Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Study Guide

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Study Guide

Original title:
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Published January 21st 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1966)
ISBN 0802132758 (ISBN13: 9780802132758)

Tom Stoppard wrote what is often considered an absurdist book entitled “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”. This tragicomedy was first staged in Edinburgh and has won for its author a place on the international area along with Samuel Beckett and other writers of this genre.

There’s a certain beauty to absurdist texts – through confused plot they deliver a greater impact than the texts with direct morals and easily recognized tragedies. At the very basis of these lost phrases and faceless characters lies the indecisiveness of our life. Each of us has thought at least once if the outcome of our life is already predetermined. The book is trying to illustrate the other side of this theory.

The protagonists of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” are the secondary characters from a “Hamlet” play by Shakespeare. In his text, Stoppard emphasizes that all the people are the actors of one major play called life. We all play our own role for the sake of the success of the tragedy or comedy staged by somebody else.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find themselves waiting on the sidelines of the famous Shakespeare play. They are clumsy, unpredictable, they are the “small people” of their time. But their dialogues, games, silence – there’s so much wisdom and philosophy in them.

Each interaction is a whole life in itself. They both play a secondary role, sometimes they encounter the real protagonists of the “Hamlet” play. But in this play, it is the Hamlet himself who is just a background figure. That’s the essence of life: people feel manipulated, confused, secondary and taken out of a bigger context. Do we really know where we came from, where we are going and who is pulling all the strings?

The book will make the reader think about the simplest things that surround us on a daily basis. It will also provoke thoughts about the most complex notions people have to face.

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