Gravedigger’s scene from Hamlet, Shakespeare
How long will a man lie i’ the earth ere he rot?
I’ faith, if he be not rotten before he die–as we
have many pocky corses now-a-days, that will scarce
hold the laying in–he will last you some eight year
or nine year: a tanner will last you nine year.
Why he more than another?
Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade, that
he will keep out water a great while; and your water
is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body.
Here’s a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth
three and twenty years.
Whose was it?
A whoreson mad fellow’s it was: whose do you think it was?
Nay, I know not.
A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a’ poured a
flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull,
sir, was Yorick’s skull, the king’s jester.
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 rims 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 chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell
me one thing.
What’s that, my lord?
Dost thou think Alexander looked o’ this fashion i’
And smelt so? pah!
(Puts down the skull)
E’en so, my lord.
To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may
not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander,
till he find it stopping a bung-hole?
‘Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.
No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with
modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as
thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he
was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:
O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw! …