“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” by Tom Stoppard

rosencrantz-and-guildenstern-are-dead“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is the 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.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a play within a play containing a play within a play. It all gets quite confusing in the end, and while I understand the point of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead‘s choppy nature, it comes across as incohesive and junvenile. You almost need to interfuse both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Hamlet to understand the sporadic nature, humor, and basic plot of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

This “back story” to Shakespeare’s play tries desperately to be funny, but I laughed mostly at the absurdity of the whole thing rather than the actual words coming from the character’s mouth. Although, the part were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are role playing as Hamlet and one of the pair during his confession of how his mother’s hasty marriage affected him is pretty humorous, although I think that has more to do with the delivery of the scene in the movie adaption.

“R: So – so you uncle is the King of Denmark?!
G: And my father before him.
R: His father before him?
G: No, my father before him.
R: But surely –
G: You might as well ask.
R: Let me get this straight. Your father was king. You were his only son. Your father dies. You are of age. Your uncle becomes king.
G: Yes.
R: Unorthodox.
G: Undid me.
R: Undeniable.” (pg. 49-50)

The movie adaptation, which we watched after reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is certainly better than the actual play despite jumping around and saying lines out of order.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Stoppard, Tom. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 1994. Originally published 1967. Print. 128 pgs. ISBN: 9780802132758. Source: School handout.
Book Cover © Grove/Atlantic. Retrieved: January 12, 2009.


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