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Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Stoppard’s Guildenstern: Leap Between Un-Existentialist Anguish and Un-Absurdist Happiness

  • Paul MegnaEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Shakespeare Studies book series (PASHST)

Abstract

Despite Tom Stoppard’s insistence that he did not know the term ‘existential’ when penning Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, critics have long branded his famous play a work of existentialist theatre. Unlike the bulk of existentialist literature and philosophy, however, Stoppard’s play does not deal with the anxiety that arises when one recognizes her absolute freedom to act in a meaningless and random world. Instead, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead explores the horror that arises from an opposite epiphany: that perhaps we are completely devoid of freedom, leading entirely pre-scripted lives in a drama of someone else’s composition. This chapter argues that both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Hamlet can productively enrich the existentialist tradition by diagnosing a species of anxiety patently different from those theorized by existentialist philosophers.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of EmotionsThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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