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Saturday, 15 March 2008 Tom Stoppard - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
by Defer Christine Rains lingsbookselection.blogspot.com . March 2008
This brilliant piece of tragicomical theatre play picks up on two secondary characters to be found in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Hamlet becomes a secondary character within this play and the secondary characters gain main character status.
The perspective now is from the other side, that of two reputed evil-doers in Shakespeare's original Hamlet version. In Stoppard's play, these two have no clue about the Kings' motives nor do they understand Hamlet's motives. Instead they find themselves trapped in not knowing what is going to happen next and no-one introduces them ever into the core of the conflicts that are arising outside their ability to realize. Unelucidated, they drift further and further towards their own demise, Hamlet transfigures into a person with big personality problems.
Amusingly, Stoppard depicts off and on how Ros and Guil notice that something is foul around them, explaining to them within the play via the character of the Player (who can also be found as the Fool or Jester in other sources) to be feeling how "somebody" is watching whilst realizing that whoever is watching has caught sight of them before they could ever catch sight of themselves. The Player knows these things, yet, he adds to their confusion by only ever giving them hints that can be interpreted individually but don't contain any real info about who actually watches them - the audience of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead contains a very clear teaching of what would happen if one knew already one's entire unchangeable life path. The cleverly written play thus points at the ridiculousness of Destiny itself. Taking Shakespeare's Hamlet as the predestining play, Ros and Guil in Stoppard's re-run are already doomed, as their story is already written, and little they can do to change the end event - treason and death. The reader knows how it is going to be and is left entrappingly worrying for Ros and Guil. As they appear all too human with lovable quirky characters, one figures that, hopefully they will find mercy in the end anyway but of course there is no "Beyond" in this case. Hope is completely diminished. The story is already written - by Shakespeare.
This hope of the reader is played with effectively by showing the reader's hope through Ros and Guil's interaction with each other. This creates the situation that all the hope is left and trapped inside the characters, not acting as a freeing agent and thus being a worthless quantity in the scheme of things. Ultimately, for Ros and Guil for the reader, there is no hope. This is the very core of the tragicomedy, leaving the reader feeling as the powerless voyeur who has to take on the Destiny of the two never-to-become-heroes characters as a given this way, with no option for even a glimpse of change. Yet with the knowledge how the world that Ros and Guil find themselves in is not chaotic and coincidental as it appears to them as they only have bits and pieces of information about the events around them. To them it seems all chaotic and perplexing. To the reader, their proceeding appears as a logical necessity, having all the rest of information at hand and thus overlooking the causal interconnections.
Thus Stoppard puts the reader into the putative all-knowing mind role for the timespan of the play and manages to project a very real human fear onto Ros and Guil. At the same time, it brings to the forefront the consciousness of what hope actually is, i.e. glimpses of "Beyond".
© copyright 2008 D. C. Rains http://lingsbookselection.blogspot.com/2008/03/tom-stoppard-rosencrantz-and.html
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