In Act V, Scene I, of Hamlet, two grave diggers enter and discuss the inquest into the death of Ophelia that was called to decide whether her death was accidental or suicide. One gravedigger
remarks that she will have a Christian burial because she is a gentle woman. While the other gravedigger goes to find a pitcher of liquor, Hamlet and Horatio enter. Hamlet is shocked to hear the gravedigger do his job with such a lack o feeling as he digs and sings snippets of ballads. When the Prince questions the gravedigger, his replies are so equivocal that Hamlet becomes annoyed with his rudeness. The grave diggers are introduced to relieve the audience from the tragic tension of the play. The technique is known as ‘comic or dramatic relief’. Through these gravediggers Shakespeare conveys some generalizations also. There is a common saying that there is one law for the poor and another for the rich. This is found in giving a Christian burial to Ophelia, who is supposed to have committed suicide. At the same time the digger’s jovial conversation while digging a grave without the sense of solemnity shows that the familiarity of a task robs the job of its gruesome aspects. On another level, it shows how they have, in a sense, come to terms with death.