Significance of the Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
The Theatre of the Absurd often forces the audience to question the absurdity in everyday life. In the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, the Player is a voice of wisdom, irony, and warning. Stoppard uses the Player as the voice of certainty in an absurd reality.
Through foreshadowing and his conceptual understanding of life, the Player is the only voice of certainty. The player is able to foreshadow the future, and also know the past. They know the certainty of life and the truth behind things that have happened. Others do not know the reality, and what has really happened, so they add in the details to add clarity. They know that “having murdered his brother and wooed the widow- the prisoner mounts the throne! Here we see him and his queen give rein to their unbridled passion. She little knowing that the man she holds in her arms-!” (72). Through their play, the Player's portrays the reality of the King’s death. The death is illustrated through the play and he tries to express this to the audience, and add some truth and realism to what really happened, something that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unable to see. The Player once again proves that he is aware of what is to come in the future, during his conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about Hamlet. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern speak of Hamlet's confusing behavior, the Player intervenes and foreshadows that Hamlet acts in the way that he does because he’s “in love with [Polonius]’s daughter” (60). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are clueless as to how the world works, but the player being the only one that says things of certainty does. The Player’s insight demonstrates that he is the sole person with sureness in the play, as he understands what is happening around him due to the fact that he has knowledge of the future. Therefore, the Player proves that he is the only character in the play with assurance through his usage of accurately predicting what is to come.
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To the player, life is a play, in which the only certain aspect is scripted death. On the boat, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern question their fates, The Player replies, “In our experience, most things end in death” (114). Although this is a bleak expression of a very complex and alarming truth, the Player is trying to make a connection to the one certainty- death. The player strongly believes it is futile to try and understand one’s fate, and it does not matter because everyone is destined to die in the end. There is a strong emphasis on the arbitrariness of a world in which, the only certainty one has about life is their scripted death. Likewise, to the Player, one must first understand reality, in order to understand their death. Guildenstern's purpose in life was never established, whereas the Player is known, from the very first introduction, as an actor.As Guildenstern's inability to understand why "To be told so little [about death] and still, finally, to be denied an explanation" (203). The deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are as absurd and ambiguous as their lives. Whereas, the Player, who fakes his own death remains true to his reality, that because he is an actor, he can never truly die. In essence, a person's death correlates to the purpose they have led in life.
Therefore, Stoppard creates the Player as a sharp contrast to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s absurd reality. He is successfully uses him as a tool to captivate the audience and portray a voice of reason.