Hamlet and the Gravediggers by Pascal Adolphe Dagnan-Bouveret (1883)
This piece of artwork is meant to illustrate the scene where Hamlet and Horatio encounter a gravedigger who happens to be digging up the body of Hamlet’s old jester friend (yep, that’s his head).
Let me see. (takes the skull) Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.—Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.
What I liked most about this painting was not only how it depicted the attitudes of the character but the eeriness of this particular scene. The background is obscured with fog as though symbolizing the foreshadowing of death and uncertainty. The colors (slightly darker and thicker in shade) also help in setting the mood. The gravedigger is pretty creepy with his long body, point chin, and hollowed in eyes. Furthermore, the illustration of Hamlet is complex in itself. The solemness of his face and lifted hand seem to relay his anguish and imploring of life’s purposes. One aspect that I found particularly interesting, however, was the fact that Hamlet is holding the skull with a handkerchief. The handkerchief places the focus on the skull and reminds the viewers of one of Hamlet’s barriers (trying to cope with conflicts and misfortunes that he had not experienced because of his royal upbringing that shielded any troubles).