Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Plays

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The inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the worm's-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare's play, who, here, get a chance to take the lead role, but doing so in a world where the echoes of Waiting For Godot resound. 126p.

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  • Game, Set, Match

    4 out of 5

    Written by , Posted on at 12:05:32 PM

    Riffing off the story of Shakespeare’s melancholy Dane, Tom Stoppard plays with two minor characters whose backstory we never really get to know. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or is it Guildenstern and Rosencrantz?) stagger through this play, striving through brilliant wordplay and verbal jousting to understand the nature of life, death, luck, performance, identity and their own existences. Stoppard’s ability to juggle adroitly with words and wordplay doesn’t undermine the deeper issues underlying the struggles of the titular duo. Nor does it detract from the original play, which has bits and pieces of Shakespeare’s lines intermingled with their scenes. “Hamlet” is a very wordy play, one of the most verbal that Shakespeare ever wrote (and why it’s frequently cut when mounted). It’s also a play in which action is frequently set aside for meandering introspection, so Stoppard’s perusal of it through the lenses of these two is particularly apropos. Like “Waiting for Godot” turned inside out, the characters have been summoned to perform a task but aren’t sure how to go about it. They’re not even certain which one of themselves is which. Unlike the Brecht play, wherein nothing happens, too much happens. People charge in and out of their lives with bewildering action and commentary while they strive manfully to make sense of it all. Dimly aware that there is more going on outside their field of observation, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are helpless men caught up in the lives of the larger folk around them and ultimately spun to a tragic ending wherein death is and isn’t a grand spectacle.