Saturday, April 10, 2010

(Book #13) Shakespeare - Hamlet & (Book #14) Tom Stoppard - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

A Double Feature…

Looking back on my education, the lack of Shakespeare I was required to read surprises me. "Romeo & Juliet" and "The Tempest" were my only forays into the great Bard, and in the last few years I have really wanted to check out more of his work. "Hamlet" has been on my 'list' for some time and it was good to finally get around to reading it (Thank you, Shakespeare iPhone app!). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could actually understand what was really being said while reading the high English. "Hamlet" is one of the greatest tragedies ever told, and as such has been analyzed, reinterpreted, and reborn by each new generation for centuries. It is a tale of revenge, treachery and madness in which a chain of events is set off by the murder of the King of Denmark. Fatherless and stripped of his birthright, Hamlet teeters on the edge of madness while trying to expose the truth. There is a continual sense of unbalance between the characters that wants to be righted, but for each action there are harsh reactions, which escalate through the tale to its bloody conclusion.

As a follow up to "Hamlet" I read another play, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", by Tom Stoppard, which borrows two peculiar characters from Shakespeare's play and breathes new life into them. This pastiche weaves its way through the original tale, but through the eyes of Hamlet's two bumbling friends. Original dialogue is used to bookend the absurd banter that bounces back and forth between Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. As a counterpoint to the drama of "Hamlet", this play was genuinely funny, while still hinting at the unsettling events that were occurring elsewhere. Beyond the Abbot & Costello-esque bantering back-and-forth, there is a philosophical dialectic over deeper aspects of life. This volleying juxtaposes the unfiltered thoughts with the tragedies that are simultaneously occurring elsewhere. In the end, the result is the same, as it had to be. These parallel accounts address both sides of the same coin, a coin which Stoppard literally had his characters use to ponder the idea of fate. The pairing of these writings back-to-back provided a richer experience of the story as a whole, and almost begs the reader to go back and revisit "Hamlet" anew and with a different perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment