Chapter

Tickling the Corpse: Tom Stoppard's <i>Memento Mori</i>

John Limon

in Death's Following

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780823242795
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823242832 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823242795.003.0008
Tickling the Corpse: Tom Stoppard's Memento Mori

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In Tom Stoppard's plays, death is either redundantly indicated (in the manner of Dürer's Saint Jerome) or playfully hidden (as in Holbein's The Ambassadors). The two paradigms cross in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which the redundancy of the protagonists and of their deaths (since they are non-entities, mediocrities, the “They”) is the essence of the play's playfulness. Thus the issue is the relation of play and death: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, like Isaac, discover themselves inexplicably, unexpectedly, prematurely on the path to death, which turns out to be the law that forms the horizon of the rules of their childish play.

Keywords: Play; Law; Tom Stoppard; Dürer; Holbein; Death games; Memento mori

Chapter.  8700 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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