Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


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Acclaimed as a modern dramatic masterpiece, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is the fabulously inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the worm's-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare's play. In Tom Stoppard's best-known work, this Shakespearean Laurel and Hardy finally get a chance to take the lead role, but do so in a world where echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, where reality and illusion intermix, and where fate leads our two heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802132758
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 01/21/1994
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 659,149
Product dimensions: 5.38(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Tom Stoppard is the author of such seminal works as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead , Jumpers , The Real Thing , Arcadia , The Invention of Love , and the trilogy The Coast of Utopia. His screen credits include Parade’s End , Shakespeare in Love , Enigma , Empire of the Sun , and Anna Karenina.

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
NJouy More than 1 year ago
If a play were cooked up like a stew, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead's recipe would be something like this: mix in a large pot Shakespeare's original play Hamlet, adding a liberal portion of Waiting for Godot and Abbot and Costello, with a pinch of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Let sit while you flip coins; serve with a sprig of uncertainty. Stoppard's play is pure genius. While depending somewhat on Shakespeare's Halmet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern follows what would have been offstage: the (mis)adventures of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.or is it Guildenstern and Rosencrantz? Even they mix each other up. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a read for everyone, all ages, through the ages. With wit and humor the play disassembles and reassembles life's big questions, calling certain conventions meaningless with playing within those conventions: a play's got to begin and end somewhere. A fabulous read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this play among many others in high school and was smitten with Tom Stoppard's work. His prose and ability to tell a story within another story was fantastic. I rank Tom Stoppard among the best playwrights of all time for this play alone, not to mention all the other pieces he's written. This will make you laugh until your sides hurt and think until you can't think anymore. I loved it.
ReadHanded on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play written by Tom Stoppard, but it is fantastic.Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is at once comic, deep, and absurd. It focuses on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Summoned to court to help their depressed friend, Hamlet, the two almost indistinguishable characters meet a ridiculous band of players, talk nonsense (and good sense), and press on inevitably toward their own end.The play opens with the two friends flipping coins. Each time, the coin inexplicably turns up heads - almost one hundred times in a row. Rosencrantz takes this phenomenon in stride, but Guildenstern is worried and tries to think of possible explanations. This strange and unnatural set of events set the tone for the rest of the play.Throughout the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern banter back and forth hilariously and confusingly. Take this excerpt, for example: GUIL: Has it ever happened to you that all of a sudden and for no reason at all you haven't the faintest idea how to spell the word - "wife" - or "house" - because when you write it down you just can't remember ever having seen those letters in that order before...? ROS: I remember - GUIL: Yes? ROS: I remember when there were no questions. GUIL: There were always questions. To exchange one set for another is no great matter. ROS: Answers, yes. There were answers to everything. GUIL: You've forgotten. ROS (flaring): I haven't forgotten - how I used to remember my own name - and yours, oh yes! There were answers everywhere you looked. There was no question about it - people knew who I was and if they didn't they asked and I told them. (pg. 38)No one in the play, including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern themselves, know which character is which: ROS: My name is Guildenstern, and this is Rosencrantz. GUIL confers briefly with him. (Without embarrassment.) I'm sorry - his name's Guildenstern, and I'm Rosencrantz. (pg. 22)In reading the play, I am told before each line who is speaking it, but it's probably more difficult to keep them both straight when watching the play. Stoppard definitely does this on purpose - the audience can't tell the two main characters apart, the other characters can't tell the two main characters apart, and even the two main characters themselves struggle with their identities. Does it matter who is who? Are the two characters and their roles interchangeable? Does this concept translate to people in the real world?One of my favorite lines in the play comes during Act Three when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are on the ship to England. The ship is attacked by pirates, allowing Hamlet to escape. Guildenstern starts to panic - they are supposed to deliver Hamlet to the English king and now cannot: GUIL (rattled): But he can't - we're supposed to be - we've got a letter - we're going to England with a letter for the King - PLAYER: Yes, that much seems certain. I congratulate you on the unambiguity of your situation. GUIL: But you don't understand - it contains - we've had our instructions - the whole thing's pointless without him. PLAYER: Pirates could happen to anyone. Just deliver the letter. They'll send ambassadors from England to explain... (pg. 120)"Pirates could happen to anyone"! I love it! I literally laughed out loud when I read that.I loved Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and definitely plan to reread it at some point. It helps to have read or seen Hamlet before reading or seeing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead because the plays overlap.
israfel13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An amazing triumph of literature, drama, and postmodernism. Read it, quote it, then see the movie.
Griff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The outcome is the same, but the view point is quite different. The Hamlet story from off to the side - an indirect view provided by R&G as they ponder life and fate. Wonderful word play and existential conversation. Having just seen an excellent performance of Shakespeare's play at Stratford, Ontario - this was a wonderful complement.
pzmiller on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Probably my favorite Stoppard play. If you haven't seen it or read it -- get this right now! (Remember Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two characters in Shakespeare's "Hamlet."
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It fares much better when performed than when read, but, overall, Stoppard seems to get the point across sans interpretation. Frankly, I prefer it with a bit of creative interpretation myself.
marysargent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This play, based on Hamlet, is full of word games, chance, ideas of meaninglessness, of the impossibility of knowing the bigger picture, etc. The invented dialogue of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is occasionally interrupted by the Shakespearian dialogue of Hamlet where the action coincides. Entertaining, creative, and very well done.I particularly like the idea of building a story around minor characters in another work. It feels like real life; there's always more than what you are seeing, and there are other ways of seeing things..I think seeing it performed would add a tragic dimension to it, not accessible to me in merely reading it.
dsbs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Honestly didn't like this much. It may be because I read it immediately after I read Waiting for Godot, but I thought it relied way too much on that work, and was way too pleased with itself, to stand on its own as literature.
hjjugovic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Over my head. Very confusing.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like Waiting for Godot with a better sense of humour and a worse, meaning less inexorable, sense of total existential dread. And let's face it, if you're going to existential drama like this for laughs, you're probably a bit misdirected to start. (So advantage Beckett, is what I mean to say.) Weird to think the meaningless absurdity of life ever seemed so fretworthy.
les121 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Weird and hilarious! It makes me really want to see the production.
Rhinoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A play set within Hamlet following Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who are mere bit parts in the famous tale. It's full of nonsense and intrigue, I would really like to see this on the stage and have it come alive properly.
amandacb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
R&G are Dead by Tom Stoppard focuses on two minor characters from Shakespeare¿s play, Hamlet. Stoppard continues to use the drama mechanism but intertwines modern English with Shakespeare¿s early modern English. The fleshing out of the characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show the audience that the two are more worthy of attention than in Shakespeare¿s play; they are indicative of ¿Everyman,¿ falling prey to the whims of fate and to the invariable bloodbath that concludes Shakespeare¿s tragedies (and histories). Rosencrantz is the more passionate character while Guildenstern is shown to be more logical and rational, wanting to talk things through. The play does switch back and forth from comedy (sometimes almost slap-stick) to tragedy and it can be hard to follow at times.Notable quotes:Guildenstern: ¿The scientific approach to the examination of phenomena is a defense against the pure emotion of fear. Keep tight hold and continue while there¿s time. Now¿counter to the previous syllogism: tricky one, follow me carefully, it may prove a comfort. If we postulate, and we just have, that within un-, sub- or supernatural forces the probability is that the law of probability will not operate as a factor, then we must accept that the probability of the first part will not operate as a factor, in which case the law of probability will operate as a factor within un-, sub- or supernatural forces. And since it obviously hasn¿t been doing so, we can take it that we are not held within un-, sub- or supernatural forces after all; in all probability, that is. Which is a great relief to me personally¿ (17).Guildenstern: ¿Consistency is all I ask!¿Rosencrantz (quietly): ¿Immortality is all I seek¿¿ (45)Player: ¿Well, it¿s a device, really¿it makes the action that follows more or less comprehensible; you understand, we are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style¿ (77).Guildenstern: ¿¿And then again, what is so terrible about death? As Socrates so philosophically put it, since we don¿t know what death is, it is illogical to fear it¿ (110).
Sandyflippers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tom Stoppard¿s play ¿Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead¿ undeniably fits under the theatre of the absurd genre. Everything in this play ¿ from identity to location- is completely interchangeable and therefore meaningless. The play opens with Ros and Guild betting heads and tails on coins, with Ros claiming every single coin because he always bets heads, and is always right. Guild continually ¿takes a coin, spins it, catches it, turns it over onto his other hand, looks at it, and throws it to Ros, who puts it in his bag¿ (15). The repetition of this mirrors the absurd and pointless conflict facing Sisyphus as he continually pushes a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again. Both Sisyphus and Guild continue their pointless tasks in the hopes of obtaining some sort of success that never is fulfilled. Most of the settings feature a meaningless act similar to the tossing of the coin (an event that neither Guild nor Ros can actually remember later on in the play). Ros and Guil often refer to their ¿names shouted in a certain dawn¿ that sealed their fate, but Ros and Guild don¿t know who summoned them, where they were supposed to go, or what they were to do once they reached their unknown destination (Stoppard 125). Furthermore, no one in the play even seems to matter. ¿The player¿ has no name, and doesn¿t even consider himself a person. Everyone in the play confuses Ros and Guild (35), including Ros and Guild themselves. Oftentimes Guil will call out to Rosencrantz and call him ¿Guildenstern¿, and Ros responds as if his name was Guildenstern (45). They can¿t distinguish between one another. Ros and Guild constantly have to be told what to do and what to think. Guild exclaims ¿¿we don¿t know what¿s going on, or what to do with ourselves. We don¿t know how to act" (66). Black humor, irony, witty word play, etcetera, are extremely common in this play. This is not unnatural because ¿Rosencrant and Guildenstern are dead¿ is a comedy. The word play in this play adds to the absurdity of the both Ros and Guild¿s characters. Oftentimes one misinterprets what the other is trying to say, which can be funny to the audience, but it only further confirms the idea that there is no true meaning to this play or life in general. This reinforces the fact that nothing is idiosyncratic, and everything is interchangeable because everything is the same. An example of this word play occurs when Ros and Guild are talking about their plan to go to England and Ros says ¿what for?¿ (104). Guild replies ¿what for? Where have you been?¿ and Ros says ¿when¿ (104). Ross thinks that Guild is speaking literally when really Guild is poking fun at Ros for not remembering their instructions to go to England. There is also a lot of dark humor in this play that foreshadows the deaths of Ros and Guild. For instance, when talking about how Hamlet outwitted them in a game of ¿question and answer¿, Ros says ¿he murdered us¿ (56). This is (darkly) humorous and ironic because Hamlet is the cause of their deaths later on in the play. This foreshadows the deaths of Ros and Guild, and the deaths in themselves are humorous because they are so easily predicted by the title of the play. Another example of this dark humor that foreshadows what is to come is when Guild exclaims ¿England! That¿s a dead end¿ (121). Of course England is a dead end ¿ anyone who has background information about Hamlet knows that England will lead to Ros and Guild¿s deaths. The Player as well as the other Tragedians in ¿Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead¿ can be seen as the Persona Archetype mentioned by Carl Jung in that they are oftentimes a buffer between Ros and Guild and the real world. Furthermore, the Player assures Ros and Guild that there is no universal truth, only ¿that which is taken to be true¿ (67). This in many ways isolates Ros and Guild from the real world because they only base decisions off of the things they have been told or believe to be t
sparklegirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This play makes me so happy. It's hilarious and moving in ways I don't fully comprehend. I could read into it more fully if I owned it.
ben_a on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent concept, cleverly executed, and with moments of true (comic) inspiration For some reason, Stoppard never quite wins me over. As per usual, I should see more plays rather than just reading them.As an aside, the brief flashes of Shakespeare's language hit like rain in the desert...
iamfunky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd give this six stars if I could. This is an amazingly witty telling of Hamlet from the perspective of two minor characters, mixed in with existential philosophy and excellent repartee (the fancy name for which is evidently 'stichomythia'). Here are some of my favorite quotes:"We're actors--we're the opposite of people.""Eternity's a terrible thought. I mean, where's it going to end?""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.'"
Iralell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Funny and poignant. Read Hamlet first.
Girl_Detective on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A silly, yet provocative take on two minor but important characters from Hamlet. An existential take on Elizabethan drama that provides much to think on.
KBroun on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
By the fifth page, I wanted to kill them myself. This spinoff of Shakespeare's masterpiece produces two of the most annoying/frustrating characters I have ever seen. Their rediculous antics and annoyingly repetitive dialogue help to create characters the reader is glad to see killed off. This book is not for everyone (including me) and I would most likely never recommend it, especially to students. However, if I was forced to recommend it someone, it would only be to HS seniors enrolled in AP/Honors English, since they would have studied Hamlet as juniors.
robertjgarcia4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great book, great play, and okay movie.
szarka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Shakespeare play that The Firesign Theatre should have written, except that Stoppard did it first.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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