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Absurdism And Existentialism In The Plays Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead And Rhinoceros

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Introduction

The current analysis involves two plays, written by different authors to illustrate philosophical themes used to express meaning and purpose of mankind and their actions. The first play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, written by Tom Stoppard, has two main characters, engaged in a game of spinning coins to determine who is more probable to win throughout the process. The more one of them continues to lose the game and hide the discomfort; the other seeks an appropriate position to keep the moment calm, regardless of the situation. The two characters are Rosencrantz, who wins every time, and Guildenstern, who loses every time the coin spins. The second play, the Rhinoceros, by Eugene Ionesco, also articulates the absurd existence of human nature through a comic and terrifying effect. At the beginning, the play features Berenger and Jean, who display two extreme contrasts in their inner identities and outward appearance. The two plays address the theory of existentialism, which attempts to uncover the meaning behind some of the endeavors that humans go through. Existentialism implies that people often engage in activities, or acts that eventually prove futile if one attempts to find extract meaning. The lack of meaning or futility of human actions is what results in the theatre of absurd, as expressed in the two plays.

Within the setting of any literal play, there has to exist an inherent meaning in each act and scene, as well as the symbols each character represent. The true existence of human is to observe various happenings or occurrence, followed by the desire to uncover or satisfy the meaning. In various literary works, authors have explored the meaning and existence of such human endeavors. However, the end result of human curiosity has been incomprehensible in many occasions. The essence of literary interpretation of absurdity is to reveal the true meaning of life and existence. In most circumstances, pain, suffering, or happiness never really gave true meaning of life. The themes, among others, will form part of the analysis in the two plays, to discover the extent of existentialism and Absurdist theory, and how they impact the perception of audience with regard to life circumstances.

The first illustration of existence defines an individual’s identity as the ability to define true self, and not any social category. It means, therefore, that one must project life beyond their social status in order to realize the true meaning of their existence, if such occurs. The characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not adequately explore the true essence of their existence in the play. Other than subjects of the King and Queen, the two characters fail to set out or separate their existence from the identity they are given to serve as spies for the majesties. In the Rhinoceros, where true meaning resides in action, rather than words, one becomes a rhinoceros; simply because they resist taking action towards what they feel could be right. In Act 2 Scene 2, Berenger and Jean bicker over health, because Jean appears to feel unwell, although denies, regardless of attempts to refer him to a doctor. Jean becomes a rhinoceros, to admit he masters his own thoughts, and give in to his will-power (p.61). Had he agreed to see the doctor, Jean would have taken responsibility over his actions, and not insist that he always mastered his own thoughts.

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An important aspect of existence that reflects free will also plays out in the characters. An individual with free will to determine the meaning of their actions normally have a way to realize their true identity. Ros and Guil initially have a purpose to fulfill as they grapple with the question on why they really do exist. As such, they display different identities, both on stage and off-stage, because they do not quite fathom how their social roles differ from their true identities. When on stage, they make more meaning of their roles to serve the majesty than when offstage, during which they do not understand the purpose of their existence. Such meaning of existence, may reflect bad faith, since individuals do not really understand true self, but obeys the desire to satisfy or achieve social obligations. In the Rhinoceros, Berenger makes an existential decision when he resists the trumpets of the rhinoceros. He often comes to terms with his current state, and is determined to keep to his inner reflection of self-worth and identity. However persuasive the trumpeting call was, Berenger convinces Durdad that one cannot knock themselves if they really don’t want to (Act 3, Scene 1, p. 73). His meaning of existence is that one must not allow themselves to take up a personality out of obligation, unless they chose or have the free will to do so.

The philosophy of absurdism also resonates with the characters in the play in a numerous circumstances. When one tries to find meaning, when there is actually none in life, they end up in a tragic state of disharmony and incompatible relations with their role and existence. When Ros and Guil try to make their life as well as their environment mean something, they end up in a state of disharmony, during which they feel discontent in every outcome of their actions or endeavors. Essentially, some of the logics they explore, for instance, to prove the outcome of their coin-flipping game do not actually prove or relate with reality in the environment. As such, they display different identities, both on stage and off-stage, because they do not quite fathom how their social roles differ from their true identities. When on stage, they make more meaning of their roles to serve the majesty than when offstage, during which they do not understand the purpose of their existence. The true essence and meaning of absurdism in Rhinoceros displays when Daisy finally finds the rhinoceros more attractive than Berenger actually believe they are. As much interesting as others think or feel the rhinoceros and trumpets are, Berenger does not stop to belief in his existential meaning of self-identity. He therefore proceeds to declare that he is left by himself, and feels ready to take responsibility for his actions and decisions, even though others would not hesitate to act otherwise.

Among the two plays, the Rhinoceros presents a stronger and clearer picture of the essence and meaning of existentialism. Berenger and Jean in this case present personalities and characters that strongly reflect strong beliefs in the philosophy of existentialism as well as absurdism. It is quite evident from the Rhinoceros that the ultimate goal of existentialism is for one to find the truth in self-identity. As Berenger decides to declare himself absolute from the public interest, he eventually exists as the character determined to prove the actual worth of self-identity.

Conclusion

The true existence of human is to observe various happenings or occurrence, followed by the desire to uncover or satisfy the meaning. In various literary works, authors have explored the meaning and existence of such human endeavors. Such meaning of existence, may reflect bad faith, since individuals do not really understand true self, but obeys the desire to satisfy or achieve social obligations. Existentialism implies that people often engage in activities, or acts that eventually prove futile if one attempts to find extract meaning. The lack of meaning or futility of human actions is what results in the theatre of absurd, as expressed in the two plays. The essence of literary interpretation of absurdity is to reveal the true meaning of life and existence. In most circumstances, pain, suffering, or happiness never really gave true meaning of life. The themes, among others, will form part of the analysis in the two plays, to discover the extent of existentialism. Such meaning of existence, may reflect bad faith, since individuals do not really understand true self, but obeys the desire to satisfy or achieve social obligations.

Works Cited

  1. Maji, Pew. ‘Absurdism in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.’ Galaxy 2.6 (2013).
  2. Wei, Wang. ‘The Absurdity of Rhinoceros from the Perspective of Existentialism [J].’ Foreign Language Research 4 (2012).

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Absurdism And Existentialism In The Plays Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead And Rhinoceros. (2021, September 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/absurdism-and-existentialism-in-the-plays-rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-and-rhinoceros/
“Absurdism And Existentialism In The Plays Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead And Rhinoceros.” Edubirdie, 28 Sept. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/absurdism-and-existentialism-in-the-plays-rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-and-rhinoceros/
Absurdism And Existentialism In The Plays Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead And Rhinoceros. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/absurdism-and-existentialism-in-the-plays-rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-and-rhinoceros/> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2022].
Absurdism And Existentialism In The Plays Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead And Rhinoceros [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 28 [cited 2022 Sept 30]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/absurdism-and-existentialism-in-the-plays-rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead-and-rhinoceros/
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