Finding the "Right Angle:" Repositioning Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead as Potential Expressions of Holocaust Remembrance

Drake, Jaclyn
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As the number of Jewish Holocaust survivors continues to decline, we must find new ways to capture their hardships, memories, and legacies. Artistic images and dramatic representations possess the ability to meet this need because they put the past into a dialectical relationship with the present. Specifically, the human element and live, performative aspects of theatre enables this medium to speak directly to motifs in many Jewish Holocaust victims’ narratives: physical suffering, struggling to communicate, and the burden of “bearing witness.” My thesis proposes that culture can keep alive the memory of the Holocaust by revisiting theatrical works composed immediately after World War II and trying to understand them in light of this horrific event. I consider the characterization, fragmented dialogue, and metatheatrical elements of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, as well as Beckett’s own biography, to prove its potential to act as a Holocaust drama. I then meditated Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in the same manner, focusing mostly on the play’s textual exchange with Hamlet and the ideas of hegemonic culture. Both sections conclude by demonstrating how these plays affect the audience and consequently prove the dangers of forgetting the stories of the Jews of the Holocaust.

Theatre, Holocaust