The Literary Evocation of Loeb’s Theory of Universe in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

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Year-Number: 2022-43
Number of pages: 177-184
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Abstract

Revisiting Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, this article aims to show Stoppard’s grand design in light of Loeb’s theory of universe. According to Loeb’s claim, our universe is a product of a super design developed in a lab by some higher intelligent forms3. Although it sounds too theoretical and less convincing for now, one striking insinuation in his assumption, perhaps not deliberately given, is worthwhile to note: It rejects the existentialists’ notion of one’s “thrownness” into world, that is, it features a pre-programmed network in which one is genetically coded with a purpose to create some habitats in case of the loss of the present habitat as a possible result of facing apocalyptic scenarios. The evocation of St. Augustine’s concept of predestination in Loeb’s view seems to show that it prioritizes the predetermined matrix structured by more secular and scientific Gods, giving no space for contingency or chance. Long before Loeb’s sensational theory, though diametrically different in style, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead similarly features a predestined pattern in the textual universe, the structure of which had already been designed not by the aliens but Shakespeare. It is surprising to find that a playwright and a physicist living at different eras and sharing no common ground may come to adopt a similar view of design. Unlike the genetically coded beings in Loeb’s universe, a careful reader might catch the glimpse of the semiotically coded characters trapped in the universe of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In this context, this article will revisit the fated universe of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to show how Stoppard adopts a similar understanding of Loeb’s theory of predestined universe. It firstly discusses Tom Stoppard as a playwright, and then focuses on the inevitable fates of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern already predetermined by Shakespeare.

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