Tom Stoppard's Play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Term Paper

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Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and the play it was based on, Shakespeare's Hamlet, acting is a major theme and motif. Especially in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, acting signifies the falsity, absurdity, and superficiality of life. Therefore, acting and the staging of plays is a metaphor for living. However, acting also causes the audience to perceive the play in an entirely new way, especially in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. In Stoppard's play, the audience never truly suspends disbelief because even the main characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, refer to the audience directly and because the play has no outstanding plot. Both plays use acting to portray the futility and tragedy of life, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead does so in an almost slapstick way. Stoppard's play is a comedy that grossly exaggerates two minor characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet. While Shakespeare shows how acting and drama can evoke deep emotional responses in people, as with Claudius' reaction to Hamlet's play in Act II, scene ii, Stoppard proves that plays can be purely meaningless. Shakespeare's tragedy morphs into a comedy with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. The audience is asked to reexamine the role that acting has, as both a symbolic activity signifying life, and as an actual art that encompasses the medium of the play. The presence of the Players in both Hamlet and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead points to the play-within-a-play motif, which is central to both pieces of literature.The Players, or Tragedians in Shakespeare's Hamlet first appear in Act II, scene ii. Hamlet speaks to the troop of performers about staging a drama for the King so that Hamlet can entrap him. The general association of plays and emotionality is conveyed in this scene. Hamlet's main objective in staging "The Murder of Gonzago" is to show Claudius that he is aware of his murderous act. Hamlet hopes to evoke in Claudius an incriminating response and to inspire fear in him. The players and Hamlet speak of the efficacy of the Classical Greek tragedies. This conversation emphasizes how significant great works of drama are in providing archetypes and universal metaphors. Even the characters within a play, in this case within Shakespeare's play Hamlet notice the importance of play-acting. Hamlet, however, is caught up in the melodrama. In his soliloquy at the end of Act II, scene ii, he wonders how actors can feign emotion so well. "Is it not monstrous that this player here, / But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, / Could force his soul so to his own conceit / That from her working all his visage wan'd; / Tears in his eyes...and all for nothing!" (II, ii, 534-540). This idea that the play, and life as an extension of….....

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