Anagnorisis and Existence (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)

949 words 4 pages
Anagnorisis and Existence

The Point of Realization in Stoppard's

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the young prince realizes what living is.

Yea, from the table of my memory

I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, 105

All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,

That youth and observation copied there;

And thy commandment all alone shall live

Within the book and volume of my brain,

Unmix'd with baser matter (Hamlet, I, v. 104-110)

Upon realizing his fate – that he must save the "state of Denmark" – Hamlet must literally discard his prior knowledge and start anew. Aristotle argues that the exact moment when Hamlet realizes his fate – by
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Clearly, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are messengers, but they don't exactly fit in the "stand in line and take what He hands out" because they are not fully aware of their fates. This is where Aristotle was correct: all humans must have an anagnorisis – all humans must move from ignorance to knowledge, even if it is at the point of death.

However, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not move from innocence or ignorance to knowledge. In fact, not only do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern not become enlightened, they do not develop at all. In fact, the duo's lack of action in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead mimics Hamlet's inaction throughout the first few acts of Hamlet. However, the difference between Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is that when the time comes, Hamlet picks up a sword and does do something – he struggles with the ultimate knowledge of man's fall from the garden, man's mortality – that's why Fortinbras honor's him "like a soldier." (Hamlet, V, ii, 405) The only other way to handle knowledge is to sit back and cry about it. Yet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don't do that either. Thus, it is only fitting that they literally disappear – Stoppard's way of saying if you're not fit to live, you're not fit to die – because they do not