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A Hamlet timeline - chronicle of events

Claudius - planning my foul murder

King Hamlet's funeral - where was Hamlet?

Gertrude & Claudius - adultery or not?

Horatio - Hamlet's friend?

Hamlet feigns madness - protective "cover"

Polonius - the evil that men do

Ophelia's love? - did she love Hamlet?

Ophelia closetted - Polonius on love

      O help xxx ....... - Olivier's version

Ophelia's change - is Hamlet suspicious?

Is Hamlet mad? - Polonius's opinion

Horatio - is he passion's slave?

Hamlet kills Polonius - stabs the "Voice"

Laertes on Ophelia - madness & death

Ophelia's death - a recipe

Yorick - something rotting in Denmark

Hamlet's age - digging up the past

Betting on Hamlet - the fencing match

Hamlet fencing skill - better than Laertes

Yorick — something rotting in the state of Denmark

O, a pit of clay for to be made

When the gravedigger (Clown) has to dig a grave for Ophelia he does not dig it in new earth but chooses to open Yorick's grave. As well as Yorick, two other bodies are buried in this grave. There must be a reason for this practice. Contemplating the history of this grave may explain why the skull, said to be Yorick's, still smells.

The gravedigger is smart when it comes to digging graves. It is hard work to dig damp, clay earth that has never been dug before and so he only digs it out to a depth of about 18 inches. Occasionally he has to dig a deeper grave but he is smart about that, too. Firstly, he finds a grave that is eight or more years old. It needs to be at least eight years because that is how long it takes a body to rot.

Hamlet: How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot?
Clown: — he will last you some eight year or nine year:

Because the soil has previously been dug out it is easy work to dig the grave down to its original depth - including throwing out the skeleton. He then needs to dig into the hard earth but again, only to a depth of 18 inches. The new body is then buried and then the old skeleton is thrown into the grave and reburied. Every eight years he can return to the original grave and dig down another 18 inches.

Yorick's grave
Yorick was buried 23 years ago.

Clown: Here's a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth three and twenty years.

first new body
8 years later, ie, 15 years ago, a new body needed to be buried. Yorick's grave was opened and his skeleton thrown out.


The new body was buried and then Yorick was tossed in and reburied.
second new body
8 years later, ie, 7 years ago, another body needed to be buried. Yorick's grave was opened again and his skeleton thrown out. Then the other skeleton was thrown out.

After the new body was buried, the process was reversed, the second skeleton was thrown in and buried and then Yorick was tossed in and reburied.

When Ophelia died, Yorick's grave was reopened once again and his skeleton thrown out

Clown: [Sings.]
But age, with his stealing steps,
Hath claw'd me in his clutch,
And hath shipp'd me intil the land,
As if I had never been such.
[Throws up a skull.]

and then the second skeleton was thrown out

O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.
[Throws up another skull].
Hamlet: There's another: why may not that be the skull of a lawyer?

and finally the third skeleton.

Clown: Here's a skull now; this skull hath lain in the earth three-and-twenty years.
Hamlet: Whose was it?
Clown: A whoreson, mad fellow's it was: whose do you think it was?
Hamlet: Nay, I know not.
Clown: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! 'a pour'd a flagon of Rhenish on my head once.
This same skull, sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester.
Hamlet: This?
Clown: E'en that.
Hamlet: Let me see. [Takes the skull.] Alas, poor Yorick! - I knew him, Horatio.

Hamlet: ................ Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.
Horatio; What's that, my lord?
Hamlet: Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i' th' earth?
Horatio: E'en so.
Hamlet: And smelt so? pah!
[Puts down the skull].
Horatio: E'en so, my lord.

Ophelia buried
This last skeleton has only been in the ground 7 years and therefore has not finished rotting! It lies on the top of the heap and it is the skull of this skeleton, and not Yorick's skull, that Hamlet picks up and is revolted by the stench of its rotting flesh.

So, the skull
thought to be
Yorick's skull
is not Yorick's!

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