Characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in two Shakespeare Works

Characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in two Shakespeare Works

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In literature, minor characters are constantly used to shed a brighter light on the storylines surrounding them. In the case of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, both Stoppard and Shakespeare use them to stimulate the plot and enhance the understanding of their pieces. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do this by being the catalysts that move the plot, providing additional perspective to protagonists so that the reader more fully understands the author’s message.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are both actively used throughout the pieces Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Hamlet as tools which are used to boost the understanding of their similar storylines and enhance the perspectives of the major characters. In both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Hamlet, King Claudius summons both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Wittenberg so that they can learn the reasons for Hamlet’s strange behavior (Stoppard/Shakespeare). In doing so, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern provide the King with little information of Hamlet’s insanity and forces Claudius to conclude that the death of Hamlet is imperative to his success as King (Stoppard/Shakespeare). In this situation, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a medium that provide a deeper insight for Claudius into Hamlet’s character; however, this only adds to Hamlet’s façade of insanity by providing another source that can only help Claudius conclude that Hamlet has gone mad. This equal act of manipulation by both Claudius and Hamlet allows the rivals to have a greater understanding into each other’s character; a conclusion that could not be made without the medium of information that is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Therefore, the correlation is made that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the tools that provided a greater perspective into the thoughts of the protagonists.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are essential to the comprehension of their author’s literary messages. Tom Stoppard’s piece, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, is understood as an interpretation that is used to criticize or question the value Hamlet. Stoppard conveys this message through the weakness of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern reduce themselves to conscienceless pawns of the King, by disconcerting the fate of themselves and their friend Hamlet and the order for him to be killed (Stoppard). In this process they also reveal the plans to Hamlet, who in turn changes the messages so that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are targeted for execution (Stoppard). These actions are exaggerated from Hamlet by Stoppard to show the idea that no two real people could be so definitively pawn-like that they would not care for their own well being and that it may be in jeopardy.

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These ridiculous and unrealistic traits manifest themselves into characters that are absurd in contrast to Hamlet as a whole. Stoppard uses this as his message to question whether or not Hamlet should be considered such an iconic piece, while such an absurdity is prevalent. Although the messages are different, Shakespeare also uses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as conveyors for his own themes. Shakespeare uses them to illuminate his message of appearance vs. reality. Throughout Hamlet, the sole purpose of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is to serve the King, while they try to deceive Hamlet that they are serving him. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern create the pretense that they are concerned for the well being of Hamlet, where in reality, they are trying to discover the nature of Hamlet’s behaviour for the King (Shakespeare). This trend continues as they are used by the King to courier Hamlet to his death, where they are meant to be believed as guards of safe passage (Shakespeare). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are projected as saviors to Hamlet, where in reality they are meant to be connected to his demise. The two become a personification of appearance vs. reality, helping Shakespeare clearly exemplify his message within the text.

Both Stoppard and Shakespeare use Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as messengers of humanity, under chaos, incomprehensibility and lack of certainty. Stoppard presents Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as a symbol for humanity, as their names are confused in a way that they have no definite identity and no clear separation from humanity (Stoppard). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unable to comprehend the world around them, illustrated by many of Rosencrantz’s scientific discoveries, none of them being completely understood (Stoppard). The sense of being lost in the world around them is created though their many wanderings through the castle, where at times appear to be circular and counter-productive (Stoppard). These responses act as an effect upon them as a result of a chaotic world around them. Without realizing the parallel of their own lives to that of the play within the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern maintain their state of bewilderment up to the point of their deaths (Stoppard). This acts a metaphor to humanity, where without understanding, death can be the only result. In the same way, Shakespeare uses this concept in regards to his death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Due to the tampering of the letters by Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are sent to death in England (Shakespeare). Because Rosencrantz and Guildenstern did not have any certainty what the letters contained, they could not prepare themselves for any attempts of Hamlet to change the objective of the letters. Therefore, Shakespeare uses the death Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as symbolic evidence that demonstrates the end result of a lack of certainty and knowledge in chaos and violence.

In conclusion, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a consistent means of delivering the literary messages of Stoppard and Shakespeare. Through the stimulation of the plot and the strengthened understanding of themes and character, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are proven to be minor characters that had major impacts on the works that they were incorporated into.
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