28 Covers (and 1 Movie Poster) Featuring a Comic Character in the Classic Hamlet Pose
“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 kiss’d 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?”
– Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 1
Yorick, as us English major nerds know, is the court jester whose skull Hamlet picks up in the famous graveyard scene. Being the melancholic sot that he is, Hamlet focuses on Yorick’s present state, noting the stark contrast between the lively fool that he once was and his current inert form — the point being (as Hamlet sees it) that death is coming for us all and everything we do in life is inconsequential compared to that inevitable fact so what’s the point of whining about what we do (even though he’s the most famous character in literature re: dithering about choices).
However, what Hamlet misses is that Yorick is remembered by Hamlet precisely because he chose to be a fool, because he chose to engage with Hamlet’s younger self, because he chose to be a source of merriment in spite of the fact that it would have been just as easy for him to do none of that and simply wait for the inevitable. Death may come for us all, but Yorick lives on in Hamlet’s memories because of the choices he made, and it’s those choices that define and differentiate us as human beings, not our shared mortality.
TL;DR version: If you gotta go, go with a smile. Also, holding up skulls is bitchin’ cool, man…