&Guildenstern Essay, Research Paper
Fate in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Topic #2)
Player: . . . there s a design at work in all art, surely you know that. Events must play themselves out to an aesthetic, moral and logical conclusion. (24). Fate is an idea explored frequently by William Shakespeare in his literary works and by many other famous tragedy writers. Even though Tom Stoppard s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a Shakespeare spoof , the idea of fate operates throughout the play. This thematic idea is introduced by a coin toss that seems to defy probability and operates solely on fate. The fate of the coin toss is symbolic of Stoppard s two muddled main characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and their fate.
While traveling on a journey, although unaware of their destination, Rosencrantz (or is it Guildenstern?) stops to pick up a coin. Here begins the idea of fate and its symbolism to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It was purely an act of fate that Rosencrantz stopped in the middle of a very important journey to pick up an unimportant coin. Fate continues to work through the coin, causing the toss to end up heads 156 times in a row. Guildenstern: A weaker man might be moved to reexamine his faith, if in nothing else, at least in the law of probability. (13). But Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don t have to reexamine their faith, they accept their fate and the fate of the coin toss blindly. The fate of the coin doesn t change until Rosencrantz bets with the Player that the coin will be heads, then for the first time the coin turns up tails.
As a favor to the king Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get on a ship to transport Hamlet to his death in England. Guildenstern: Where we went wrong was getting on a boat. We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movement is contained within a larger one that carries us idly toward eternity without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation. (27). The two men s fate begins to change (with a little help from Hamlet of course) once they set foot on the ship. In the movie Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the two men narrowly avoid death several times during battle with pirates, only to fulfill their fate and be hung later. Like the fate of the coin, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern s fate was good, until the 157th toss. Their fate was unavoidable, Guildenstern: . . . there must have been a moment at the beginning when we could have said no. But somehow we missed it . . . (28).
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were unable to avoid their deaths because fate led them to that point through a series of events. According to fate, Player: . . . We follow directions. There is no choice involved. The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what Tragedy means! . . . (24). Tom Stoppard artfully introduces the idea of fate through the coin toss, and it is through this idea we are able to explain exactly how Rosencrantz and Guildenstern end up dead.