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Hypertextual adaptation: Humanistic enquiry through transfocalization in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

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This article considers Tom Stoppard’s use of hypertextual adaptation and appropriation in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967) from the perspective of the change in the narrative focus (transfocalization) of the source. The analysis argues that critical commentaries to date have concentrated overmuch on the hypotext (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) without realizing the significance of Stoppard’s transfocalizing hypertext and its engagement with the identity of previously marginalized characters. In reappraising the decentralized target text, this article examines the ways in which Stoppard offers an alternative reading, as he adapts the source text and in the process performs the role of the writer as an intellectual, lending a voice to the previously absent, silenced, textually disregarded or unvoiced needs of the oppressed. It is argued here that transfocalization, along with complex interweaving of texts and ideas, provides the playwright with added opportunity for creative reworking of the crucial themes in Shakespeare’s original, resulting in broadly humanistic and existential commentary on the nature of human life and its quest for meaningfulness.
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Keywords: Hamlet; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; Stoppard; adaptation; hypertextuality; transfocalization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Keimyung University

Publication date: 2012-10-04

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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