The Absurdity Of Existence Essay Examples
The literary world is characterised by the necessity to replicate the real life and explore the problems it poses both to the writer and the target audience. In this regard, every literary work aims to contribute to life in this or that way. Sometimes it is aimed at improving reality, sometimes at creating something new. On the other hand, in some cases, literary works are aimed at explaining the real life and trying to find the meaning of it. In this regard, in some literary works, the key to understanding of the entire plot is in analysing the significance of characters who appear briefly or do not appear at all but whose presence is an undeniable part of the plot and theme implementation. The aim of this paper is to explore the role of Hamlet as a secondary character in Tom Stoppard’s tragicomedy “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”. Hamlet is the main character in Shakespeare’s play, and the two friends are secondary in their role of betraying Hamlet and final establishment of his character. The central statement of this essay is that, in the case of this tragicomedy, the author uses Hamlet in order to make the central theme of the play more comprehensible and as an explanation for the fate of two friends. Thus, the main functionality of Hamlet’s character in this tragicomedy is to make sense of the absurd world in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern lived and to make sense of their lives as well. In this regard, this statement is proved through three main points. Frist of all, Hamlet’s character contributes to emphasising the main theme of the play – absurdity, the lack of meaning and human inability to understand the world. Secondly, Hamlet acts as driving force of all events in the play. He is the crucial turning point in two friends’ lives. Consequently, the third point is derived from the first two; Hamlet is the reason for two friend’s fate; by betraying him they have chosen their death.
The first argument in support of the thesis is that Hamlet is used in order to strengthen the main theme of the tragicomedy. The main purpose of this tragicomedy is in showing how one’s existence can be left of meaning and one’s ability to understand it. Both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are demonstrated as missing certain action in their lives. They are quite passive about their own desires and beliefs (Mattern 76). They only follow what is ordered to them. If the king tells them to be friends with Hamlet, they will be. If they are told to report about Hamlet’s actions, they will do. The two friends demonstrate stagnation and passivity in human life. At the beginning of the play when they toss the coin, one wins ninety-two times over the other, the author demonstrates the surreal and absurd nature of two men’s occupation and their motivations in life (Mattern 79). It is further summarised in the quotation: “Life is a gamble, at terrible odds – if it was a bet you would not take it” (Stoppard 115). Just as they are tossing the coin, they let the fate or choice decide their lives since they have no direction, no motivation or meaning in their lives, they are as good as dead. In this regard, the main theme of the play is the lack of meaning, absurdity in the world and the inability of people to understand what is happening around them. In this regard, the main function of Hamlet’s character is to show this absurdity, this lack of meaning in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern lives through the theatrical performances demonstrating their actual role in the entire story of revenge and the path in life they have chosen – betraying him and paying for their betrayal with their own lives (Sales 49). In this tragicomedy, through his brief appearances, Hamlet is outlined as a power from beyond, someone who is not a part of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s world, but who observes it from an independent perspective, from the perspective of his tragedy, which was real and meaningful, not like tragicomedy of these two friends (Mattern 73). Consequently, the author manages to use Hamlet’s character as a means of emphasising the main theme of absurdity through contrasting his real tragedy with the comical and absurd fate of his friends.
The second argument is that the role of Hamlet’s character in this tragicomedy is in stimulating actions towards their logical final – the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In this regard, every time Hamlet appears or one of his tragic acts is performed in front of two friends it is as if a revelation to them (Sales 45). In other words, Hamlet acts as a constructive observer of what is actually happening and meaning of their actions – the betrayal of their best fried which one way or the other would end in their death (Sales 46). However, the author demonstrates that having spent most of their lives without a purpose or any orienteers in life, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern cannot adopt logical sequences of their actions. They simply do not realise that they can be in charge of their lives. This best evident when they see the play suggesting their death, and they simply do not realise it is about them. Rosencrantz asks whether the only thing actors could do was to die (Mattern 65). The author aims to show the actual purpose of their lives – to die, since they can make no conscious use of the life that was given to them, and Hamlet is a stimulator of their journey to self-destruction. So that finally they could realise that they had a choice and due to their inertia, they lost it: “We’ve travelled too far, and our momentum has taken over; we move idly towards eternity, without possibility or hope of explanation” (Stoppard 121).
The final argument regarding Hamlet’s role in this tragicomedy is that he was the hand of fate to drive them to their end. In this regard, all this time the main driving force of their fatal death was their reluctance to realise that their passive betrayal of Hamlet was point of no return and that the unseen presence of his real tragedy foreshadowed their absurd lives and deaths (Mattern 68). In this regard, the best way to demonstrate the contrast between two stories and life paths, the author used Hamlet’s monologue in the staged performance conducted by the actors in this tragicomedy. While the monologue is the core of Hamlet’s thoughts about life and death and purposefulness of life in in his case of revenge, the two friends cannot realise the depth of this monologue and start a casual conversion (Sales 43). In this regard, the author demonstrates the difference in perspectives between the two friends and Hamlet’s tragedy. He makes a comparison in order to show what a real tragedy is which is in betraying the one who has to avenge his father and lose everything in the process (Mattern 67). For this very reason, there is polemics between actors and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern regarding what tragedy is. In this regard, actors representing Hamlet suggest his perception of tragedy: “Tragedy, sir. Deaths and disclosures, universal and particular, denouements both unexpected and inexorable, transvestite melodrama on all levels including the suggestive” (Stoppard 23). Thus, Hamlet’s tragedy empathises the true meaning of one’s life and decision-making, while the fate of two friends was in their passivity. That is why this tragicomedy is called “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, because they did not actually live, and the only remarkable achievement they made in their lives was their death and its rationale in terms of Hamlet’s real tragic and meaningful life.
Overall, from all mentioned above it can be concluded that the role of the Hamlet’s character in the discussed tragicomedy is crucial in explaining the central theme of meaningless existence, characters’ development and stimulation of actions. In this regard, Hamlet acted as a ghost of the real human tragedy, purposefulness of one’s life and ability to make independent decisions and follow them. In other words, the character of Hamlet served as author’s means of expressing the logical aspect of human lives as contrasted to absurdity of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’ meaningless lives and purposeful death. In fact, without a constant presence of Hamlet’s character, the focal points of the story would be so well emphasised.
Mattern, C. Analysis of ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’. Berlin: Grin Verlag. 2013.
Sales, R. Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”. New York, NY: Penguin
Books. 1988. Print.
Stoppard, Tom. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. New York, NY: Atlantic Books.