Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead versus Hamlet

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, written in the 1960s by playwright Tom Stoppard, is a transforation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Stoppard effectively relocates Shakespeare’s play to the 1960s by reassessing and revaluating the themes and characters of Hamlet and considering core values and attitudes of the 1960s- a time significantly different to that of Shakespeare. He relies on the audience’s already established knowledge of Hamlet and transforms a revenge tragedy into an Absurd drama, which shifts the focus from royalty to common man. Within Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Stoppard uses a play within a play to blur the line that defines reality, and in doing so creates confusion both onstage- with his characters, and offstage- with the audience. Using these techniques, Stoppard is able make a statement about his society, creating a play that reflected the attitudes and circumstances of the 1960s, therefore making it more relevant and relatable to the audiences of that time.

The transformation of a Shakespearean Revenge Tragedy into an Absurd Drama means a considerable change in structure from a well-structured and rigid format, into a chaotic and formless play. Stoppard deliberately alters the configuration of the play to create a confusing atmosphere, which creates the exact feeling of society in the 1960s- no definites or certainties to rely on. Language portrays meaning in both plays- the language of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead differs to that of Hamlet. Stoppard employs meaningless colloquial exchanges, such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s question game, which strongly contrasts to Shakespearean elaborate and poetic verse, as seen throughout the play, especially in Hamlet’s soliloquies- “There is sp...

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...relies on this basis, to establish a greater awareness and comprehension of 1960s society. Without this assumed knowledge of Hamlet, one cannot truly appreciate Stoppard’s play, which informs society about their nature and shortcomings.

Tom Stoppard is able to make clear statements about the society that has influenced him to create Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. He essentially takes elements of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and transforms them to make a judgement on society. By shifting the focus of his play to common man, he is able to convey values that are relevant to the 1960s. He develops characters that allow audiences to gain a new perspective on Shakespeare’s play and acquire a more informed perception of themselves. Stoppard makes a statement about 1960s society’s lack of direction and pleads viewers to take an active role in improving their own situation.
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