Hamlet

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 5 Scene 1

page Act 5 Scene 1 Page 5

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GRAVEDIGGER

(sings)
A pickax and a spade, a spade,
  For and a shrouding sheet,
Oh, a pit of clay for to be made
  For such a guest is meet.
(throws up another skull)

GRAVEDIGGER

(sings)
A pickax and a shovel, a shovel,
  And a sheet for a funeral shroud,
Oh, a pit of dirt is what we need
  For a guest like this one here.
(he throws up another skull)

HAMLET

There’s another. Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in ’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries. Is this the fine of his fines and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? Will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box, and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?

HAMLET

There’s another. Could that be a lawyer’s skull? Where’s all his razzle-dazzle legal jargon now? Why does he allow this idiot to knock him on the head with a dirty shovel, instead of suing him for assault and battery? Maybe this guy was once a great landowner, with his deeds and contracts, his tax shelters and his annuities. Is it part of his deed of ownership to have his skull filled up with dirt? Does he only get to keep as much land as a set of contracts would cover if you spread them out on the ground? The deeds to his properties would barely fit in this coffin—and the coffin’s all the property he gets to keep?

HORATIO

Not a jot more, my lord.

HORATIO

No more than that, my lord.

HAMLET

Is not parchment made of sheepskins?

HAMLET

Isn’t the parchment of a legal document made of sheepskin?

HORATIO

Ay, my lord, and of calfskins too.

HORATIO

Yes, my lord, and calfskin too.

HAMLET

100They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that.
I will speak to this fellow.—Whose grave’s this, sirrah?

HAMLET

Anyone who puts his trust in such documents is a sheep or a calf. I’ll talk to this guy.—Excuse me, sir, whose grave is this?

GRAVEDIGGER

Mine, sir.
(sings)

GRAVEDIGGER

It’s mine, sir.