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Yorick is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. He is the dead court jester whose skull is exhumed by the gravedigger in Act 5, Scene 1, of the play. The sight of Yorick's skull evokes a monologue from Prince Hamlet on the vile effects of death: 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 rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed 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? The opening words are very commonly misquoted as "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well." It has often been suggested that Shakespeare intended his audience to connect Yorick with the Elizabethan comedian Richard Tarlton, a star performer of the pre-Shakespearian stage, who had been dead for around the same time as Yorick in the play.
The Nuttall Encyclopedia
a jester at the court of Denmark, whose skull Hamlet apostrophises in the churchyard; also a sinister jester in "Tristram Shandy."
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