Comparing the Human Condition in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Waiting for Godot

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Comparing the Human Condition in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Waiting for Godot Inspired by Beckett’s literary style, particularly in ‘Waiting for Godot’, Stoppard wrote ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’. As a result of this, many comparisons can be drawn between these two plays. Stoppard’s writing was also influenced by Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as minor characters exist within Shakespeare’s world providing Stoppard with his protagonists. However, the play is not an attempt to rewrite ‘Waiting for Godot’ in a framework of Shakespeare’s drama. In studying these texts, the reader is provoked into analysing, comparing and contrasting them. In particular the characters in ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ provide intriguing material to consider the human condition. The characters, their personality traits and responses to stimuli, as well as what directs and motivates them, is worthy of discussion. Stoppard gives Rosencrantz and Guildenstern an existence outside ‘Hamlet’, although it is one of little significance and they idle away their time only having a purpose to their lives when the play rejoins the ‘Hamlet’ plot, after they have been called by the King’s messenger: “There was a messenger...that’s right. We were sent for.” Their lives end tragically due to this connection with ‘Hamlet’, predetermined by the title, but the role provided them with a purpose to their otherwise futile lives, making them bearable. Their deaths evoke sadness and sympathy leaving the reader grieving for them. In contrast to Stoppard’s play ‘Waiting for Godot’ is much bleaker in the respect that Vladimir and Estragon seem to have no purpose or direction in their lives. Their only hope rests on the mysterious Godot who never comes, however they do remain alive at the end. This leads the reader to question which pair of characters are the most unfortunate. Rosencrantz and Guildensten may not have been saved from death but they have been saved from the futility of life which Vladimir and Estragon exclaim: “We can’t go on like this” yet ironically they are left to do so. In ‘Waiting for Godot’, we know little concerning the protagonists, indeed from their comments they appear to know little about themselves and seem bewildered and confused as to the extent of their existence. Their situation is obscure and Vladimir and Estragon spend the day (representative of their lives) waiting for the mysterious Godot, interacting with each other with quick and short speech.

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