Document Type

Senior Award Winner

Award Date

Spring 2011

Course Name

Modern Theater


Margaret Cain


It is often said that Hamlet’s tragic flaw was indecisiveness. Centuries of scholars and high school students have imperiously pointed at Hamlet, prescribing an oh-so-obvious solution to our dithering hero’s problems: just do something! Yet in his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard takes the opposite tack, introducing us to characters who are even more actionless and aimless than our troubled Danish prince. Stoppard’s main characters are an obvious homage to Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot: purely Postmodern men—clueless, directionless, and passionless. By juxtaposing Beckett-like uncertainty with the Bard’s iconic characters and setting, Stoppard is able to clearly illustrate the principle ideological change that has occurred during the centuries that separate Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: a transformation from caring for oneself and others to apathy, and a change from passion to indifference.