Tranformations Of Texts In Relation To A Shift In Context Shakespeare's "Hamlet" And "Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead" By Tom Stoppard.

1294 words - 5 pages

All written texts attempt to explore and interpret the world around them. The distinctive historical, social, political and cultural contexts of each composer always have a considerable impact on how a particular text is formed. It is therefore natural for every written text to contain reflections of the values of their time. These unique values greatly influence the way particular themes are represented within a text, and consequently play a large role in shaping the text's meaning.If a single text undergoes a transformation to suit a new context, the themes within the original text may still be valid despite the change in the social or cultural circumstances of the time. However, they would be interpreted differently by the new context, shaping a different form and meaning of the original text. William Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (R&G), are an example of this contextual transformation.Shakespeare's Hamlet was written at the dawn of the 17th Century in Elizabethan England at a time when the monarchy was the head of the Church of England and very well established. It was believed that the universe was a 'Chain of Being' with God at the top closely followed by royalty, and then all the normal people at the lowest level. Religion and the monarchy had a strong influence over all the people. This, along with the political volatility, growing religious doubt and threat of invasion provided the perfect milieu for a revenge tragedy with desirable elitist characters.During this period there were certain social conventions regarding the revenge tragedy theme and in order for Hamlet to appeal to the audiences and succeed, Shakespeare was restricted to complying with social norms, limiting his creativity in regards to the values he presented in the play. The hero Hamlet is presented as an honourable, educated prince at the top of the chain of being, destined to be wronged by his peers - a character profile that appealed to the Elizabethan audiences.Evidence of a traditional Elizabethan revenge tragedy can be seen throughout the text in the flawed hero, sword fights, ghosts, and betrayal. There is a strong overtone of monarchist and religious values constantly featured throughout the play and in addition, it also contains the traditional theatrical techniques of that time such as Hamlet's soliloquies, the play-within-a-play and the use of asides such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.In complete contrast, the context in which Stoppard wrote R&G in the 1960s, allowed him to experiment with new ideas and values to help shape a new form and meaning of the text. There were no religious censors restricting him as they were with Shakespeare, and rebellion against conventional political, social and religious attitudes had become openly accepted with the rise of individualism.Although R&G is essentially a revenge tragedy as it follows the same story as Hamlet, Stoppard uses modern techniques such as...

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