Free Essays - The Fools of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

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At first glance, one might believe that the only things Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead has in common with William Shakespeare's Hamlet are Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the segments of Hamlet Stoppard pasted in his play. Looking more closely, however, one would observe that the most extreme absurdities of Stoppard's play are derived from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Particulars of Stoppard's play that might at first be considered simply ridiculous improbabilities (such as the fact that they cannot remember their own names, and the acceptance which with they view their own deaths) later surface as mockery of disturbing details in Hamlet. The most notable derivation from Shakespeare's Hamlet that Stoppard imparts to his play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, is the lack of identity both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern share. In Hamlet, these characters are identified solely as Hamlet's childhood friends, are interchangeable with respect to characterization, and it is left unclear as to whether they were aware of the fact that they were sending Hamlet to his death. In Stoppard's play, Rosencrantz introduces himself and his friend by saying, "My name is Guildenstern, and this is Rosencrantz." The lack of definition between the characters continues to such an extent that the reader has difficulty differentiating between the two. Stoppard's emphasis upon this lack of characterization seems to state that these deaths, meaningless to Hamlet, should have been allowed to signify something to the audience (in regard to Hamlet's character). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern might at least have been more clearly delineated in their intent, whether it was malicious or simply ignorant of the truth. Another detail of Shakespeare's Hamlet that Stoppard capitalizes on in his play is the unquestioning manner in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern accept directives from the king. In Hamlet, these two are summoned; they come. They are asked to delve into the life of a childhood friend with whom they have had no contact hor some time; they try.

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