The Comedy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

444 Words2 Pages
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play in three acts by Tom Stoppard, is a behind the scenes look at what happens in Shakespeare's Hamlet and how the events in the play may have seemed to other fringe characters. These characters are of very little relevance and even if they are removed from the scene of action, with the grotesque act of hanging by death, the impact on the actual play is minimal The play defies easy definition and various critics have labeled it variously as absurdist, existentialist, comical, burlesque, metaphorical or grim. The playwright on the other hand maintained that all through the creation of his work he strove to bring in the comic element and any tragedy that seems part of the play, may have crept in inadvertently and whenever it has been staged as a serious play, audience reaction to it has been cold. The business of a comedy is to raise laughter and lead to a happy conclusion, but in the modern context, comedy involves a perception of the irony that the audience is able to glean from the way in which the plot moves forward. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is such a modern comedy, where the mindless absurdities of the duo is understood by the audience while the persons in question are blissfully unaware of their tragic fate. The play, because of the absurdities contained in it, provide for the comic element and the protagonists engage in senseless pursuits without giving any rational thought to why they have been assigned to the task or what may be the outcome. To these absurd games, where they pose questions and provide answers to it themselves, sometimes as more questions, Stoppard brings a sense of inevitable. This inevitable is the death for which the men are destined. Language or the way in which words are used is one of the most important components of a comedy. Through an intelligent use of word play and the ability to add hidden meanings to comic dialogues, Stoppard keeps the play from falling into the dark abyss of the bleak realities of life as most absurdist works tend to. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as well as the other characters, are rescued from being mere buffoons due to the trouble their surrogate parent takes in investing them with the richness of language, which is the handiwork of the playwright, whose exquisite use of puns adds to the comic element in the play.
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