Hamlet

Yorick's Skull Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Yorick's Skull Symbol Icon
Hamlet is not a very symbolic play. In fact, the only object that one can easily pick out as a symbol in the play is the skull of Yorick, a former court jester, which Hamlet finds with Horatio in the graveyard near Elsinore in Act 5, scene 1. As Hamlet picks up the skull and both talks to the deceased Yorick and to Horatio about the skull, it becomes clear that the skull represents the inevitability of death. But what is perhaps most interesting about the skull as a symbol is that, while in most plays, a symbol means one thing to the audience and another to the characters in the novel or play, in Hamlet it is Hamlet himself who recognizes and explains the symbolism of Yorick's skull. Even this symbol serves to emphasize Hamlet's power as a character: he is as sophisticated as his audience.

Yorick's Skull Quotes in Hamlet

The Hamlet quotes below all refer to the symbol of Yorick's Skull. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Action and Inaction Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Hamlet published in 1992.
Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Alas! poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest.... Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?
Related Characters: Hamlet (speaker), Horatio, Yorick
Related Symbols: Yorick's Skull
Page Number: 5.1.190-198
Explanation and Analysis:

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