Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Tom Stoppard (1966)


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, often referred to as just Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is an absurdist, existential tragicomedy by Tom Stoppard, first staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1966. The play expands upon the exploits of two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The main setting is Denmark. The action of Stoppard’s play takes place mainly ‘in the wings’ of Shakespeare’s, with brief appearances of major characters from Hamlet who enact fragments of the original’s scenes. Between these episodes the two protagonists voice their confusion at the progress of events occurring onstage without them in Hamlet, of which they have no direct knowledge. Comparisons have also been drawn with Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot, for the presence of two central characters who almost appear to be two halves of a single character. Many plot features are similar as well: the characters pass time by playing Questions, impersonating other characters, and interrupting each other or remaining silent for long periods of time. … Absurdity. Stoppard emphasizes the randomness of the world. In the beginning of Act One, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bet on coin flips and Rosencrantz wins with heads ninety-two times in a row. Guildenstern creates a series of syllogisms in order to interpret this phenomenon, but nothing truly coincides with probability theory. Art vs. Reality. The players help demonstrate the conflict between art and reality. The world in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern live lacks order. However, art allows people that live in this world. As the Player says, ‘There’s a design at work in all art.’ Art and the real world are in conflict. In order to reach out to the only reality he can be sure of, Guildenstern exclaims, ‘No one gets up after death-there is no applause-there is only silence and some second-hand clothes, and that’s death.’ Stoppard also uses his characters to comment on the believability of theatre. While Guildenstern criticises the Player for his portrayal of death, he believes the Player’s performance when Guildenstern thinks he has stabbed him with a knife. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern believe exactly what the actors want them to believe. Metatheatre is a central structural element of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Scenes that are staged as plays, dumb shows, or commentaries on dramatic theory and practice, are prominent in both Stoppard’s play and Shakespeare’s original tragedy Hamlet. …”
Wikipedia
Independent – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: 50 years on, Tom Stoppard’s play returns to the theatre where it made its name
amazon
[PDF] Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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