Comparitive study- "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" and "Hamlet"

Essay by isurishHigh School, 12th grade August 2006

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Yr 12 Advanced English - Transformations

You have studied two texts composed at different times.

When you compared these texts and their contexts, how was your understanding of each text developed and reshaped?

Hamlet has and will continue to offer to its audience insight into valid and necessary values and concepts. However, one must acknowledge that Hamlet has emerged from a specific context with specific values, that of Elizabethan theatre. Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" (R&G) offers the contemporary audience that very same insight; however it is expressed in a way that invokes greater understanding and appreciation in its re-contextualisation. R&G utilises the inspiration of the old, in conjunction with ideas, practices and concepts deriving from the new context.

The respective historical contexts in which Hamlet and R&G were written, effectively shape the form and meaning they encapsulate. Hamlets hunger for certainty before executing any decisive act mirrors the emergence of individualism within the Elizabethan context.

Accordingly, the lack of distinctive features of time and place in R&G reflect the growing sense of rootlessness within 20th century society. The play is analogous to the contemporary state of being acting as a metaphor for the disconnection from the values of the past and the rejection of tradition arising within the 1960s. This is most blatantly reflected in Ros and Guil's references to economics rather than metaphysics such as their discussion on "the law of diminishing returns". Consequently, the play is largely more relevant to present day society, enhancing one's understanding and appreciation of the original play.

While the stability of Hamlet is disrupted by the ghost, the stability of R&G is interrupted by the breaking of the laws of probability when Rosencrantz's (Ros) coin insists on coming down heads. R&G iconoclastically subverts the concept of intellectual progress...