Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, written in the 1960s by playwright Tom Stoppard, is a transformation of Shakespeareâ€™s Hamlet. Stoppard effectively relocates Shakespeareâ€™s play to the 1960s by reassessing and reevaluating the themes and characters of Hamlet and considering core values and attitudes of the 1960s- a time significantly different to that of Shakespeare. He relies on the audienceâ€™s already established knowledge of Hamlet and transforms a revenge tragedy into an Absurd drama, which shifts the focus from royalty to common man. Within Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Stoppard uses a play within a play to blur the line that defines reality, and in doing so creates confusion both onstage- with his characters, and offstage- with the audience. Using these techniques, Stoppard is able make a statement about his society, creating a play that reflected the attitudes and circumstances of the 1960s, therefore making it more relevant and relatable to the audiences of that time. .
The transformation of a Shakespearean Revenge Tragedy into an Absurd Drama means a considerable change in structure from a well-structured and rigid format, into a chaotic and formless play. Stoppard deliberately alters the configuration of the play to create a confusing atmosphere, which creates the exact feeling of society in the 1960s- no definites or certainties to rely on. Language portrays meaning in both plays- the language of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead differs to that of Hamlet. Stoppard employs meaningless colloquial exchanges, such as Rosencrantz and Guildensternâ€™s question game, which strongly contrasts to Shakespearean elaborate and poetic verse, as seen throughout the play, especially in Hamletâ€™s soliloquies- â€œThere is special providence in the fall of a sparrow.â€ This is thoughtful and philosophical. Stoppardâ€™s use of language further extends the idea of purposelessness and insignificance.