The play ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern AreDead’ was written by Tom Stoppard on the 24th of August 1966, the play followsthe two anti-heroes from the play ‘Hamlet’ by Shakespeare, set in theElizabethan era. In the play ‘Hamlet’, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were twominor characters from non-noble backgrounds, they were commoners. The play is writtenthrough the concepts of the theatre of the absurd where the plot is incoherent,reflecting everyday life. Tom Stoppard wrote ‘Rosencrantz andGuildenstern Are Dead’ expecting the readers to understand Hamlet well, whilstHamlet by Shakespeare showed the themes of betrayal, death, incest andinsanity; ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ showed themes of isolation,foolishness and the aspect of different realities.
The play begins with the two Elizabethan charactersriding their horses to Denmark after being called for by Claudius, as they rideRosencrantz is tossing a coin and it always lands on heads, this causesGuildenstern to be freaked out and begin to reason on how the law ofprobability could be temporarily suspended; “The scientific approach tothe examination of phenomena is a defence against the pure emotion of fear.” (Stoppard, 1990).The fear that Guildenstern is talking about is the fear of that we have ofdeath, as science tries to makes things more understandable in hopes that we nolonger fear death as it occurs around us. The coin in a sense reflects that afate is sealed no matter how many chances could occur within a timeframe, thecoin also symbolizes the randomness of the events within the play. Throughoutthe play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern go through an array of set changeswithout rhyme or reason, it reflects the uncertainties in life. As the play proceeds we see Rosencrantz andGuildenstern meet the Player and his band of travelling Tragedians, this wherethe aspects of reality are thrown askew. We see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern asa play on a stage, the story of the two antiheroes then suddenly it becomes aplay that interacts with another play; Hamlet. As the story goes on we see howfoolish the two antiheroes are when; making decisions, misunderstanding eachother on purpose and just playing games for their own delight and entertainmentcausing them to lead up to the events of their own deaths by hanging.
“Theremust have been a moment, at the beginning, were we could have said — no. Butsomehow we missed it.” (Stoppard, 1990).
The Player was just a simple actor who leads agroup of actors, they travel and show stories of blood and romance; “We’remore of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood andlove without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without thelove, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t giveyou love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They’re allblood, you see.” (Stoppard, 1990). The Player however inretrospect in my opinion played the role of God, he seemed to have control overthe events that occurred throughout ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ and in the end was able to showthat everyone dies just like in the play Hamlet.
“Audiencesknow what to expect, and that is all that they are prepared to believe in” (Stoppard, 1990). This is said by thePlayer when Guildenstern states that the death during the mimed rehearsals isnot believable. The line could be a reference to how we the audience like deathto be portrayed in a specific way perhaps with blood and lost of overexaggerated shoutingand screaming, this in a sense shows how the suspense of disbelief in which webelieve that death is always something loud and bloody but in essence death canbe silent as well.Tom Stoppard might be trying to emphasize thatthat even though that the theatre of the absurd may have no structure whenacted out it still has structure in sense that a script exists and is stilledfollowed by the cast of the certain play.
It shows that even if the play mayhave random occurrences there still was a script and that in the end,Rosencrantz and Guildenstern still died. The moral message behind ‘Rosencrantzand Guildenstern Are Dead’ could be that no matter how many times you thinkthat life is uncertain and has no proper plan it goes to show that whateverlife has planned will happen. Another moral message could be that ifGuildenstern and Rosencrantz had not accepted the offer to go to Denmark andescort Hamlet to England to be executed they would probably be still alive; “Theremust have been a moment, at the beginning, were we could have said — no. Butsomehow we missed it.” (Stoppard, 1990).
Rosencrantz says that line rightbefore they are hanged. Stoppard most likely used theatre to portray the moralmessages within ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ since theatre issomething that can be portrayed in many ways but still has an order to it nomatter what, thus perhaps showing the message that no matter how odd the eventsof life may be whatever is meant tooccur will occur regardless of the circumstances.