Poor Yorick

"Smile, and smile, and be a villain" (I.5.105-109)

Mine is the most recognizable skull in Western Literature. What a silly thing to brag. You have likely seen my innermost milk, yet you know little of me. I was momentarily held aloft by Prince Hamlet. He looked me in the eye- socket. Used me again for a momentary smirk. Then he tossed and rolled me like a browning apple core when he heard the flourish of fanfare.

Hamlet told my spotted skull that we are all the same in death. But Hamlet was wrong. How could he think it while my greying bones were being plucked and stacked haphazardly from my private rotting place by rude, unfunny men? If the laughter that I brought him was truly some happiness in Hamlet's childhood, then why was my grave unmarked and replanted so soon? If my shoulders were his first horse, then why was my modest resting place so unfinal and unfair? Even in death the privileged are privileged and the lowly are cast asunder. Hamlet's casket will be made of sterner stuff than dirt and rags, I assure you. His wrist bone will remain connected to his arm bone for millennia.

In life, I lived by the jape. Jokes and royals kept me fed and then made me dead. I dug at a humourless man. Then he dug my shallow grave. Claudius was a satyr. On this Hamlet did not err. Claudius was short, hairy, skulking, rude, and concerned with one thing. The day I taunted him was my last. His eyes for once alight like a hell-flame. As the villian killed me, slowly, he freely admitted that I was not his first nor would I be his last. "Practice makes perfect," he hummed. Yet even the killer King Claudius received a coffin and all his pieces remain respectfully organized in his false human shape beneath fine robes of silk.

We may all "shuffle off this mortal coil" (3.1.68), but the rich, famous, and infamous have a coil of another sort placed back around them while the poor masses are scattered in both earth and memory. And it is too late to put this Humpty Dumpty together again. So remember me instead. Be my Horatio. Speak of the poor in life and in death. No one heard me then. But hear me now, I plead. I have never been more serious.