Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Essay Questions

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The doubling of the word acting goes along with the doubling found in the very idea of performing; the distinction between the false self (the part one is playing) and the true self.Hamlet spends the entire play struggling between the ambiguities of the numerous connotations of the word “to act”; “to do something” and “to pretend or perform as an actor”.Hamlet’s core conflict and what he is so often criticized for, especially by himself, is his inability to act (“do something”) but his expert ability to act (that is to pretend and perform).Coleridge argued that Hamlet is a man incapable of acting (doing); that “Shakespeare wished to impress upon us the truth, that action is the chief end of existence”.But perhaps it is the very fact that Hamlet does not just act (do something) straightaway, as the audience would have expected the protagonist of a revenge tragedy to do, that is most important.He wants to give death, which in the play is messy and sudden, form and order; he wants to rehearse it like a play.All of which mirrors the aspect of human nature where we want things categorised and understood, whilst his failure to create meaningful death, also mirrors the fact that there are things that we cannot categorise and understand.To reinforce this notion, Shakespeare places incredible importance on theatre in Hamlet, through the direct use of the theatre; the players and their play, theatrical metaphors and imagery; filling the script with words such as perform, act, show and encouraging his actors to perform in a self-consciously theatrical style for example in Claudius’s address in act 1.The effect of this was that it allowed the emphasis of the contrast between truth and pretence, reality and illusion.Everything in Hamlet works in pairs; for example the double image of Lucianus in the Mousetrap scene as, both Young Hamlet and Claudius, Claudius as the antithesis of King Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as a pair and Gerturde and Ophelia.But this doubling comes to its most obsessive at the climax of the Play with the rhyming couplets spoken by the Player King and Queen in the Murder of Gonzago.


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