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Introduction to the discussion topic

by | Sep 12, 2022 | Other | 0 comments

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CONTINGENCY & IRONY (is anything really real?)

Think about watching the video on social constructivism prior to reading the play.

Khan Academy. (2013, Sep. 17). Social constructionism. [Video]. YouTube.

Next, turn your attention to the play, keeping in mind the central theme of ambiguity and the multi-faceted nature of interpretation. Double meanings are laced throughout the dialog, allusions to Shakespeare’s Hamlet abound.

Stoppard, T. (1967). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

Introduction to the Discussion Topic

As we continue to explore the question of the limits of human knowledge, this week we will consider the question: “Is anything really real?”

What we want to know is whether anything must be the way it is – whether because God or nature or fate or reason dictates that it be that way – or whether everything is ultimately an accident and therefore changeable and perhaps ultimately meaningless.

Our way of exploring this question will be to return to the story of Hamlet, focusing this time on two minor characters that are featured in Tom Stoppard’s 1967 play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

Question: What themes are explored in both Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?

Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead explores many themes, including the relationship between theater and life. One way to explore this theme is to think about the play’s relationship to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

To address the question, you might consider the following themes (this list is not exhaustive–it’s just to get you thinking).

reason vs. action
the purpose of theater
life as a stage and people as actors playing roles
For subsequent posts, after getting a sense of the parallels between the two plays, consider the effect of Stoppard’s technique. You might consider the following issues:

Why did Stoppard set his play within the story of Hamlet instead of writing a whole new story?

What effect did this technique have on how we interpret Stoppard’s play and how we re-interpret Shakespeare in retrospect?

Most importantly, what effect does this effect have on how we understand the relationship between theater and art?

Horton, S. (2012, January 13).Donne: An anatomy of the world (Links to an external site.). Retrieved from

Shakespeare, W. (n.d.). Hamlet (Links to an external site.) . Retrieved from





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