HamletRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The importance

By Roy Hernandez,2014-08-12 08:42
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HamletRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The importance ...

    Hamlet/Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: The importance of the individual,

    death and truth.

    The importance of the individual’s actions:

    ; HAMLET The Tragic Hero Senecan Tragedy: noble class = high

    importance (Chain of Being). Addressed as “my lord and “hail to your


    ; “What a piece of work is man! … How like a god!” Hamlet’s superiority

    complex allows him to commit regicide and overtake the highest of the chain

    of being.

    ; Soliloquies = introspection = tragic flaw.

    ; R&G subversion of Tragic Hero by shift of Hamlet to a minor character. His

    authority is undermined by the omission of his soliloquies. His “antic

    disposition” goes unexplained, as in the mime scene. “Guil: What is he

    doing?/Ros: Talking./ Guil: To himself?”

    ; Juxtaposition of Shakespearean verse and the modern idiom depicts Hamlet as

    pretentious rather than poignant. Mocking.

    ; R&G are hardly even sure of their own identities, as the stage directions

    indicate when Hamlet mixes them up.

    ; With power in the hands of men, all men are equally powerless.

    The role of fate:

    ; HAMLET Strict structure of play, complication of the ghost’s orders to

    Hamlet and constant references to fortune and the wheels of fortune reflect

    Elizabethan notion of fate.

    ; Hamlet struggles with this lack of freedom “The time is out of joint/O cursed

    spite, that ever I was born to set it right.”

    ; Procrastination and avoidance of fate = tragic flaw.

    ; Hamlet is controlled by fate, even though he tries to act otherwise.

    ; R&G Absence of god = absence of fate, only constructs of man. This is seen

    in the relatively formless structure.

    ; It is through the pre-ordained narrative of Hamlet that R&G are controlled, not

    through the pre-ordained fate of God that controls Hamlet, and in any case it is

    only their destination that is dictated, shown through the dramatic irony of the


    ; The question is instead “But for God’s sake what are we supposed to do!” The

    answer offered by the player “Relax, respond. That’s what people do. You

    can’t go through life questioning your situation at every turn.” Guil responds,

    “But we don’t know what’s going on, or what to do with ourselves. We don’t

    know how to act.”

    ; Hamlet knows what he must do but avoids it, R&G have no idea whatsoever.

    ; Not in control of anything, even language, as is shown my mixed clichés

    “Over my step over my head body!”

    ; “Ros: We could play at questions. Guil: What good would that do?” – their

    lives’ events are made meaningless. Existential ennui of the 60s.

    The role of death:

    ; HAMLET the ever-present ghost acts a symbol of the afterlife. “To die, to

    sleep To sleep, perchance to dream.” And Alas poor Yorick soliloquy.

    Literal confrontation of death in the form of a skull.

    ; Is it right to kill? Hamlet will not kill Claudius in prayer, and orders R&G to

    be executed without an opportunity to repent.

    ; Constant interplay of reflection and black humour shows Hamlet’s inability to

    deal with death.

; R&G No problems accepting death it is the only thing constant and reliable.

    “The only beginning is birth and the only end is death – if you can’t count on

    that, what can you count on?”

    ; There is no afterlife, as is pointed out by the “being asleep in a box”


    ; Death is a certainty R&G are Dead, not R&G will be Dead (use of present

    tense), as well as the interception of Hamlet’s letter, and thus death is

    comforting in a world with nothing else reliable.

    Uncertainties of reality and illusion and the search for truth:

    ; HAMLET Opening lines “Who’s there?” summarises the problem of

    discerning the real and the unreal.

    ; Truth is scene as tangible and existent yet easily distorted due to the deceptive

    nature of Elsinore’s Machiavellian politics.

    ; Is the ghost Hamlet’s father? “The spirit that I have seen/ May be a devil”

    ; Antic disposition is a deception of character

    ; R&G disguise themselves as friends when they are really spies

    ; Polonius’s hiding spot in Gertrude’s bedroom

    ; “To be, or not to be, that is the question” – Hamlet often speaks in rhetorical

    questions and rarely in meaningful statements, constantly questioning truth but

    rarely finding it.

    ; R&G also use questions, but not because they are searching for a tangible

    truth like Hamlet (nihilism), even when they try to “glean what afflicts

    [Hamlet]”. They are aware of the absence of truth, “truth is only that which is

    taken to be true.”

    ; Like truth, probability and natural law are absent as seen in the impossible

    coin tossing opening scene, and “The colours red, blue and green are real. The

    colour yellow is a mystical experience shared by everybody.”

    ; Uncertainty of compass directions of even where the sun rises as well as

    “we’re going round in circles” reflects this absence of natural law,

    undermining previous authorities on truth.

    ; This is also reflected in the post-modern style of the play, as a rebellion

    against the authorities of accepted form and concepts of originality; Dadaism.

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