“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead” is an astounding, intellectually challenging, and humorous concoction. Stoppard cleverly captures the characters of Hamlet, written by Shakespeare, but creates somewhat of a comic tragedy. Clearly an oxymoron, but profoundly effective. The play focuses on the story of Hamlet, but from the viewpoint of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and it also takes the theories proposed in Hamlet and presents them in a comic, rather than sullen, manner. One of the most humorous scenes is when Rosencrantz,
or Guildenstern, since the distinction is never truly made between the two, is laying on a table and thinking to himself what it is like to be “dead in a box.” This scene proves to be hilarious, despite its deep meaning, and parallels the infamous “To be, or not to be” speech in Hamlet. Life’s unanswerable questions are constantly being asked throughout the play, but by inserting these dubious inquiries within a comedy, Stoppard is able to captivate and preserve his audience’s attention. In fact, the humor provides the wiring, which connects the messages of the play to our own chaotic existences. This brilliant literary work captures the essence of a tragedy within a comedy, something only few authors can accomplish. It is able to provide profound, theoretical ideas that have long been questioned into a comic perspective, and yet keep its integrity.