Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Making a Point
Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a humorous piece of self-reflexive theater that draws upon Shakespeare's Hamlet as the source of the story. The actual device of self-reflexive theater is used so well in Stoppard's play that it reads like the love child of a play and a compelling critical essay. The play is academic yet conversationally phrased and it deepens our understanding of the original play but also criticizes it. The aspect of self-reflexive theater is used to comment on theater itself but also as a presentation of ideas and analysis that had previously had no place on the plot-centric set-up of stage and audience.
The essay Rosencrantz and Guildensternare Dead: Theater of Criticism by Normand Berlin draws attention to the fact that Stoppard who was once a drama critic, writes from the critical perspective. When engaged in a non-reflexive play, we are too busy following the movement of time and events to really judge the play, but Berlin writes "In the act of seeing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, however, our critical faculty is not subdued. We are always observing the characters and are not ourselves participating...we are forced to contemplate the frozen state, the status-quo, of the characters who carry their Shakespearean fates with them.". The grand illusion of theater is the acceptance of the on-stage fantasy as real and existing separate from the people who are actually performing it. Watching theater had classically been an experience separate from the experience of analyzing the piece. In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the author keeps us hovering between the two states, we are at once participating in the fantasy but consciously observing the boundary between reality and stage.
In Act 1, scene 3, Guildenstern (trying to act like Hamlet) and Rosencrantz hold a mock interview in order to practice for their royally assigned investigation into Hamlet's...
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