Essay about Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
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Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a humorous piece of self-reflexive theater that draws upon Shakespeare's Hamlet as the source of the story. The actual device of self-reflexive theater is used so well in Stoppard's play that it reads like the love child of a play and a compelling critical essay. The play is academic yet conversationally phrased and it deepens our understanding of the original play but also criticizes it. The aspect of self-reflexive theater is used to comment on theater itself but also as a presentation of ideas and analysis that had previously had no place on the plot-centric set-up of stage and audience. The essay Rosencrantz and…show more content…
They go through the key plot points of Hamlet culminating in this noteworthy exchange: ROS. To sum up: your father, whom you love, dies, you are his heir, you come back to find that hardly was the corpse cold before his young brother popped onto the throne and into his sheets, thereby offending both legal and natural practice. Now why exactly are you behaving in this extraordinary manner? GUIL. I can't imagine!
Stoppard is commentating on Shakespeare's writing, by portraying onstage the ignorance that is required of the characters for the original plot of Hamlet to work. The "meat" of the scene isn't to insult the duo, but for the critically-inclined audience to analyze the sort of logical leaps we take in order to participate in a narrative. The traditional outlet for such observations were academic journals and essays but Stoppard is exhibits these ideas onstage for a mass audience. The Player exemplifies my point (bloated and wriggling as it is) of the unique "space" that Stoppard is trying to occupy with the play. The Player is at once detached and involved in the happenings onstage (textual evidence? How about on page 25 when Guildenstern and the Player discuss fate. Guildenstern asks "Yours [fate] or ours?" The Player answers "It could hardly be one without the other"). The Player, in my opinion, diffuses
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was Tom Stoppard’s first professionally produced theatrical work, and it catapulted him immediately into the front ranks of the theater’s leading modern playwrights. The play received numerous theatrical awards and garnered great critical acclaim, with Clive Barnes of The New York Times terming it “. . . a most remarkable and thrilling play. . . . Very funny, very brilliant, very chilling.”
The play also established the style and themes that would characterize Stoppard’s subsequent work. The witty verbal exchanges and love of wordplay that occur throughout the play have become Stoppard’s trademarks and are present in such later works as Jumpers (pr., pb. 1972), Travesties (pr. 1974) and The Real Thing (pr., pb. 1982), although the latter adopts a far more conventional structure and theme than is typical of Stoppard’s plays. The incorporation of classic works and famous figures—both real and fictional—has also featured prominently in his later works, with Jumpers exploring philosophy and Travesties setting Vladimir Ilich Lenin, James Joyce, and Dadaist artist Tristan Tzara against a backdrop of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
Travesties is only one of the plays that has displayed Stoppard’s continuing fascination with the theater. The Real Thing centers on the affair between an actress and a playwright, while The Real Inspector Hound (pr., pb. 1968) spoofs the tradition of the English country house murder mystery. The play’s ties to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead are strong, building as it does on the earlier work’s idea of characters caught in a play against their will with a story concerning two critics who are drawn into the action of the play they are reviewing.
Stoppard’s reputation as a playwright has continued to grow over the years, yet Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead still remains among his two or three finest and most important plays. In it lie the roots of its author’s future works and the world’s first view of a gifted and inventive theatrical voice.