Now we say gravedigger. This scene is often referred to as the gravedigger scene – the characters Gravedigger 1 and 2.
But a gravedigger was once called a gravemaker. Every instance of the profession here is a gravemaker. It feels, too, as though in transforming from gravemaker to gravedigger, the job has lost a bit of status. One who makes is more respected than one who digs. There is a sense of craft in a maker – a digger is almost a machine.
Even though the action is essentially the same – a grave is made by digging after all – gravemaking seems a much more solemn activity than gravedigging. There may be a sense of the sacred in a gravemaker – a sanctification of the earth, a tending to the space. Even in the jokes these gravemakers bandy back and forth there is a sense of a grave as a house, a home for someone, built to last.
When did we move from gravemakers to gravediggers? And why?