In Hamlet, physical objects are rarely used to represent thematic ideas. One important exception is Yorick’s skull, which Hamlet discovers in the graveyard in the first scene of Act V. As Hamlet speaks to the skull and about the skull of the king’s former jester, he fixates on death’s inevitability and the disintegration of the body. He urges the skull to “get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come”—no one can avoid death (–179). He traces the skull’s mouth and says, “Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft,” indicating his fascination with the physical consequences of death (–175). This latter idea is an important motif throughout the play, as Hamlet frequently makes comments referring to every human body’s eventual decay, noting that Polonius will be eaten by worms, that even kings are eaten by worms, and that dust from the decayed body of Alexander the Great might be used to stop a hole in a beer barrel.
To one that simply reads the play and thinks nothing more about it, these women may seem trivial. However, those taking the time to think about Gertrude and Ophelia are rewarded with the knowledge that each of these characters is woven into a role that affects and motivates a main character. They are the characters that passive, as they may seem, actually spur the men in the play to further advance the play's central action. Clearly the roles Gertrude and Ophelia take on are a contribution to the terrible events that occur in Hamlet, making for a perfect dramatic tragedy.
Hamlet mocks Ophelia using this quote and commands her to go to a covenant (nunnery) rather than give birth to more sinners. In this scene Hamlet goes on to mock women and society in general for buying into the whole idea of marriage and true love. Hamlet insults Ophelia's father and argues that married men are fools and marriage should not exist. Hamlet accuses Ophelia and all of womankind for being decietful and unfaithful. Hamlet says this quote to Ophelia repeatedly during this scene, adding emphasis to the foolish idealistic nature of marriage.