Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him, Horatio

Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet (1997)

This famous scene from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is perhaps one of my favourite scenes in Shakespeare. Hamlet, who having decided to avenge his father’s murder, still is yet to follow through with his plan though he has long since known who his father’s killer is. His undecisiveness is his tragic flaw and downfall.

In this scene he happens on a humble gravemaker who has dug up the skull of the old King’s jester, Yorick, who has been dead for twenty-three years. We then discover that Yorick was also Hamlet’s minder as a boy, whom he was obviously very fond of. I love this scene, because for a moment we glimse a clue as to perhaps why Hamlet is so reluctant to take the plunge and fulfil his father’s burden to him.

Yorick’s skull is in a sense a metaphor for Hamlet’s loss of innocence. Perhaps the reason Hamlet is so reluctant to do his duty as son to a murdered king, is that he never really let go of being a boy prince, having no responsibility all his life as his father was compitent enough to run the kingdom without him.

Watch this scene on YouTube, click here.


One thought on “Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him, Horatio

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