Essay Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard

The entirety of Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is intended to provide a “dumbshow” for its audience. A dumbshow, as defined by the Player, is a “device,” which “makes the action that follows more or less comprehensible” (77). In this case, the action to follow is the rest of the audience’s lives. The play questions the audience’s very perception and understanding of existence and reality itself. If Stoppard were to have his way, a person waltzing into the theater containing any measure of arrogance would have to crawl on their way out; limbs broken from the violent crash back down to earth, laughing madly all the way.The play is a brutally honest reflection of our own lives and the world in which we appear—dumbfounded and gullible, and bombarded by “truths” (best guesses, opinions, and whatever scientific data has been amassed so far) on which to form our basic understanding. We are reminded that everyone, to varying degrees, must deal with an environment that is impossible to truly understand. Babies may be fed with no knowledge of farms, as senior citizens may wander the halls of nursing homes, slowly forgetting the family that left them there. Every path and decision we laboriously choose, our environment and all that it contains, our entire existence itself, is due to circumstances far beyond our control or comprehension, forged from elements whose origins we have no power to reveal. Perhaps most importantly, we are reminded that regardless of our efforts, in the end, we will die. Like the bumbling tools of royalty Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, all of our questions, thoughts, and lamentations will disappear with our bodies as we reach our fated ends.In order to achieve the creation of such a powe…

…tunately, it is too late for him. Although we get the impression that he is about to find himself back at the beginning of the story, we also must assume he will not retain any of that knowledge and is doomed to repeat it all over again. This serves as a warning to the audience, who still has time to realize their shortcomings and adjust. They may open their eyes to see things more clearly, and work on observing what actually matters, in order to improve the tolls necessary for even better observation, understanding, and communication. The work itself is a giant leap in that direction, and it would likely be impossible to transmit the author’s full picture so effectively in any other way. Even reading the play lacks an important dimension that only the stage can offer, for we are all “tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style” (77).

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