Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead A play by Tom Stoppard

To be or not to be, that is the question.

We all remember that famous line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, that play of all plays. Was Hamlet really being told what to do by his dead father, or was he really insane after all? Did his mother know what was going on? Did his uncle really murder his father? Were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet's friends from childhood, as funny and brilliant as they seemed?


Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Hamlet from a different point of view. A play within a play, within a play! Two minor characters bewildered and apparently unable to accept their present condition are brought to life in such a way that I thought of Deep Thoughts on SNL and laughed out loud more than once. It was genius. It was thought-provoking, and as you see from my book - full of such excellent word play between the two characters that I should now buy stock in sticky notes.

A sample -

Inside where nothing shows, I am the essence of a man spinning double-headed coins, and betting against himself in private atonement for an unremembered past.

And -

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

This clip from the movie is one of the best parts of many.

This play is an easier, and much, much shorter way, to view the struggles in Hamlet. It almost explains why it ended like it did - with a cornucopia of death.

We're tragedians, you see. We follow directions - there is no choice involved. The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.

I highly recommend reading this, and then watching the movie. You will never look upon Shakespeare's most famous play the same again.
5 stars
Thanks to the Good Books Club for recommending it.



Enbrethiliel said...


Ooooh! A play! =D I wish more book bloggers would review plays.

I had to read Tom Stoppard's Real Inspector Hound in uni and thought it was amazing. I think I have the text of this play in the same book and should finally get around to reading it.

Stoppard is fantastic!

Lula O said...

I know! I totally agree! I wish people would do more plays as well. I haven't read anything else of his, but now I'm sure to try Real Inspector Hound because this one was so good.

Thanks for stopping by!


Tom Stoppard caught the absurdity of human life in his representing "life as a stage" and worked on a double level using the play within the play. These two minor characters' look onto Hamlet's tragedy really gives the audience a completely different perspective but ... are you sure we get all the answers to Shakespeare's unanswered questions?

Lula O said...

Oh no, I didn't mean that at all. Did I say that? I asked the common questions at the beginning and threw in the goofy one. Sarcasm. I was shooting for the different perspective is all. By the time I finished reading this, I meant I had a better perspective about why tragedies are what they are. Not specifically why everyone dies at the end of Hamlet. It helped me come to terms with why these plays end like they do. That's what I meant.

E. L. Fay said...

I like your interpretation of Hamlet: that Hamlet may well be just insane and only imagining his dead father. It adds more layers to both Shakespeare's and Stoppard's plays, which makes things even more bewildering for poor Ros & Guil!

I love that clip you included. I really must see this film.

Lula O said...

Yes poor Ros and Guil. I felt even more sympathy for them in the movie. Because they're so innocent and cute! And dumb..

It was a great discussion. I can't figure out why more people aren't participating!!