Futility of Existence in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

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Q: How does Stoppard examine the futility of human existence in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead?

In the play, Stoppard highlights the futility of human existence. Stoppard highlights this through Ros and Guil as they are represented as 'every man' figures. Stoppard links to the futility of human existence through the themes of identity, inactivity, incomprehensibility of the world, and art and real life. Ros and Guil are shown to have fluid identities, and they are both interchangeable. They are not aware that they are in a play and never can distinguish the difference between the play and what is real. They can never ask the right questions and find the right answers to get them to a conclusion as language is unreliable. This is linked to the theatre of the absurd and futility of the world as they are never aware of how they will end, and their fate is written by the playwrights. This shows that humans are deemed inactive when it comes to our lives, as all of our fates are the same and we cannot escape it. Ros and Guil have a lack of narrative history, and they don't know who they are or what their purpose is, "And who are we?". This links to Existentialism as Ros and Guil never know what they are supposed to be doing, and never know what their purpose is in life. Stoppard highlights human existence as meaningless through this play, as Existentialist theories show that humans don't have a certain 'objective' to fulfil. Stoppard highlights the futility of human existence through the themes and the language.

Ros and Guil are shown to have a lack of identity, as they have no narrative history, "Do you remember the first thing that happened today?" Ros and Guil spend most of the play lost and confused about where they are and what they are supposed to be doing. This links into the incomprehensibility of the world as they do not understand anything around them. They have no narrative history and don't know who they are, they are not even aware that they have no narrative history. They question their purpose, this could be linked to Existentialism as it links to the question of 'who are we?' and what our purpose is in life. Their lack of identity and narrative history links to absurdist plays as the characters don't know who they are. There is dramatic irony as the audience knows why they are there, as they know they are in a play within a play which is also a feature of theatre of the absurd. This links to the futility of human existence as Stoppard highlights the lack of control humans have over our lives as fate controls us, and he shows how human life is meaningless as we have no purpose.

Ros and Guil are shown to have a fluid identity, "Rosen.. Guil..". Ros and Guil even mix up their own names sometimes during the play, highlighting that they are interchangeable. It is also evident that they are a double act, and shows their dependence on one another if they confuse themselves up and the same people. Stoppard uses Ros and Guil as 'every man' figures, meaning ordinary people. Ros and Guil mixing up their names is important as it suggests that ordinary people are all interchangeable. Stoppard may be suggesting that humans individually are insignificant in the world. This links into futility of human existence as it suggests that ordinary people will never be recognised, we can't make a difference, and that humans are all the same as all of our fates are the same.

Ros and Guil are not aware they are in a play, and are inactive in their lives, "Somebody might come in. It's what we're counting on after all." Ros and Guil cannot do anything unless someone else enters. They are not aware they are in a play and are only active with others present. The words 'counting on' highlights their dependence on other people. They depend on other people to gain identity as they have none of their own. If there is no other people there is no progression and they are inactive. this links into the idea that their fate is...
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