The most notable derivation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that Stoppard imparts to his play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, is the lack of identity both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern share. In Hamlet, these characters are identified solely as Hamlet’s childhood friends, are interchangeable with respect to characterization, and it is left unclear as to whether they were aware of the fact that they were sending Hamlet to his death. In Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz introduces himself and his friend by saying, “My name is Guildenstern, and this is Rosencrantz.” The lack of definition between the characters continues to such an extent that the reader has difficulty differentiating between the two. Stoppard’s emphasis upon this lack of characterization seems to state that these deaths, meaningless to Hamlet, should have been allowed to signify something to the audience (in regard to Hamlet’s character). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern might at least have been more clearly delineated in their intent, whether it was malicious or simply ignorant of the truth.
Another detail of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that Stoppard capitalizes on in his play is the unquestioning manner in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern accept directives from the king. In Hamlet, these two are summoned; they come. They are asked to delve into the life of a childhood friend with whom they have had no contact hor some time; they try.
Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace
Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace
While reading Amazing Grace, one is unable to escape the seemingly endless tales of hardship and pain. The setting behind this gripping story is the South Bronx of New York City, with the main focus on the Mott Haven housing project and its surrounding neighborhood. Here black and Hispanic families try to cope with the disparity that surrounds them. Mott Haven is a place where children must place in the hallways of the building, because playing outside is to much of a risk. The building is filled with rats and cockroaches in the summer, and lacks heat and decent water in the winter. This picture of the “ghetto” is not one of hope, but one of fear. Even the hospitals servicing the neighborhoods are dirty and lack the staff that is needed for quality basic care. If clean bed sheets are needed the patients must put them on themselves. This book is filled with stories of real people and their struggles. Each story, though different in content, has the same basic point, survival.
On a tour given by Cliffie ( a 7 year old that Kozol met in the local church) , the reader gets to see the neighborhood through the eyes of a child. Cliffie shows the reader a once green park, that is now dried up and brown with teddy bears hanging from the limbs of tree branches com a children killed from that area. Further down the block, the place where they “burn bodies of people” is pointed out. It turns out that it was an incinerator for hazardous waste products transported from New York City hospitals. Nope, no bodies just things like the occasional amputated limb, fetal tissue, needles, soiled bedding, and used bandages are piled up until they can be burned. On days that they burn the air is heavy and…
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…he problems. The problems do not root from one individual nor do they stop at another, they are constantly reoccurring despite the different situations. This method just adds to the intensity of the problems. When you shut the book or go to sleep at night the problems do not just end, they keep on growing. Kozol leaves his stories without conclusions. He makes no assumptions, nor does he spiel some politically correct rhetoric as to how things could be better. The point is the shock that there is no easy solution. The problems never end. In the conclusion of his book he lists the names of all those who died within the time span it took to complete his book. The only conclusion he offers is a lists of senseless deaths that never ends.
Kozol, Jonathan. Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation. New York: Harper, 1996.