One Path, Two Directions: Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

On a rocky path along a cliff english, two men are riding horses. One of them tosses a coin repeatedly, catching it and turning it over on the back of his other hand. Every time he does, it comes up heads. A certain total of conversation reveals that neither of them can remember anything before the dawn ’ mho summons which woke them up. At concluding one of them says to the other : “ We have not been picked out…simply to be abandoned…set loose to find our own way…we are entitled to some direction…I would have thought. ” This setting is the introduction to Tom Stoppard ’ sulfur film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, an adaptation of his own playing period about two of the most minor characters in Shakespeare ’ second Hamlet. Stoppard provides a highly prosecute and harmonic movie of these two semi-comic, semi-tragic figures, whose unfortunate goal seems thus quickly glossed over by Hamlet and by Shakespeare himself .
The critical consensus reads Stoppard ’ south film not lone as a dramatic rewrite of the Shakespearean play, from the point of opinion of these two characters, but as an experiential review of the absurdity and injustice of their “ fate. ” Doomed to replay their roles, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, barren, ignorant of themselves and their surroundings, looking merely for understanding, find themselves drawn into an end they can not avoid, but which they have not deserved : “ living a minute, pre-determined liveliness in ignorance of the forces controlling it. ” From this the critic can easily draw comparisons to human life—like them, world is fated, unaware of it, and unable to change its destiny : “ Human life is basically predetermined because, even though humans do have choices in this animation, they do not have enough information to choose intelligently. ” Richard Corballis suggests that the bet ’ randomness basic theme is that “ modern biography requires an inversion of those assumptions which, in Stoppard ’ s view at any rate, underlie Hamlet. ” Comparison to other works of absurdist and mod literature, such as Samuel Beckett ’ s Waiting for Godot, or T.S. Eliot ’ s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, helps to fuel this interpretation .
One crucial point, however, must be kept in mind while making comparisons between life and the fictional earth of the film—Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are re-reading and re-writing their own roles in the world of another writer ’ sulfur play. Stoppard ’ s dialogue with Shakespeare takes the independent action of Hamlet as a backdrop, using many scenes verbatim, but alone from the point of horizon of the two eponymous characters. Hamlet ’ s world is queerly transformed ; in Shakespeare ’ randomness Hamlet we are presented with a chief character who must learn to understand his position and then to act consequently. Whether one interprets Hamlet as succeeding or failing in this undertake, it can not be denied that his “ read ” and his “ writing ” of the universe are far superior to that of Stoppard ’ south characters. just as in Shakespeare ’ s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are fools ; but Stoppard makes them far more charitable in respective ways. They have no cognition of who they are, no memory of their by ; they can not even tell which matchless of them is which. They are drive into a situation they do not understand, interact with characters who tell them very little, and are ultimately put to death. Rosencrantz, as Gary Oldman plays him, is preferably adorable : he has flashes of “ scientific ” insight, the ability to craft little mechanical devices and make naturalistic animal sounds. Tim Roth ’ randomness Guildenstern is less appeal, but more astute ; he tries to understand his situation, and puts up with his companion ’ s ingenuousness patiently, at least for the most part. By giving his characters such individuality, Stoppard might be making them more harmonic to the consultation ; but his ultimate judgment of their flaws may be fair as merciless, and shows all the well-defined in contrast to what is appealing in their personalities. Neither Rosencrantz nor Guildenstern can read their situation on a more than misprint level ; and they are even less able of writing their own roles—in early words, of making a option of their own. Is this because their roles are already fated, or because they thoughtlessly submit to a fortune they could have avoided ? The championship of the movie, a quote from Shakespeare ’ s play, makes clear the reality of what is happening. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead ; even if not literally so, they are abruptly because they do not act as living men. They die by Hamlet ’ south orders, but, in Stoppard ’ s read of Shakespeare, they may already be dead by their own choice .
such a audacious statement requires demonstration, specially since the film could well be interpreted as a report about the inability of modern man to live in an absurd worldly concern, in which there is no intend, and in which he has no choice or steering. however, specially since Shakespeare ’ randomness Hamlet provides the background of the natural process, one can besides make the argument that the absurd world exists entirely in the minds of the two characters, as an excuse for their inability to act. The first validation is that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sometimes understand what is happening far better than they care to admit. When rehearsing the scene in which they are to interrogate Hamlet, Rosencrantz sums up the position as they know it : his father has died, his uncle has usurped his enthrone and married his mother. At this point, no clues have been given to show that the baron murdered his buddy, but there is enough there to provoke sympathy for Hamlet, a well as misgiving of the king. “ now, ” Rosencrantz says, to Guildenstern playing Hamlet ’ randomness function, “ why precisely are you behaving in this extraordinary manner ? ” “ I can ’ triiodothyronine imagine ! ” Guildenstern replies, and Tim Roth speaks the line in a clearly dry tone, then turns the conversation immediately to another national. Of the two of them, he at least knows as much about the action of the dally as any hearing could discover, even an audience that does not know Shakespeare ’ s Hamlet. however, he is more implicated with his own situation, and has no sympathy to spare for anyone but himself.

In a belated scene, watching the actors rehearse their fun, in which the unharmed story of Hamlet is told in mimic, at least two versions of the king ’ s mangle of his brother are played in front of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This is the distributor point at which they show their inability to read beyond a literal floor ; in other words, they can not read analogously. They can not make a comparison between the meet they are watching and the one they are in, a comparison that the king himself has no trouble making. “ It wasn ’ triiodothyronine that bad, ” Guildenstern says about the act, watching the baron first-come-first-serve out of the room. The telephone line is played for humor, as in the previously cited scene, but the humor itself is a chilling demonstration of what is incorrect with the main characters. flush an audience who has not read Hamlet will find the production line fishy, because they can read what Guildenstern can not : that the king is guilty. Although it can be argued that the consultation of Shakespeare ’ s play can not know the king ’ mho guilt for certain until his soliloquy, two points can be made to support this rendition. first, in Hamlet, Claudius would never react with obvious guilt american samoa long as he is in public, but the very try of keeping up a false front forces him to leave equally soon as Hamlet describes the queen ’ s re-marriage to her husband ’ sulfur murderer. It is discernible that it is this action which galls him. second, in Stoppard ’ south film, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have realized, quite distinctly, the model of death and re-marriage in Hamlet ’ mho life. The same traffic pattern, clearly acted out twice in movement of their eyes, ( in the Players ’ rehearsal and the creature ‘ play within a shimmer ’ ) ampere well as the “ mousetrap ” position, acted out, and then seen in their actual experience, is more than enough to alert them that the King ’ s motives may be impure. A comparison of the two would show a clear analogy between the real King and the Player King. Claudius ’ reaction in the film lone strengthens this read ; a viewer who does not know Hamlet could make the proper inferences from the amount of information Stoppard gives, even if one argues that Hamlet itself is equivocal in the picture. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as Stoppard presents them, are far below the human average in their ability to read the universe .
however, if one is to argue that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are guilty, one must look further for the cause of this disability. Is it merely that they are thrown into a history they do not know, playing roles they can not understand ? This in itself is not so different from the human condition. It might then be destiny, as the Player suggests. Two things, however, can be established : that the two can read on a actual level, and that they can not read on an analogical one. The eminence is literary. The literal level establishes what is happening on the surface of the history ; the analogical level draw conclusions and interpretations based on analogies between parts of the story. Without a certain amount of literal cognition, analogical cognition can not be reached—but it besides requires a willingness to see connections between things outside of oneself, and without citation to oneself. adenine long as an absolutely actual relation between person and fact remains, an analogical relation between that fact and another, giving a more universal kind of cognition, is impossible. On the way to knowledge, there are frankincense two directions ; one that is outbound, towards universal cognition, the other that is inward, towards self-knowledge. The irony of the situation is that clinging to self-knowledge is finally destructive, and reaching for universal cognition gives self-knowledge that comes in position.

The wonder must be asked at this point : What are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern trying to read, if anything ? The answer is, quite intelligibly, that they are trying to read their own situation. They are wholly uninterested in anything outside of themselves, unless it explains them to themselves. They can not read Hamlet or the king because they are not trying to do so ; they are trying to read themselves from what others say to them. This is where Stoppard goes beyond Shakespeare ’ s sketch of the characters, in showing self to be the guide rationale behind their actions ; not self-promotion or advancement, but just self-knowledge.

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A lord search, one might be tempted to say, but Stoppard does not show it to be so in this casing. just as they read on the misprint degree, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern entirely want to understand themselves on a literal level : which of them is which, and what they are meant to do from now on. Or to put it a small differently, what character has been written for them. In this dally of “ Hamlet, ” two actors have wandered on the stagecoach without their scripts, only knowing the names of their two characters, and they are trying to do what they are meant to do. Yet therein lies the problem : they are letting others write their roles for them. ampere soon as they interact with early characters, in a scene taken from the original act, they lose about all the individuality and interest of their personalities. They are driven, in one scene, by rushing crowd of people that carry them along ; an excellent double of how non-existent is their power of spare choice. Yet they are there because they want to talk to the king, a man whom they should mistrust, except that he sent for them and therefore might be able to tell them who they are. Everyone around them is a possible source of cognition ; in other words, not a person with whom they can interact, but an object that might help them. In approaching the world like this, they end by allowing themselves to be manipulated by these identical “ objects. ” If Tom Stoppard is indeed speaking to the advanced universe, there are a twelve analogies that could be made here. however, the real interrogate remains : is there another path that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could have chosen ? Could they have read their world in such a way that they could have written their own roles, rather of allowing them to be written ?
The answer is hinted at in the identical orifice and ending scenes of the movie. At the begin, the two chief characters ride down a path on a rocky cliff face, towards the left. When the movie ends, the players ’ traveling stage, on which one might argue that the whole of the natural process had taken place, travels back up the path, in the antonym direction. There may in fact be only one path, but there are two possible directions. The same is true for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Their characters, their site, could not have been changed ; but they could have gone in the opposite direction. alternatively of choosing to read themselves at the expense of others, they might have read others first, even at their own expense. In sympathy for another, they might have come to play the function of Horatio, who is one of the few that lives on to tell Hamlet ’ s history. People tend to pity Horatio because he must “ in this harsh world draw [ his ] breath in pain ”, yet they fail to take into account that he continues to live ; and that is no small matter, particularly compared to Stoppard ’ sulfur characters, who are dead even in life. No matchless lives without pain, and that pain is caused by selflessness. The alternate is passivity and death. even if the option appears harsh, it is still a choice. It is interesting to note, consequently, that while Guildenstern, in his last moments of life, admits that there must have been such a choice, Rosencrantz replies that he is relieved to die .
In cattiness of the great deviation in their dash and treatment, Shakespeare and Stoppard come to the lapp final agreement of life. The egoistic human being can neither read nor write his liveliness by rights, because he is only looking for his own mean. In seeking meaning outside of himself, he finds his proper role. Hamlet is content, at the end of Shakespeare ’ randomness act, to allow his part to be written by providence, even if he himself can not understand it. How is this different from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ’ s submission to “ destiny ? ” The answer lies in the difference of position. Either destiny, or providence, is the road ; the management is the “ reason for which ” the character acts. Clinging to self or emptying oneself makes all the deviation : village trusts providence at his own expense and for the sake of his kingdom, and dies content. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ’ s “ providence, ” if the looseness Hamlet is by analogy their providence, becomes their downfall because they see it as their destiny. Providence, as opposed to fate, orders the earth by providing consequences to freely chosen actions, taking into consideration the captive of the one who acts. If Rosencrantz and Guildenstern agree to Claudius ’ plots, the consequence is death. Their tragedy, in Stoppard ’ mho film, is not plainly that they fail to understand this, but that their attempt to understand it blinds them to all other possibilities. Trying to understand destine by letting it happen is dangerous—as the image of the coin represents. even if one side is always hidden by opportunity, the other side can be seen by choice—in this rewrite world of Hamlet, only by careful and possibly afflictive choice—which they never exercise. In Hamlet ’ sulfur case, his providence is good as indecipherable, but his choice to submit to it, when made, is not for the sake of unraveling the mystery. He chooses to do the right thing, when providence gives him the opportunity. If Stoppard ’ mho protagonists were at all like Hamlet, they would have first understood the situation, pondered what was right to do, and having at last decided it, allowed the opportunity for proper legal action to present itself. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who want only to understand their own roles, allow themselves to be written by every other character, and in the end find no contentment at all. On the same path, they are moving in opposite directions .

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