlet: Very.
Gravedigger: I love irony. Tee hee.
Hamlet: What man are you digging it for?
Gravedigger: For no man, sir.
Hamlet: What woman then?
Gravedigger: Not a woman, either.
Hamlet: All right, smarty pants, who is to be buried in it?
Gravedigger: Someone who was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she's dead.
Hamlet: You are so crass! Harmph! Show a little respect, man! How long have you been a gravedigger?
Gravedigger: Every single day of my life since Old King Hamlet defeated Old Fortinbras.
Hamlet: How long is that?
Gravedigger: Have you been living under a rock? Everyone knows that. It was the same day that young Hamlet was born. You know, the crazy prince they just sent off to England.
Hamlet: Why did they send him to England?
Gravedigger: Because he was totally looney, of course. Completely off his rocker. A few tacos short of a combination plate. His wheel was spinning, but the hamster was dead, you know? But he'll recover his sanity in England. And even if he doesn't, he'll be in good company.
Hamlet: Why?
Gravedigger: No one will notice. The British are all crazy, too.
Hamlet: Why did he go insane?
Gravedigger: It was a strange matter, they say.
Hamlet: How strange?
Gravedigger: Well, they say he just snapped after his father, the king, died.
Hamlet: But what set him off? Why did I...er, I mean, he...go nuts? Why? Upon what ground?
Gravedigger: Why, here in Denmark. I should know. I've been sexton here for thirty years.
Hamlet: That's not what I meant, but...oh, never mind. Say, tell me something. How long does it take a body to rot after it's been buried?
Gravedigger: Well, if he wasn't rotten before he died, as many are these days, he'll last about eight or nine years. A tanner will last nine years.
Hamlet: Why would a tanner take longer to rot??
Gravedigger: Because his skin is so tough from all that work tanning, that he'll keep out water a long time. And without water, corpses don't rot very fast. Look, here's a skull now. This skull has been in the ground 23 years.
Hamlet: Whose was it?
Gravedigger: A real wacky S.O.B. Take a guess.
Hamlet: I have no idea.
Gravedigger: This guy was a real jerk. He poured a whole bottle of wine on my head once. This skull belonged to Yorick the King's jester.
Hamlet: Yorick? You're kidding. Really?
Gravedigger: Oh, I'm dead serious. It was Yorick. Tee hee. Get it? Dead serious?
Hamlet: Let me see. [Takes the skull.] Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio. He was such a funny guy. Always had a joke. He gave me lots of piggy-back rides. But now it makes me sick to think that this yucky skull was inside his head all that time. It makes me want to puke. Here was where his lips were. The lips that used to kiss me as a father would. Where are all your jokes now? Your songs? You could have the whole table rolling in laughter in five seconds flat. But no jokes now, although you look like you're smiling. Eew, look, your jaw is falling off. Now go to Mom's bedroom and tell her that no matter how much makeup she wears, she's going to die someday and end up looking icky like you. See if she laughs at that. Hey, Horatio, tell me something.
Horatio: What?
Hamlet: Do you think that Alexander the Great looked like this after he decomposed?
Horatio: I imagine so, yes.
Hamlet: And did he reek like this? PEW! [Puts down the skull.]
Horatio: Probably.
Hamlet: What a shame that we have to turn into such simple, yucky things when we die, Horatio! When you think about it, I bet Alexander the Great's dust eventually became a cork in a wine barrel or something equally useless.
Horatio: I never thought about it, but I suppose it might have happened.
Hamlet: It's rather logical, really. Alexander died, was buried, and decomposed into dust. Dust is like dirt, and we make corks and barrel stoppers from dirt. So it makes sense that Alexander's remains are now part of the stopper in a beer barrel. It's almost poetic. "Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay, might stop a hole to keep the wind away. O, that the earth which kept the world in awe should patch a wall to expel the winter's flaw!" Uh oh. Ssh. Here comes the king! Hide!
[Enter King, Queen, Laertes, a coffin with pallbearers and a Priest]
Hamlet: Mom? And all the others. But who's in the coffin? Such little ceremony...almost as if it was a suicide. But it must have been someone very important. Ssh, Horatio, let's hide over here and listen.
[Horatio and Hamlet hide.]
Laertes: What's next?
Hamlet: That's Laertes. Great guy.
Laertes: Isn't there more to the ceremony?
Priest: Don't push it. This funeral is already more than we would normally give for someone who killed herself. The only reason we're burying her in the churchyard is the King's direct order. By all rights, she should be cursed, but she's getting a real funeral, so enjoy it.
Laertes: But isn't there something else you can do?
Priest: No. It's bad enough she's being buried alongside people who had honorable deaths.
Laertes: Oh, all right. Lay her in the earth, and I hope violets grow up from her beautiful young body. And you see here, Mr. Priest, my sister will be serving as an angel in heaven while you roast in Hell. So there. Nyah.
Hamlet: What? His sister...Ophelia?! Ophelia, dead?
Queen: Farewell, sweet young lady. [Scatters flowers.] I had hoped you would marry my Hamlet. I thought I'd be decorating you honeymoon suite, not your grave.
Laertes: For every ounce of woe we feel, may ten times that much misery fall on the jerk whose wicked deed drove Ophelia crazy! Wait, don't bury her yet. I want to hug her one last time. [Laertes leaps in the grave and hugs his sister's shroud-wrapped body.]  All right.  Now you can pile a mountain of dirt on top of her taller than Mount Olympus, if you want to.
Hamlet: [Comes forward.] Who are you to grieve harder than I, who loved her?  I, Hamlet the Dane, have returned. [Hamlet leaps into the open grave with Laertes.]
Laertes: Go to Hell, Hamlet!
[They fight.]
Hamlet: You're not being very smart about this.  I demand you remove your fingers from my throat immediately.  I'm crazy, remember?  I might totally snap and kill you with my bare hands!  Now let go!
King: Pull them apart.
Queen: Hamlet! Oh, dear Hamlet!
All: Guys!  Cut it out!
Horatio: Please, gentlemen.  Calm down!.
[The Attendants part them, and they come out of the grave.]
Hamlet: I'd fight over this issue until the death.
Queen: Oh, my son, what issue is that?
Hamlet: I loved Ophelia.  I loved her more than 40,000 brothers ever could.  What will you do for her, Laertes, you scumball?
King: Don't pay any attention to him, Laertes.  He's lost his marbles.
Queen: Please, for God's sake, just try to put up with him.  He doesn't know what he's saying!
Hamlet: Come on, pretty boy, what would you do for her?  Cry?  Fight?  Starve yourself?  Get drunk?  Eat a crocodile? I'll do anything you would do.  Did you come here to whine?  To act all noble by leaping in her grave?  You can stay in that grave, for all I care!  Go on, milksop!  Yell at me.  I can fight just as well as you can.
Queen: He's just crazy, that's all.  He's all mad now, but later he'll have forgotten all about it.
Hamlet: Hey, you!  Yeah, Laertes, I'm talking to you!  Why do you walk all over me?  I never did anything to you.  Oh well.  Never mind.  Destiny is unstoppable.  The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.  [Exit Hamlet.]
King: Please, Horatio, go see if he's all right.
[Exit Horatio.]
King: [To Laertes]. I know it's hard not to bash his face in, but remember what we talked about last night.  We'll go ahead with our plan right away.  Now then, Gertrude, dear, go watch over your son.  Laertes wants to stay at the grave for a while yet.  I'll come find you in an hour or so, and then we can figure out what to do about Hamlet.