Comments on Lyotard's sense of comedy from Just Gaming

1.) There is a existential inauthenticity to the failure to ruse. One is spoken. Identity is scripted. 1.a) This is the comedy, a terrifying comedy, of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. "Our names called in a certain morn. . . ," a phrase repeated often in the play describes their interpellation, the prescription of their identity. But here it is prescription without obligation.

2.) "You are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, that's enough" seems to inscribe their identities in a book of fate. So it is, says Lyotard, with Oedipus at the oracle of Apollo.

2.a) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ask "why?" They seek justification. But justice, as prescriptive, is incommensurable with explanation, with theory. 2.b) To judge implies an Idea of the Just. This is vaguely Kantian, according to Lyotard. However, whenever an Idea becomes determinate, we experience "terror" (91-2).

2.c) Terror, presumably, prevents rusing, prevents the performing of the self. Was there a time when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could have said "no"? (Act III). The question is problematical. There is no "before" to the terror of interpellation. This is frightening comedy, indeed! Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are allowed only to embellish, not revise, not retell. The obligation to relay, and to ruse, is denied.

2.d) This denial is unjust. It prevents Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from playing the game of justice. It denies tradition as the dynamics of the social bond. Lyotard associates this specific terror with the fear of"death." "The question of the social bond, when it is put in political terms, has always been raised in the form of a possible interruption of the social bond, which is simply called 'death' in all its forms: imprisonment, unemployment, repression, hunger, anything you want. Those are all deaths" (99). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are always already dead. 3.) Only Hamlet succeeds in transforming death into the relay, into justice. Is Hamlet pagan?

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