Tom Stoppard's Postmodernism: Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

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Tom Stoppard’s Postmodernism: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
In the aftermath of World War II, a change in theatre took place. Due to the recent war and colonization, the public began to “question authority, challenge precedent, and debunk mythologies associated with power and prestige.” This is evident in the world of theatre because working class themes and the idea of an anti-hero developed. This working class anti-hero reflected the public desire to confront the oppressive nature in history, tradition and convention. After watching a performance of Hamlet, Tom Stoppard began to wonder what happened when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrived to England without their charge. After two years of developing the idea, Rosencrantz and
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The plays written after Hamnet’s death show just how grief stricken Shakespeare was over the death of his son and those plays are now referred to as “The Great Tragedies.” It is important to note that the only comedies that Shakespeare wrote during this time of grief were All’s Well that Ends Well and Measure for Measure; both “problem plays” that ultimately are not very funny. Up until this point in theatre, the typical play focused on the classic “hero.” A Shakespearean tragedy typified the morally justified hero idea. Generally focused on a person holding an elevated position in society, their suffering would cause intense suffering for those around them. By the end of the play the characters “tragic flaw” (i.e. Hamlet’s desire to avenge his father’s death and inability to trust those around him) culminated into such intense suffering that the hero is eventually killed by someone effected by the depression (i.e. Laertes avenges the death of his father and sister). Tom Stoppard attempted to reexamine this story through a different perspective. By applying a postmodern idea to the Shakespearian tragedy of Hamlet, Stoppard examines what life might have been like for the two underdeveloped characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This allowed Stoppard to confront prevailing issues in the current postmodern society while minimizing the actual story …show more content…
He was heavily influenced by the philosophical struggle created by Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot. Both stories depict two protagonists in a democratic relationship exploring the absurdity of the human condition. By focusing on the waiting experienced in life, both stories depict the inevitable “down time” experienced in between periods of high action. Many distinct parallels can be made when comparing the main characters of Stoppard’s play (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) to that of Beckett’s (Vladimir and Estragon). There are also similarities seen between the character of ‘The Player’ in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to that of Beckett’s ‘boy.’ Both characters are titled by rather uncreative names but hold the most knowledge about the action of the play. The Player knows the story and how the end will unfold and the Boy knows Godot and has a direct relationship with

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