Hamlet doesn’t just think about death or obsess about his own mortality. He is not at all the morbid type, a proto-vampire, a goth avant le lettre. He looks at Yorick’s skull and sees two separate truths, neither of which he can escape. Death casts a pall over the feast of life and death nourishes life. Does the skull mean we should abstain from the pleasure of the flesh? Or rather should the lesson of the skull be eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow we shall die? Hamlet is melancholy and jokey at the same time because he feels both these contradictory truths simultaneously.
The skulls in the food court at the mall have the same two-faced glamour. They adorn the everyday objects of urban and suburban America to give a pretense of depth, spreading a radiant materialism, a daring superficiality that recognizes death but nonetheless wants a new iPhone and Prada sunglasses and blue jeans in the latest style. Look around an Urban Outfitters: Shakespeare is current up to the second. He means now. Hamlet in the graveyard scene arrives at the decadent materialism of the mall, the flouting of the authenticity of death. Hamlet’s father haunts the ancient battlements of Elsinore. Hamlet haunts the food court.