What if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was the original?

The other day on Reddit somebody asked whether you could truly appreciate Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead if you had no previous knowledge of Hamlet.

I suggested that this would be amazing, because you’d then get the rare opportunity of seeing Hamlet as the backstage play!

Think about that.  Imagine if R+G was the original, the play you were intended to see and appreciate.  And then later somebody came along and said, well, have you seen this one?  Would it work?  Would Hamlet then forever be the inferior play, or would it clearly outclass Mr. Stoppard’s work?

It’s little more than a thought experiment, because I think that even if you’ve never seen Hamlet, you’ve almost certainly heard of it, and you probably have no choice but to go into R+G with the knowledge that it is a spin-off of that one, and not the other way around.

One thought on “What if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was the original?

  1. Wait a minute!

    Are you trying to tell me that Tom Stoppard wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead? I heard it was Sam Shepard, the 25th Earl of Paris, Texas who really wrote it.

    Seriously, I cannot imagine how one could watch R&G without a prior understanding that it was a sideshow, as it were, to Hamlet.

    If it was possible to see R&G without knowing about Hamlet, I think the play would make lose much of its impact. Whe whole conceit (if that is the right word) of Stoppard's play is the self-referential nature of metatheater–a play within a play within a play. The issue of art vs reality which is one of the main themes of Stoppard's play would be lost.

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