Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead Essay

Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are DeadTom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a humorous piece of self-reflexive theater that draws upon Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the source of the story. The actual device of self-reflexive theater is used so well in Stoppard’s play that it reads like the love child of a play and a compelling critical essay. The play is academic yet conversationally phrased and it deepens our understanding of the original play but also criticizes it. The aspect of self-reflexive theater is used to comment on theater itself but also as a presentation of ideas and analysis that had previously had no place on the plot-centric set-up of stage and audience.The essay Rosencrantz and Guildensternare Dead: Theater of Criticism by Normand Berlin draws attention to the fact that Stoppard who was once a drama critic, writes from the critical perspective. When engaged in a non-reflexive play, we are too busy following the movement of time and events to really judge the play, but Berlin writes “In the act of seeing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, however, our critical faculty is not subdued. We are always observing the characters and are not ourselves participating…we are forced to contemplate the frozen state, the status-quo, of the characters who carry their Shakespearean fates with them.”. The grand illusion of theater is the acceptance of the on-stage fantasy as real and existing separate from the people who are actually performing it. Watching theater had classically been an experience separate from the experience of analyzing the piece. In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the author keeps us hovering between the two states, we are at once participating in the fantasy but …

…an enterprise underway to create a video game about how to make enjoyable video games.Summation, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a ground breaking piece of self-reflexive theater because it presents the ideas of a critical essay in the form of a humorous play. Though many plays had come before it with the intention of subverting the traditions of plot-centered drama, Stoppard’s piece does so with a clear message about the nature of theater by invoking classic tragedies and the post-modernists. The essential “joke” of the play is “wouldn’t it be funny if two of the existential tramps present in many modern plays have to try and come to terms with the reality of being in another, more famous play”. What we get is a collision of the old and the new, masterfully executed and spiced with Stoppard’s own editorial views about what the art of theater is all about.

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