The Tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare Essay

The Tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare Essay

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The dramatic presentation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead adapts the formal revenge tragedy of Hamlet to a more contemporary Absurdist black comedy. Resounding with the original through its intertextual allusion, yet maintaining integrity as a separate text, the play illustrates Stoppard’s Post-modern existentialist context. This recognises that the 20th century absurdist audience no longer hold Elizabethan beliefs. Scenes are extracted from the Shakespearean Hamlet and reproduced for the contemporary context, relevant to the 1960s – described simply as: “we do onstage the things that happen off”. In this alternative world, Hamlet’s tragic hero status is marginalised, “the exterior and inward man fails to resemble”, while his rationality diminishes in Stoppard’s removal of the soliloquy scenes. The Stoppardian response sees Hamlet at the pinnacle of hysteria, “half of what he said meant something else”. In simple comic inversion, an irreverent mood is established, endemic to the 60s satire boom which deflated authority figures – the medium of revenge tragedy is recreated into farce.

Stoppard illustrates the Post-modern existentialist context, setting RAGAD on the periphery of Hamlet. Foregrounding two minion characters signifies individualism in the face of capitalist society, and weakening religion and morality. Stoppard recontexutalises R&G into bewildered innocents, creating meaning for Stoppardian audiences, mirroring man’s subsequent uncertainty and volatility. Stoppard utilises Absurdist theatre, similar to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot that depicts this disillusioned world “lacking visible character”, as R&G “exist” under absurd circumstances that recurringly defies logic. Existence becomes trivial through slapstic...


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...your heads”. The theatrical references of the “play within plays” device; implicitly raises questions over truth as ultimately inexplicable. The conventions of the traditional Shakespearean stage are repeatedly parodied, with the Player’s recognition of his role, “We’re actors. We’ve pledged our identities…that someone would be watching”. In a time of obscurity and political censorship, this urges the Stoppardian audience to question their very own realities. “I could jump over the side. That will put a spoke in their wheel”.

With the persistent references to Shakespeare’s play, RAGAD addresses the new philosophical attitudes towards Hamlet and its society. Indeed, the new interpretation of Hamlet’s themes holds literary significance to the modern audience. In effect, the Stoppardian version presents a 20th century response to Shakespeare’s 16th century Hamlet.



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