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?

What?

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.

CymLowell

8 comments:

C.B. James said...

If you ever get the chance, you must see this played upon the stage. I saw it years ago and still remember parts of it vividly. It's a wonderful piece.

Julie said...

I would like to see this play at some point. I found this book at a thrift store and I look forward to reading it as well. Also, thanks for introducing me to the movie. Excellent review!

Lula O said...

This would be excellent to see as a play! I wonder if they're still doing it anywhere and I may keep hope alive that I may one day see it. Along with Wicked. sigh...

Lula O said...

Thanks Julie!

Amanda said...

I got to see this play last Saturday with my friends! They took me to it for my birthday. I hadn't read it or seen the movie before, so I didn't know anything about it. It was awesome though!

Lula O said...

Great! I'm glad it's still playing out there. That gives me hope. What did you like best about it Amanda?

Amanda said...

In this particular production, I liked the interpretation of Hamlet as crazed/slightly mad, and I really liked the guy who played the drag queen Alfred. I'm not sure he's written as a drag queen since I haven't read the play, but he was a drag queen in the live version. I also loved the way the play followed the same pattern as Catch-22, with it being very comedic in the beginning and slowly cycling down to tragic. I wrote up a big review of it on my last Sunday Salon post.

JaneGS said...

I never would have considered reading this if I hadn't read your review...now I'm intrigued. I love Hamlet, and have known about this take on it for years, but I never thought about it as commentary.

Thanks for an interesting review.