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Not new are the ideas of Tom Stoppard to center the action of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in the periphery of Shakespeare' s Hamlet and to set the two minor characters as protagonists. Theatre history records the 1891 London production of a now - long forgotten comedy by W.S. Gilbert, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in which Hamlet is banished and Rosencrantz marries Ophelia at the end of the play. Stoppard does not distort the story or parody the text of Hamlet. He uses, however, the small fragments of Shakespeare's text and builds around the incidents of Rosencrantz's and Guildenstern's life which Shakespeare has left out. We see those two inseparable characters, whom no one seems to be able to tell apart, trying to cope with an impossible mission: Finding out Hamlet's ailment and then taking him to England only to meet their death. Their confusion of not knowing why they were sent for and what is expected of them, their fear of the incomprehensible world in which no logic seem to operate and no guideposts are being provided, are the dilemmas often identified with the modem man. They cope with their fear by playing games and longing for a world in which there would be no answers for their questions. So do we.
Helena M. White, Director
Theatre and Performance Studies
La Salle University, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" (1995). The Masque Programs. 28.