Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead: Review

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, written by Tom Stoppard, was first performed in a shortened version in August 1966. When it opened in London in 1967, it catapulted Stoppard into the front ranks of modern playwrights. The plot is supposedly simple: the play of Hamlet seen not through the eyes of Hamlet or Claudius or Ophelia or Gertrude, but a worm's-eye view of the tragedy seen from the standpoint of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The blurb on the back of book says that "it is very funny, very brilliant, very chilling; it has the dust of thought about it and the particles glitter excitingly in the the theatrical air."

Um. Okay. If Clive Barnes from The New York Times says so. But you couldn't tell by my reading. I'm afraid I didn't see any humor in it. I can't say that I thought it was all that brilliant. In fact, it was almost entirely one great big "HUH???" for me. I don't get it. I'm well acquainted with Hamlet and, yes, I do get the bits of the actual play that are sprinkled here and there....but overall everything that had to do with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern made very little sense to me. Their dialogue was very vague and elliptical. Maybe this is one of those plays that do better if seen than read. I certainly hope so, because I can't say that I've gotten anything out this reading--except another candle on my Birth Year Reading Challenge Cake. One star....maybe less.


Jenny Girl said...

Shame this didn't work for you. Wasn't this made into a movie at one point? Hope your surgery goes well, and the you heal quickly. Good luck :)

J.G. said...

I think Stoppard's concept is brilliant, but confess I don't have any memory of the execution (ouch--pun intended). I probably should revisit this one!

The candle still counts, stars or not!

Good luck with your surgery and recovery. Thinking of you!

Bev Hankins said...

J.G.: I thought it sounded like a great idea when I found the book....but I just don't think it reads well. Like I said, maybe it's much more brilliant when acted rather than read.

Red said...

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this. I have to say this is one of my favorite plays and I found Rose & Guild to be hysterical. Perhaps seeing it performed would make it make more sense? There's a movie version with Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. It's a bit slow because it is essentially a story about inaction but I still think it's pretty wonderful.

J F Norris said...

This is a play - like WAITING FOR GODOT to which Stoppard owes a great deal - that definitely requires performance and direction to reveal the humor and wit. Until I actually performed in both Beckett's play and this Stoppard play I thought them both tedious and intellectual overwrought. WAITING FOR GODOT can be incredibly funny - a vaudeville farce even - until scenes with Pozzo and Lucky, that is. Stoppard's play is in the school of theater of the absurd - not uproariously funny, but ironically funny and assuredly witty.