Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Reality and Illusion in Pinter and Stoppard

The contrast between illusion and fact functions as the central focus of countless texts in the canon of English literature. The subject occupies a prominent position in a diverse array of genres and forms, among which is that of the modern drama. Old Times and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, two classics of late twentieth-century British theater, exemplify the predominance of the conflict between truth and artifice as a topic on the contemporary stage and illuminate the thematic significance of such a subject in relation to prevailing literary thought and more universal statements on the nature of existence and the human condition.

The nature of reality is the ultimate concern of Old Times, the script of which is as understatedly menacing as enigmatic as any form the Pinter oeuvre. The piece eludes simple summarization to such an extent that the author himself, when prompted to describe the plot, offered a mere five words in reply: ". . . it happens. It all happens." In a somewhat more thorough elucidation, the playwright commented on the cryptic and frequent silences that mark Old Times as a product of the Pinter pen, stating that halts in conversation result because "something has happened to create...

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