Four centuries divide the composition of the texts in this elective. With close reference to the texts suggest reasons for the continued popularity of both plays.
Reasons for the continued popularity of Hamlet the Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard are the characters that both plays have, the language and humour used by both playwrights and the audiences they cater for.
Hamlet the Prince of Denmark: or Hamlet by famous playwright William Shakespeare was first performed in 1601. Hamlet is about corruption, incest, murder and revenge. It is a revenge tragedy. Hamlet is the protagonist of the play; he is the revengeful character. Claudius, Uncle of Hamlet is King of Denmark; he married Hamlet s mother Gertrude after killing of the King of Denmark, Hamlet s father and Gertrude s husband. Murder most foul, as in the best it is, /But this most foul, strange and unnatural. Hamlet is considered mad throughout the play and two minor characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are summoned to Elsinor by Claudius to find the means of Hamlet s madness. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are friends of Hamlet from University. These two characters are people who need to be given orders to fulfill their existence, but in Hamlet the action Claudius has assigned is to big for them. They give themselves away. There is a kind of confession in you looks which your modesties have not had enough colour. Hirelings, they end up being destroyed by a plot within a plot of which they have no understanding and over which they have no control. Hamlet warns them off but they are either too greedy, Your visitation shall receive such thanks/As fits a King s remembrance and
Rosencrantz Take you me for a sponge my lord?
Hamlet Ay sir, that soaks up the King s countenance, his rewards.
or too stupid to heed him. Ophelia is Hamlet s love and is used as bait by Polonius, Ophelia s father and Claudius to try and prove his madness. And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose/Will be some danger; which for to prevent. Polonius is Ophelia s father and a loyal retinue to Claudius. Shakespeare presents him as a man whose desire to serve the King is rooted as much in vanity and a sense of his own importance as in duty. The play shows parents controlling their children s lives. Polonius is an authoritarian father who demands unconditional obedience. But as well as presenting Polonius as authoritarian Shakespeare also presents him as sordid.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard was first performed in 1967. In Tom Stoppard s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the action in Hamlet is viewed through the eyes of two players who journey to Elsinore at the behest of King Claudius and Queen Gertrude. The Royal couple has asked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to come to Elsinore to determine whether Hamlet, who has put on this confusion, is really insane or just up to something. Tom Stoppard s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are reinvented to those of Shakespeare s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and today it is difficult to present them in the theatre other than as a pair of buffoons, a latter-day Tweedledum and Tweddledee. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the Protagonists of Tom Stoppard s play; they are characters that have no past, no future and no recollection of why they are at Elsinor. They constantly forget who they are as a result for not remembering their past. They are two characters who make up one person and can sometimes be compared to Hamlet, as he to has two sides to himself. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern need each other to survive, we see that their actions are aimless and small things amuse them, for example the constant tossing of coins, which only ever come up as heads. We see from this that Guildenstern is more of a thinker and leader than Rosencrantz. Guildenstern becomes disturbed by the toss of the coins. Is that it, then? Is that all?
Shakespeare s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are presented to us as though they are real courtiers, set real tasks by a real King. Of course in one sense they are characters in a play, but that is not how Shakespeare presents them. With Stoppard s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern the case is quite different: doubtless they think they are real human beings, and they have not read the play which that have such minor parts, but nevertheless it is as characters in that play that they are presented to us. In visual terms Shakespeare s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are pictures of real people; Stoppard s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are pictures of pictures.
The characters of both Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard are still popular today even though they have been written four centuries apart, it is because of the depth of the characters in Hamlet and the constant humour that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern project. Both Hamlet and Claudius come across as being more then what the exterior picture allows us to see.
What if this cursed hand/Were thicker than itself with brother s blood, /Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens/To wash it white as snow? Stoppard s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wonder aimlessly and play ridiculous games like word tennis or the 90 times at spinning a coin, waiting for orders to do something.
Guil What are you doing now?
Ros I don t know. What do you want to do?
Guil I have no desires. None. There was a messenger that s right. We were sent for.
The language in Shakespeare is old English it was written in the medieval era and is of great complexity. Today many people of all ages quote Shakespeare s language. His language is often written in verse and is rather complex and has great meaning to it. One of the most famous speeches in English literature which people of all ages quote is:
Hamlet To be, or not to be, that is the question-
Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
Shakespeare s language can intrigue people because it is different to that language spoken in our present society. It can intrigue people just the same as a particular accent can intrigue some people.
The majority of language in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is of modern pros. This could represent the simplicity of the character Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It is only when Stoppard has incorporated the original hamlet into the text that we see Shakespearean English. Even so when the characters from the original Hamlet are bought into the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern still speak modern pros.
Hamlet Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.
Ophelia Good by lord, how does your honour for this many a day?
Hamlet I humbly thank you-well, well, well
Ros It s like living in a public park!
Guil Very impressive. Yes I thought your direct informal approach was going to stop this thing dead in its tracks there. If I might make a suggestion shut up and sit down.
Stoppard s language is often humourous in sections. Stoppard s play is of the genre of the Absurdists theatre. Humour in the language can be seen through Guildenstern when he tries to explain the law of probability, which is a satirical jab at mathematics textbooks. If I have got this right, means that if six monkeys were thrown up in the air for long enough they would land on the tails about as often as they would land on their-.
Popularity of these plays can be seen through the language present in both plays. Hamlet through Shakespeare s complex language that can intrigue people and the complexity and meaning of what his verses mean. In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead the simple language can make it easier for us to understand which can add to the popularity as the characters are such buffoons that their language can only be simple in order for them to understand, but it also contains such humour as irony, which can be seen by the audience alone, as we know what is the characters fate but there is often conversations that hint at their fate I tell you it s all stopping to a death, it s boding to a depth, Stepping to a head, it s all heading to a dead stop-. Absurdity with their simplistic lives and games, Puns on the language and many more.
Hamlet was first performed in 1601, a time of great political uncertainty in English history in which the court of Queen Elizabeth I had withstood an assassination attempt, a foiled uprising and a failed invasion of Britain by Spain. The events of Hamlet , in which a King is murdered and a country ultimately forfeited to a foreign power, would have had particular resonance for an Elizabethan audience. A popular theatrical genre during the Elizabethan age was the revenge tragedy, which was well established in London by the time Shakespeare wrote Hamlet . Characteristics of such plays was a melodramatic plot in which a hero is confronted by a murder that he must avenge. Shakespeare employs the revenge tragedy structure but transcends such plays, exploring human nature and the human condition. Shakespeare s tight control on emotion avoids the excesses of melodrama.
Tom Stoppard s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was written in the 1960 s, an era in the twentieth century which was laid back, spiritual and simplistic. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is in parts simplistic and a play of the absurdist theatre. The early 1960 s was characterised by the Satire boom . Stoppard s appropriation of Shakespeare s Hamlet and his audience s acceptance of this device reflects the mood of the time. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1966 and had its London premiere in slightly revised form in 1967. It was critically acclaimed as a groundbreaking play in British theatre.
Shakespeare s Hamlet reflects what society felt at the time in which the play was written; it reflected the values of the common society. It is still popular today because it also reflects the way in which the society of the 21st century feel, it still reflects their values and thoughts of what the play was written about. Stoppard s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was written in a time when satire was the way to write and today a larger array of writing is accepted and read by all people. Today society is probably less pressured to be part of a group but more people are wanting to be their own individual self and this is the reason why so many different genre s in writing are accepted.
Reasons for the continued popularity of both Hamlet the Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard are the characters in which both authors portray, the language and humour which is suited to all those people who are intrigued or find easy to understand and the audiences they where written for as a wider range of genre is available and accepted in todays society.