What is the author's tone in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and what effect does tone have upon the reader's perception of theme?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is considered as “absurd,” a literary term for a movement, especially in theater, that can show the meaninglessness of life.  This sense of “absurdity” in life derives from its existential origins.  In the case of this play, the tone is comical, satirical, and even farcical.  Tone is the attitude the author has to his subject matter, and in the case of this play Stoppard treats the themes of Hamlet irrevererently. Yet in making these characters seem foolish in contrast to the loftiness of the characters in Hamlet, Stoppard raises questions about the lack of control we have over our lives.  Death is inevitable, and because this is so, the final control we have over our lives is not as extensive as we like to think.  In treating this theme with humor, we are allowed to experience the absurdity of our lives without becoming hopeless in the process.

kkays eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The tone in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is that of Sarcasm. He is taking the characters out of the original play Hamlet and showing us how they may be perceived with these two characters as the main focus. It is meant to be full of humor and at the same time is a literary analysis showing us how they are being perceived by other characters in the text.  The tone has an effect upon the perception of theme because it is showing that these characters had no control over their lives that they were cast in a play and that was their only purpose. Shakespeare says "The world is but a stage and all the men and women merely players."

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