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What is the significance of Hamlet’s contemplation of Yorick, a court jester he knew well in his youth?
He recognizes that, although Yorick was entertaining and profoundly funny while alive, death has rendered him humorless; there is nothing funny about death.
He is stunned that someone who was once so alive could so permanently cease to exist, and this realization forces Hamlet’s consciousness of his own mortality.
He regrets that Yorick did not receive more recognition while alive and realizes that one must do something of great significance to be acknowledged while still living.
He feels melancholy that Yorick is nothing but a nondescript skull and suddenly feels determined that he must do something of distinction to be remembered after death.
He remembers the devastation he felt as a child after Yorick’s death and decides that he will not cause the death another person, regardless of how badly he wants to kill Claudius.