❴PDF / Epub❵ ★ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead Author Tom Stoppard – Saudionline.co.uk

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10 thoughts on “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

  1. says:


    Peasant 1: Did you hear? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead?

    Peasant 2: Really dead?

    Peasant 1: Really dead.

    Peasant 2: Really?

    Peasant 1: Really, really.

    Peasant 2: Really, really, really?

    Peasant 1: Really, really, really.

    Peasant 2: Really, really, really, really?

    Peasant 1: Would you stop that? They're dead as dead can be - which is actually pretty dead.

    Peasant 2: Pretty dead indeed.

    Peasant 1: But they're not the pretty dead.

    Peasant 2: Few are pretty when dead.

    Peasant 1: To be sure.

    Peasant 2: Was it murder?

    Peasant 1: Oh yes, t'was a murder of a show. All the crowd demanded their money back indeed.

    Peasant 2: And who could have done the dirty deed?

    Peasant 1: Stop that, we're no minstrels to be finishing each others rhymes.

    Peasant 2: Or cleaning up the other's crimes.

    Peasant 1: I've half a mind to let you join Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, can't you see our audience is growing tired of such absurdity? Though absurdity may be our part (the peasants together) absurdity for a laugh quickly loses all sense of art.

    Peasant 1: As I heard it, I believe that Hamlet may be to blame for the deaths of those two men. I heard that he replaced a letter - with instructions to kill him - with one bearing instructions for their death.

    Peasant 2: Quite the rumour. Where did this original letter come from I wonder?

    Peasant 1: Oh, that's quite easy to tell. It came from Claudius, Hamlet's dear uncle.

    Peasant 2: So was said letter - of which we have not seen...

    Peasant 1: Much as we have not seen Rosencrantz or Guildenstern...

    Peasant 2: ...therefore a letter to put master Hamlet out of his funky misery?

    (Enter Dr. John Watson and Sherlock Holmes)

    John Watson: I say, Sherlock, we don't even belong in this type of fiction.

    Sherlock Holmes: My dear Watson, you forget that this is now a murder mystery. And murder is quite within our realm of expertise.

    Both Peasants: (turn to the audience) Aside from committing them we hope.

    Watson: Then, I presume you have come to a decision about this case by now Holmes?

    Holmes: Indubitably, my good fellow. The solution is rather obvious.

    Watson: So it was Hamlet after all, his hands are certainly most guilty.

    Holmes: Why of course not Watson. Don't be ridiculous. It was not Hamlet after all who initiated the beginnings of this murder.

    Watson: Claudius then, it was his letter that sent two men to their dooms.

    Holmes: Ah, Watson, you see but you do not observe.

    Watson: Surely, you do not mean to insist that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are responsible for the deaths themselves?

    Holmes: Try to keep up Watson, I said murder, and I meant murder. This is no suicide case, it is a murder following an attempted regicide, most foul.

    Watson: Why then, Holmes, whatever the dickens could be the solution?

    Holmes: There is clearly nothing more elusive to you Watson than an obvious fact. We are looking at a murder committed centuries ago, murder that continues to haunt the here and now. In several different worlds at this time, several versions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are being murdered all over again. The true criminal - the one which remains as truth - is clearly the old bard himself. Mr William Shakespeare.


    "We're tragedians you see. We follow directions - there is no choice involved. The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means."

    The remainder of this review has been moved to my website. If you would care to read it, then please click the following link: FULL REVIEW OF ROZENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD

  2. says:

    I first read this play either at school or at university - at any event, so long ago that I can no longer remember when - and it made me a fan of Tom Stoppard's work. Since that time I've seen productions of a number of his plays, including Arcadia (one of all time favourite pieces of theatre), Travesties and Rock 'n' Roll. However, until last night I'd not seen a production of this play, which kickstarted Stoppard's career as a playwright when it was staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1966.

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is described as an absurdist, existentialist tragi-comedy. It focuses on two minor characters from Hamlet who wait in the wings as Shakespeare's tragedy is played out around them, confused and confounded by what is happening, uncertain of their identities, unable to rely on their memories. While Stoppard has Ros and Gil (or is it Gil and Ros?) engage in deep discussions about the meaning of life and death, the conflict between art and reality and the randomness of fate, they completely miss the signficance to their own situation of the philosophical concepts involved in their discussions. They have no existence independent of each other and no existence outside Hamlet - and no understanding of what that means.

    Two aspects of the play really stand out for me. One is its metatheatricality. The whole play is a piece of metatheatre given that the the central characters are characters in Hamlet and the action takes place within and around a performance of Hamlet. However, there are also conscious echoes of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, discussions by the characters of theatrical performance and theory, repeated role-playing by Ros and Gil, and more than one variation of Hamlet's play-within-a-play. The effect is a complex and layered exposition of theatrical artifice.

    The other aspect of the play that I particularly love is the language. Stoppard's wordplay is dazzlingly witty and inventive, while demonstrating how language can be used to confound and obfuscate reality and truth.

    The Sydney Theatre Company production of the play I saw last night was brilliant, with wonderful performances, sensational set and costumes and great direction. I laughed until I cried. That has to indicate a great night at the theatre.


  3. says:

    First performed in 1966, Stoppard's short metatheatrical tragicomedy takes place on the margins of Shakespeare's most famous work: the story tracks the titular pair of friends as circumstances beyond their control land them in increasingly absurd scenarios, until their sudden and inexplicable deaths terminate the action of the play. Interruption and repetition characterize the dialogue, while confusion rules the scenes. The narrative's evasiveness makes for a disorienting but stimulating viewing experience, even as it impedes the play's ability to leave a lasting or forceful impact upon the audience.

  4. says:

    ROSENCRANTZ: Here we go again.

    GUILDENSTERN: But I thought we were...?

    ROSENCRANTZ: Were what?

    GUILDENSTERN: Well, dead.

    ROSENCRANTZ: No such luck.

    GUILDENSTERN: Are you positive? This doesn't look much like Elsinore.

    ROSENCRANTZ: Of course it doesn't. We're in a different play.

    GUILDENSTERN: What play?


    TRUMP: Jesus Christ, how could you say that? Little white lies? Are you completely stupid?!

    HICKS: [weeping] I couldn't, they were so, I didn't know what to—

    TRUMP: You're fired!

    HICKS: Oh, please, please Mr Trump, I promise I'll—

    TRUMP: You heard me!

    [They exit. HICKS's sobs diminish in the distance]

    GUILDENSTERN: What play? Are we the stars this time?

    ROSENCRANTZ: [peering upward] I can see the title.

    GUILDENSTERN: So are we the stars?

    ROSENCRANTZ: It says "Kim Jong III part 2".

    GUILDENSTERN: We're not the stars then.

    ROSENCRANTZ: 'Fraid not.

    GUILDENSTERN: I never really believed we were.

    [A pause]

    GUILDENSTERN: What kind of play is it?

    ROSENCRANTZ: [peering upward again] "A nuc—"


    ROSENCRANTZ: "A nuclear tragedy".

    GUILDENSTERN: What does that mean?

    ROSENCRANTZ: "Will the world end tomorrow? It's a coin toss."

    GUILDENSTERN: I still don't get it.

    ROSENCRANTZ: I think I'm starting to understand.

    GUILDENSTERN: I'm not.

    ROSENCRANTZ: [Taking out a coin] You call.


    ROSENCRANTZ: Heads. Shall we do it again?

    [GUILDENSTERN nods, ROSENCRANTZ flips the coin]


    ROSENCRANTZ: Heads. A third time?


    [ROSENCRANTZ flips the coin and looks at it with a despairing expression]


    GUILDENSTERN: [Pointing at the sky] What's that? I think it's getting closer.



  5. says:

    Brilliant. It's fitting to choose the British designation for how wonderful I think this play is, I believe. This play manages to be absolutely stand on its own hilarious, as well as a thoughtful meditation on many issues at the same time. It pushes neither on the viewer/reader on its own, nor predominantly. The satire is executed near flawlessly, and the comedic sensitivity (even in the saddest moments of the farce) could not be more on target. I very much usually wish to have some criticism to make, even of the classics that I review, but after having read this about five times, I still have none. It makes its points, delivers them well, and involves every audience I have seen when attending a production of it.

    The only point I would make here is that if you can have some familiarity with Hamlet, I would imagine the play becomes much more funny. I saw it after knowing Hamlet quite well, so I haven't had the opposite experience. However, this is what I am told, and given the context of the play, I don't doubt it.

  6. says:

    “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”

    I have seen this play, Tom Stoppard’s first major play, I think three times over the years and twice on the same day as Hamlet, with actors playing their parts in both plays. Since I had just heard a production of Hamlet on audiotape, I decided to reread this play, which is a kind of comic/existentialist/absurdist commentary on the great tragedy. Or drama as extended reflection on what Shakespeare was exploring in Hamlet.

    One shouldn’t read or see Stoppard's play without having seen or read Hamlet, I think. They both comment on death and fate and family and identity, among other things, though Hamlet is a Prince and that play takes place as do most Shakespearean tragedies, among royalty, on a grand stage, and Stoppard’s play takes as its central characters two minor figures who had been childhood friends of Hamlet. Maybe they are more like most of us than Hamlet; in other words, what is the fate of the “common people”? (Answer: Our fates are inextricably bound to decisions that others make; i.e., as Claudius decides to kill his own brother, Hamlet’s father, in order to be with Gertrude and become king, having the domino effect of grief and madness for Hamlet, so Claudius’s decision to spy on and eventually kill Hamlet has effects on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern:

    “. . . we move idly toward eternity, without possibility of reprieve or hope or explanation.”

    If that sentiment seems relevant to the anguished but also rich and privileged Hamlet, imagine how it might also pertain to the more vulnerable Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are essentially pawns of the royal realm.

    “I don’t begin to understand. Who are all these people, what’s it got to do with me?”

    Also, we in the peanut gallery and the balcony all come to the same end, basically, though with perhaps less fanfare: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.”)

    The two characters, whom nobody can really tell apart---they aren’t even sure what their own names are half the time--obviously owe much to Vladimir and Estragon of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, who owe something to two characters Beckett loved, Laurel and Hardy. As Ros says, “we just go on.” We are left to meditate on what it's all about, of course.

    To summarize: R and G were early requested by the King Claudius to spy on their friend Hamlet, presumably to find out why on Earth he is so sad, and they later accompany him to England at the request of the King, carrying a letter to the King of England to have Hamlet killed there, but Hamlet finds the letter and pulls the old switcheroo on them and. . . we get that title. And Guildenstern justifiably complains (not expecting to die, but still):

    “What did we ever do to these people to deserve all this?”

    I like the way we weave in and out of the Hamlet story to see it from the perspective of “minor” characters, and I like the way the actors from the play within the play reflect on fate and performing/deceiving. I like all the meta-fictional reflections on playing our parts:

    “We're actors — we're the opposite of people!”

    I like, too, the way Stoppard uses R and G to reflect on existentialist themes that he sees in both Hamlet and Waiting for Godot.This early play may not in fact be his best play, but it is one of my favorite, for sure. There's even a contemporary reference!:

    "Give us this day our daily mask."

  7. says:

    I watched this movie years ago and thought it was hilarious so I thought I'd check out the play that inspired the film. It's the ramblings of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern while Hamlet goes unnoticed, or at least misunderstood, by them in the background. In far over their heads, both in thematic prose and plot progression, what makes this play so hilarious is the irony. One of the few times irony can truly be claimed: the reader is aware of a humor lost on the characters when we have the foreknowledge of the well-known fate of Rosen & Guild. My favorite part is the detached and indifferent discussion of death between Rosen & Guild when they think it's Hamlet forthcoming end but we the readers all know that it is their deaths they are tumbling towards unknowingly.

    Their part-insightful, part-idiotic discussions on chance, fate, death, friends, and word play is amusing. One of my favorite lines "A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself" is humorous because it is spoken by a seemingly nonsensical insane Guildenstern trying to appear intelligent about a Hamlet who is "stark raving sane" trying to appear unintelligent. The humor of self-evaluation in "talking nonsense not to himself" is lost on Guild.

    I loved the questions game they played where they weren't allowed to make a statement, only ask questions and the rhetoric it produced. The incorrect assumptions they take on the mundane, taking nothing for given, even previously established facts was amusing as well. Such as: "The old man thinks he's in love with his daughter" received questions such as "He's in love with his daughter?" and "The old man is?" going back and forth until "Hamlet in love with the old man's daughter, the old man thinks" sets them straight. While their conversation is often idiotic, it is sometimes insightful, and amusing in both instances.

    But while very witty, it was a little bit hard to follow at times, particularly the stage directions. It made me want to pull out Hamlet and reference the correlating scenes. It may be useful to have read Hamlet recently. I forgot what a great play that is. With the quick conversation and the double plays, I think the movie is a better forum for this and I'm putting this movie on my queue for a rewatch (and it was excellent once again). But what an original idea. Very funny. Give it a read or better yet go watch the movie.

    A few of the quotes that struck me:
    We're actors! We're the opposite of people.
    A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself. Or just as mad. . .Stark raving sane.
    Shouldn't we be doing something... constructive? ... What did you have in mind? A short, blunt human pyramid?
    A Chinaman of the T'ang Dynasty - and, by which definition, a philosopher - dreamed he was a butterfly, and from that moment he was never quite sure that he was not a butterfly dreaming it was a Chinese philosopher. Envy him; in his two-fold security.
    Everything has to be taken on trust; truth is only that which is taken to be true. It's the currency of living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn't make any difference so long as it is honoured. One acts on assumptions. What do you assume?
    In reponse to I don't believe in England: Just a conspiracy of cartographers?
    We're still finding our feet ... I should concentrate on not losing your head.
    Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect. You'd have a chance, at least. You could lie there thinking, "Well, at least I'm not dead.
    We move idly toward eternity without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation.
    If you're not even happy, what's so good about surviving?
    Death is not...not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not being.

  8. says:

    An absurdest play with two idiot main characters and one of the most profound quotes of all time “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”

  9. says:

    Each of us is the star of our own life. You may be a bit part in someone else’s narrative, but in your own mind, yours is the story that matters. Or you may struggle to find meaning in your own life, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this play by Tom Stoppard.

    Last night I attended a live broadcast of the National Theatre production, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Josh McGuire. The set was very simple and the dialog was copious and delivered rapidly. I couldn’t help but admire how well they knew their parts.

    There was definitely a “Waiting for Godot” vibe to the production, as R & G wait for some kind of sign or direction as to what they are supposed to be doing.

    A knowledge of Shakespeare’s Hamlet isn’t necessary to appreciate this play, but I think it enhances the viewer’s appreciation.


  10. says:

    Karmic retribution for false friends...Hamlet: "Thou hast killed me in thine heart...and now in my true heart let thy execution take place; to false friendship - a dungeon that neither you nor I shall be condemned to...let thy execution be my final act of friendship." (So sorry Bill!)

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