Feature Article Targeted At A Literary Audience Discussing Transformation Between "Hamlet" And "Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead"

1717 words - 7 pages

Divine Right of Shakespeare?Does the past influence what we do today?The past has influenced what we humans have become today. But do the values of the past still intrude on our lives today? This question will inevitably lead to others, such as 'Is there a God?' and 'Why are we here?' Such rhetorical questions may never be answered, however whether the past effectively informs the present is one that could. We examine the past text, that is William Shakespeare's Hamlet and the present day adaptation - Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Ros & Guil) in order to discover an answer to this question.Shakespeare's play is considered a representation of the Elizabethan era, which reflected the prevalent Christian values in the society, "there is a divinity that shapes our ends." Hamlet is on the cusp of two ways of thinking - his medieval beliefs are conflicting with new Renaissance principles, emphasised in the "to be or not to be" soliloquy. However there is no doubt of his Christian faith.Stoppard's play is rather a shadow of the original work from which it draws its inspiration. During a time where open rebellion against conventional attitudes appeared Stoppard appropriated the original text to highlight the minority roles of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and their rather comical questioning of their existence, roles and even identities within the play.Although theatre has changed significantly throughout the years since Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, the values Stoppard has depicted often relate back to Shakespeare's. For example, both Hamlet and Ros and Guil seek to comment on drama and offer a sort of argument regarding the role of theatre. Shakespeare and Stoppard employ metatheatre in order to comment on the analogy between drama and life: both construct realities. Shakespeare valued theatre a reflection or mirror to real life. Hamlet uses the metaphor: "to hold a mirror up to nature" to emphasise Shakespeare's point. Stoppard uses theatre of the absurd to carry over this idea in his transformation. Ros and Guil hold the mirror up to art that holds the mirror up to nature, depicted when Guil says, "I'd prefer art to mirror life." Both texts emphasise the importance of theatre in society, and in this sense the past effectively informs the present.Stoppard's attempt to re-contextualise Hamlet challenges the text's canonical position. He re-contextualises Shakespeare and changes its values to suit those of today. For example, Hamlet in his play and Ros and Guil in their play are constantly preoccupied with pondering the idea of death. It is implicit within Shakespeare's tragedies that death will occur. For Hamlet the concept of death is portrayed as a dramatic ending shaped by divinity while Stoppard depicts it as "a failure to reappear". In Ros and Guil, Rosencrantz muses about death when he imagines being dead in a box. He fears death because in his mind, he can only picture being alive in a box. He reaches Hamlet's conclusion...

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