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    Exploring theatrical intertextuality Essay

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    Investigating how the relationship between two texts, Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, are inextricably linked thematically and therefore the result of what is lost and what is gained in both dramas ; by discoursing how Stoppard translates his drama Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, from Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet.

    Stoppard ‘s technique of pull outing two minor characters from likely the most celebrated drama in literature ‘s history, crossroads, enables the audience to derive a alone and edifying position of these characters. The manner in which Stoppard deals with his drama, by researching many interesting subjects, presents the modern idealisms of motions such as existential philosophy and arguments such as free will versus determinism. By mentioning to Hamlet we are able to derive new penetration, as if skining off the beds of an onion to boundlessly seek concealed significances ; possibly a effect of our modern thought.

    Stoppard ‘s drama can be described as seeking for the significance of life and the certainty of decease, the links of which can be discussed within the context of existential philosophy. In brief, existential philosophy refers to “ a philosophy that concentrates on the being of the person, who, being free and responsible, is held to be what he makes himself by the self-development of his kernel through Acts of the Apostless of the will. ” ( OED 27/11/09 ) With existential philosophy “ opposing any absolutes and that pick is ever possible and when an single fulfils himself, he exists ; and that carry throughing can come merely through the torment of picks ; human being is therefore full with deficiency of fulfilment, emptiness, and defeat. ” ( Stephens 27/11/09 )

    In treatment to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the two characters Ros and Guil are unable to grok their ain individualities and therefore their ain individualisms, which prevents them from gestating their ain free will. The deficiency of doing picks and taking control of their lives, finally leads to them falling into the custodies of destiny, which leads them to oppugning the significance of life. This is expressed in the gap scene where they detect chances. In this respect, they are witting of a universe that seems to be controlled around them, and “ opportunity is warped as a spun coin continually comes up caputs. ” ( HSC Notes 27/11/09 ) However, one could reason that the characters in Stoppard ‘s drama are bound by their old being in Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet and therefore their being is already contrived as Stoppard intentionally chose to pull strings two characters and uncover their minor narrative by making an intertextual drama.

    Furthermore, in respect to the doctrine of existential philosophy, Gabriel Marcel states that “ no two existences and no two state of affairss are truly commensurable with each other. ” ( Flynn 2006 )

    By dissecting this remark we can use the first portion “ two existences ” to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They seem to be two characters, but instead they appear to be linked as if they are two sides of the same coin. Even in Hamlet, Gertrude mixes the two characters up, therefore lending to the deficiency of differentiation between each of their individualities, and the quest for their intent in life, portrayed more unrelentingly by Guil.

    In comparing to Hamlet, the clearest illustrations of existential philosophy are in Hamlet ‘s address, and his contemplation of self-destruction near the terminal of the drama. “ To be or non to be – that is the inquiry. ” ( Shakespeare III.i.56-88 ) On one important degree, one could reason that through an existential philosopher position, the statement of being, and traveling through picks and more affectingly the inquiries between the pick of life and decease can be deciphered through this one line, as Dan Nguyen remarks “ Hamlet explores his ain mortality ” . ( Nguyen 27/11/09 ) In researching the elements of life and decease, both dramas delve into these subjects, and non merely because ‘Hamlet ‘ is a calamity, but because of the character Hamlet ‘s, inability to seek the significance of life and his compulsion of decease, which consolidates my intuition of happening truth through decease because it seems to the characters of both dramas to be the lone certainty. As Jimmy Stephens asserts “ that life is a enigma and that this enigma ends in decease, are the two truths Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do discover as the drama returns. ” ( Stephens 27/11/09 ) Ros and Guil ‘s refusal to accept duty for doing picks and taking control of their being, leads them to endure about in a purgatory made necessarily by themselves ; which is supported by Nguyen ‘s statement that “ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ne’er rather grasp the predicament of their fate, reflecting modern uncertainness and disenchantment of the 20th century, where “ the lone beginning is birth, and the lone terminal is decease ” . ( Nguyen 27/11/09 ) By mentioning to a definition existent in existential philosophy, “ Because of what I am… I can non halt clip, except through decease, self-destruction, insanity, alcohol addiction, or narcotics dependence ” ( Stephens 27/11/09 ) We can competently see the cosmopolitan thoughts of existential philosophy go arounding around the subject of decease, explicit in both of these dramas.

    Therefore, in answer to the statement above, by sing the extent of what is lost and what is gained by Stoppard intertextualising his drama aboard Shakespeare ‘s is we see an inextricable nexus of subjects and thoughts. However, what is lost by reading both dramas individually is the extent of how two heads from two different periods are so likewise in their doctrine yet so immensely apart in their linguistic communication and the results of this effect dependant on the audience mark they seek. Therefore as discussed above the elements in Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet are non evident in Stoppard ‘s drama, so it would be deduced that the extent of the subject existential philosophy would non seemingly run parallel throughout the two dramas if read individually. Yet if the texts are read at the same time so finally much is gained by the contemplation of subjects within a different historical and societal context in comparing to another as we can to the full understand appreciate their value within our ain contexts as a modern audience.

    Traveling on, in contemplating what is lost and what is gained, it is of import to set up a definition of which this can be measured. By these footings I seek to research from an audience position what is revealed through Stoppard ‘s drama, that we would non needfully have found through merely reading Hamlet entirely. As it is common cognition, Stoppard takes two minor characters from Hamlet and transforms them into two major characters, with much of the action go oning in Hamlet, taking topographic point in a minor context in Stoppard ‘s drama. My initial reaction to Hamlet, informed me of the two minor characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, were that they were a map to assist travel the action of the secret plan along, they were a device that enabled Shakespeare to heighten farther the manipulating and deceiving nature of Claudius. The characters themselves did look strange in the context that they are Hamlet ‘s childhood friends, and as Hamlet subtly reveals in Act III scene II, lines 340-63 he perceives them to be conniving. “ Hamlet Will you play upon this pipe? ” to Guildenstern “ … It is every bit easy as lying… ” However, Stoppard ‘s disclosure of the characters provokes a more sympathetic/ pathetic visual image of the two characters. They seem to be incognizant of their true being, burying their yesteryear and who they are. Recuring look of the demand to seek the true significance of their being is prolonged continually up until their decease, even when Guildenstern and Rosencrantz learn of their destiny they are still unable to grok it, and farther inquiry what was it all about? In add-on the deficiency of control over their being and environment perchance lends itself to the spiritual background that is a elusive subtext. For illustration, in Hamlet the spiritual accent frequently inhibits the action of the drama in one regard, as he puts off killing his uncle, because he ‘s afraid he has sought absolution through supplication. However, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ( from Stoppard ) are taken from that context and placed in an wholly different one, whereby accent on God and faith is no longer case in point in the society. Therefore everything becomes meaningless to these characters as there are no absolutes, as discussed in the existentialist illustration above, and they are everlastingly stuck in a purgatory where alteration is non – existent is some regard. They are unable to act upon their environment and therefore miss the ability to transform or consequence their destiny, unlike Hamlet who knows his ability to convey about alteration, and we can witness this through his psychological province yet Hamlet is confined by destiny strictly because of the difference in spiritual backgrounds that are set up in either drama and the conventions it must adhere to – it is a calamity in precisely the Shakespearean epoch sense.

    Therefore, in decision there are many definite links and subjects that are inextricably linked within the two dramas, which in one sense must be predictable as Stoppard is imparting from Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet. However the set up is highly cagey with Stoppard imparting an extra perceptive, by reflecting on common thought ‘s but with a modern point of view he manipulates the text to uncover an eldritch reading of two characters and the subjects that are present in Hamlet. Therefore it must be said that much is gained, through Stoppard ‘s creative activity, nevertheless in my sentiment it is meant as a beginning to be read parallel to Hamlet in order to profit from the elusive undertones that link the beginnings so good, and to give a image of modern society and its reaction.


    • Author unknown, “ English Stage 6 Transformations ” , hypertext transfer protocol: // % 20stuff/English % 20Study % 20Notes.pdf. Date accessed: 27/11/09.
    • Author unknown, “ Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Understanding the Relationship ” , … /Rosencrantz % 20and % 20Guildenstern.doc.Date accessed: 27/11/09.
    • Cannon, Ryan, “ Confusing the Critics: Tom Stoppard ‘s Rosencrantz & A ; Guildenstern Are Dead ” , hypertext transfer protocol: // Date accessed: 27/11/09.
    • De Vos, Jozef, “ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: Tom Stoppard ‘s ‘artistic failure ‘ ” , Neophilologus, vol. 61, I, Jan 1977, p. 1.
    • Flynn, R. Thomas, “ Existentialism: a really short debut ” , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
    • HSC Notes: “ 2 Unit Related English: Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead ” , hypertext transfer protocol: // Date accessed: 27/11/09.
    • Mattern, Karl, “ Analysis of ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead ” , Norderstedt: Grin Verlag, 2006.
    • Mitchell, Marea, “ Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead ” , hypertext transfer protocol: // Date accessed: 27/11/09.
    • Nguyen Dan, “ Transformation of Hamlet to Rosencrantz & A ; Guildenstern Are Dead ” , Date accessed: 27/11/09.
    • Shakespeare, William, “ Hamlet ” , in Thompson, A. and Taylor, N. ( explosive detection systems ) London: The Arden Shakespeare, 2006.
    • Stephens C. Jimmy, “ Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, Diem Perdidi – Titus, Student Notes And Exercises ” , Date accessed: 27/11/09.
    • Stoppard, Tom, “ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead ” , London: Faber, 1967., Oxford University Press, 1989. Date accessed: 27/11/09.

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