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Drama Within Its Context – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

In: English and Literature

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Drama Within its Context – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ is an absurdist and existentialism play that uses wit and comedy to highlight the fundamental mysteries of the world, while cleverly using language to explain themes such as versions of reality, fate and free will and isolation. With Stoppard’s word-playing intellectuality as well as his daring and bizarre ways, he has also created an entertaining play that addresses many philosophical concepts.
To represent some of the ideas which form the essential concepts of the play, our group decided to create a poster, that details Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s paralyzing confusion as they are condemned to death and the sheer world that they cannot understand comes crashing down on them. From the beginning of their journey to their final moments, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are in complete confusion as they desperately try to make sense of the utter randomness of the universe. The play suggests that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s frequent confusion is caused by the prominent role of chance in our lives. This idea has been represented on our poster by an enormous wave that looms over the boat that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are on, as they journey in the darkness on their way to England. The wave indicates the unpredictability of the world as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are trapped against an unstoppable force that is impossible to contain.
Throughout the wave, we have included the many themes explored in this play, including fate and free will. Stoppard asks the question of to what degree do fate and chance control our lives? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern believe that England represents their freedom as once they have completed all royal duties, they will be able to do as they please. However, it soon becomes clear that free will is an illusion as they are left with very limited choices and suddenly their idea of freedom is carrying them towards the inevitable: death.
Yet another essential theme to include in the looming wave was isolation as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are constantly alone in their world full of confusion and passivity, such as in the line, ‘We cross our bridges when we come to 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.’ However, the isolation reaches its highest point when the two are on their journey to England, as it gives a sense of what death may be like: a place where you still have a mind but no longer have any freedom of action.
Versions of reality was the final theme we included as this play-within-a-play displays the close connection of the real world with a theatrical performance, as the two become completely jumbled. This is demonstrated in the lines: Guil: ’Aren’t you going to change into your costume?’ Player: ‘I never change out of it sir’, as it creates the question of whether the Player is treating reality as he would treat a play or treating a play as reality.
While the looming wave is crashing onto Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, we have put both characters on the boat with a gust of wind filling the sails as both are essential aspects of the play. The boat is a very symbolic metaphor for eternity, as a boat journey is long and the direction is beyond Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s control. They are at sea, with no land in sight and simply along for the ride, as the wind is used to signify a major change in events as it eventually leads them to their deaths.
A poster was chosen to demonstrate these ideas in both an eye-catching and informative way, and using paint allowed us to create a wave that appeared murky and destructive, while using dark blues and purples allowed us to create a bold piece that represents the essential ideas of Stoppard’s absurdist play.
‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is Dead’, is a play that cleverly explores all of the issues surrounding death. Through the use of comical and colloquial language, Stoppard has created a play that questions chance and allows the audience to explore many themes that highlight the fundamental obscurities of the world.

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