How has Shakespeare's "Hamlet" been Transformed by Tom Stoppard to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?

Essay by shelley686High School, 12th gradeA, April 2006

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The text "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" written by Tom Stoppard in the 1960s is a transformation of Shakespeare's canonical play "Hamlet". The plot, form, structure and themes have been altered to suit a modern context. Tom Stoppard raises contextual issues that Shakespeare was unable to raise because of the moral framework of the 1600's. These ideas include the existentialist view of life, the convention and radical theatre; sixteenth century theatre in comparison to Absurd theatre and the tragedy and tragi- comedy of the common man.

Over time, texts are altered and adapted to suit a different purpose, context or audience. In the case of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, this is a transformation involving the adaptation of ideas and form to contemporary situations and audiences. The genre has changed from that of a Revenge Tragedy to reflect Theatre of the Absurd. The knowing becomes the unknowing, the marginalised are brought to the forefront.

The Stoppard challenges the audience to view the original play from a different perspective, by employing different theatrical conventions and genres and juxtaposing the language of the present day with that of Shakespeare's language, as well as a degree of travesty of the original play. Stoppard's transformation of Shakespeare's Hamlet shifts in values and world-view from the original. These changes are a result of the change in context between the two texts. Stoppard repositions the perspective from that of the upper class, to that of the commoners. There are a number of values in common with both texts, scuh as certainty, trust, truth and friendship, yet in a different matter. Because of the context, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead belittles the contextual issues of the Elizabethan era.

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" was first published during the Elizabethan era around 1603 in a very structured society. Hamlet's context is...