Taken from Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoddard

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William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is one of the most influential texts in western thought. Tom Stoppard took advantage of how widely known the play was and wrote his own play entitled, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, as a ploy off of the final lines of the play Hamlet. Stoppard’s play is “a play within a play” to some extent; he took two of Shakespeare’s flat characters and gave them life. The play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead follows the story of Hamlet’s friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in their journey through the play Hamlet. Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, displays many themes or messages, three of which being identity, motivation, and death.
Identity becomes a major theme in this play and can be drawn from the very first lines of Hamlet itself, “Who’s there?” During the play Hamlet and R&G Are Dead, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are continually mixed up, leaving the audience guessing who is who. Stoppard uses this to make us question our own identity, making us ask “What makes one themselves?” Is it their face? Or maybe their name? These two factors are what distinguish us from others around us and have since birth. But does one consider their identity to be what they look like or the name that they respond to? Some tend to think that the clothes they wear or the money in their bank account defines them as who they are. A different approach to thinking about one’s identity is to think about their DNA and history. However, can one be defined by someone who lived before them? Is who they are automatically who you are? The answer to the question “who are you” becomes more difficult the farther you look into it. If one only had a single thing to explain to another who they were, what...

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...ealizing their fate once they reach England, Guildenstern says, “No…no…not for us, not like that. Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over…Death is not anything…Death is not…It's the absence of presence, nothing more…the endless time of never coming back…a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound.”
Death, motivation, and identity are not only themes from R&G Are Dead, but can be considered themes in one’s own life. In one’s life, they tend to “go through the motions.” Very few people actually live their lives, but it’s hard to live a life that one doesn’t understand. Martin Luther King JR. said, “Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”