Instead, we find two highly actionable and yet passionless men. In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Stoppard has fleshed out two men inevitably bound to their fates by the passions and wills of those around them, creating a compelling discussion on the balance between fate and free will. Stoppard develops twin personas through whom the passive complacency of man is examined, with basic impulses of self-preservation, concession to authority and a willingness to be moved by the desires of others ruling idle lives inexorably approaching deaths which will be overlooked by all. In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Stoppard creates two tragic figures that reflect the philosophical idleness of the average man, using their baseness, incomprehension and apathy to offer a critique of society.
Introduced in one of their frequent, pointless games, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern immediately reveal themselves as internally contradictory figures. Clearly intended as comical figures in the spirit of Shakespeares classic fools, the two Stoppard characters are yet capable of offering some of the most accurate statements regarding their own circumstances. Guildenstern makes the jocular and accusatory allegation to Rosencrantz that “at least we can still count on self-interest as a predictable factor.” (Stoppard, 14) in this context, Guildensterns remark is meant as a sarcastic observation of his friends sideways logic regarding a frivolous coin-flipping wager.
However, within the larger world of the play, this has an added level of significance. As with much of what both title characters have to offer in their observations, this statement is a profundity shrouded in the witlessness of its beholder. For Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are two pawns contained within the focus of Stoppards play, it is difficult to decipher any motive for their behaviors other than self-interest. Their bungling incognizance yields both incapable of truly preserving even this, but when Guildenstern declares of self-interest that “its the last to go,” there is a portentous irony here that he and his partner will themselves face. At all points moved by the interests of others, and even made all the more impotent by their apparent co-dependency upon each other as existing figures in Hamlets world, the two yet do not resist the relegation of their own ambitions. Rather, they commission themselves readily to whatever roles are thrust upon them.
Albee, E. (1962). Whos Afraid of Virgina Woolf? Signet.
Stoppard, T. (1991). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.