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AP English IV AP

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead
Tom Stoppard

Diem Perdidi – Titus

Student Notes And Exercises
Jimmy C. Stephens 8/10/2007

Essential Questions
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. What wrong conception of being has ―modern thought‖ overcome? By what dualism was that conception replaced? How does bad faith differ from a lie? What difficulties follow from this difference? How does psychoanalysis address these difficulties? What are two reasons why the psychoanalytic approach does not work? What does it mean to say: ―Every belief is a belief that falls short; one never wholly believes what one believes‖? How is this relevant to bad faith? What are the inadequate conceptions of the past? What is the true relation I have with my past? What is the present? What is presence? What is the future? Why is it that the For-itself ―can never be its Future except problematically‖? What is knowledge? What is solipsism?
(The word solipsism (Latin: solus, alone + ipse, self) is used for two related yet distinct concepts:  An epistemological position that one's own perceptions are the only things that can be known with certainty. The nature of the external world — that is, the source of one's perceptions — therefore cannot be conclusively known; it may not even exist. This is also called external world skepticism.  A metaphysical belief that the universe is entirely the creation of one's own mind. Thus, in a sense, the belief that nothing 'exists' outside of one's own mind.

8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Why is it that ―danger is not an accident but the permanent structure of my being-for-others‖? How can we ―explain that unshakable resistance which common sense has always opposed to the solipsistic argument‖? What is absence? What is it not? What is fear? How can it be resolved? What is shame? How is God relevant to it? What is pride? Why is pride in bad faith?

Text / Video Citations:
Stoppard, Tom. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. New York::Grove/Atlantic, 1994. Note: This play is often taught in parallel with Waiting for Godot.

Fair Use
All material contained herein is used according to the “Fair Use” provision of the United States Copyight Laws as listed below: US Code TITLE 17 > CHAPTER 1 > § 107 Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

Copyrights
© COPYRIGHT 2007, Jimmy C. Stephens, Cedar Park, TX. All rights Reserved. Portions of this unit are © COPYRIGHT, The Center for Learning. Used with permission. Not for resale. Materials obtained from Internet sources are so cited

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TEKS Covered In This Unit
(TEKS not covered in this unit are presented in light grey)

§110.45. English IV (One Credit). (b) Knowledge and skills. (1) Writing/purposes. The student writes in a variety of forms. The student is expected to: (A) write in a variety of forms with an emphasis on literary forms such as fiction, poetry, drama, and media scripts; (B) draw upon the distinguishing characteristics of written forms such as essays, scientific reports, speeches, and memoranda to write effectively in each form; (C) write in a voice and style appropriate to audience and purpose; (D) employ literary devices to enhance style and voice; (E) employ precise language to communicate ideas clearly and concisely; and (F) organize ideas in writing to ensure coherence, logical progression, and support for ideas. (2) Writing/writing processes. The student uses recursive writing processes when appropriate. The student is expected to: (A) use prewriting strategies to generate ideas, develop voice, and plan; (B) develop drafts both independently and collaboratively by organizing content such as paragraphing and outlining and by refining style to suit occasion, audience, and purpose; (C) use vocabulary, organization, and rhetorical devices appropriate to audience and purpose; (D) use varied sentence structure to express meanings and achieve desired effect; (E) revise drafts by rethinking content organization and style to better accomplish the task; (F) use effective sequences and transitions to achieve coherence and meaning; (G) use technology for aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts; and (H) refine selected pieces to publish for general and specific audiences. (3) Writing/grammar/usage/conventions/spelling. The student relies increasingly on the conventions and mechanics of written English, including the rules of usage and grammar, to write clearly and effectively. The student is expected to: (A) produce legible work that shows accurate spelling and correct use of the conventions of punctuation and capitalization such as italics and ellipses; (B) demonstrate control over grammatical elements such as subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, verb forms, and parallelism;

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (C) compose increasingly more involved sentences that contain gerunds, participles, and infinitives in their various functions; (D) produce error-free writing in the final draft; and (E) use a manual of style such as Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), and The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). (4) Writing/inquiry/research. The student uses writing as a tool for learning and research. The student is expected to: (A) use writing to formulate questions, refine topics, and clarify ideas; (B) use writing to discover, record, review, and learn; (C) use writing to organize and support what is known and what needs to be learned about a topic; (D) compile information from primary and secondary sources using available technology; (E) organize notes from multiple sources in useful and informing ways such as graphics, conceptual maps, and learning logs; (F) link related information and ideas from a variety of sources; (G) compile written ideas and representations into reports, summaries, or other formats and draw conclusions; and (H) use writing as a tool for reflection, exploration, learning, problem solving, and personal growth. (5) Writing/analysis. The student communicates with writers inside and outside the classroom, including writers who represent diverse cultures and fields. The student is expected to: (A) analyze strategies that writers in different fields use to compose; (B) correspond with other writers electronically and in conventional ways; (C) collaborate with other writers; and (D) recognize how writers represent and reveal their cultures and traditions in texts. (6) Writing/evaluation. The student evaluates his/her own writing and the writings of others. The student is expected to: (A) evaluate how well writing achieves its purposes and engage in conversations with peers and the teacher about aspects of his/her own writing and the writings of others; (B) analyze and discuss published pieces as writing models and apply criteria developed by self and others to evaluate writing; and (C) accumulate and review his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set his/her own goals as a writer. (7) Reading/word identification/vocabulary development. The student acquires an extensive vocabulary through reading and systematic word study. The student is expected to: (A) expand vocabulary through wide reading, listening, and discussing; (B) rely on context to determine meanings of words and phrases such as figurative language, idioms, multiple meaning words, and technical

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead vocabulary; (C) apply meanings of prefixes, roots, and suffixes in order to comprehend; (D) research word origins as an aid to understanding meanings, derivations, and spellings as well as influences on the English language; (E) use reference material such as glossary, dictionary, thesaurus, and available technology to determine precise meanings and usage; (F) discriminate between denotative and connotative meanings and interpret the connotative power of words; and (G) read and understand analogies. (8) Reading/comprehension. The student comprehends selections using a variety of strategies. The student is expected to: (A) establish and adjust purpose for reading such as to find out, to understand, to interpret, to enjoy, and to solve problems; (B) draw upon his/her own background to provide connection to texts; (C) monitor his/her own reading strategies and modify when necessary; (D) construct images such as graphic organizers based on text descriptions and text structures; (E) analyze text structures such as compare/contrast, cause/effect, and chronological order for how they influence understanding; (F) produce summaries of texts by identifying main idea and supporting detail; (G) draw inferences and support them with textual evidence and experience; (H) use study strategies such as note taking, outlining, and using studyguide questions to better understand texts; and (I) read silently with comprehension for a sustained period of time. (9) Reading/variety of texts. The student reads extensively and intensively for different purposes in varied sources, including British literature, in increasingly demanding texts. The student is expected to: (A) read to be entertained, to appreciate a writer's craft, to be informed, to take action, and to discover models to use in his/her own writing; (B) read in varied sources such as diaries, journals, textbooks, maps, newspapers, letters, speeches, memoranda, electronic texts, and other media; (C) read British and other world literature, including classic and contemporary works; and (D) interpret the possible influences of the historical context on a literary work. (10) Reading/culture. The student reads widely, including British literature, to increase knowledge of his/her own culture, the culture of others, and the common elements across culture. The student is expected to: (A) recognize distinctive and shared characteristics of cultures through reading;

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (B) compare text events with his/her own and other readers' experiences; and (C) recognize and discuss themes and connections that cross cultures. (11) Reading/literary response. The student expresses and supports responses to various types of texts. The student is expected to: (A) respond to informational and aesthetic elements in texts such as discussions, journal entries, oral interpretations, enactments, and graphic displays; (B) use elements of text to defend, clarify, and negotiate responses and interpretations; (C) analyze written reviews of literature, film, and performance to compare with his/her own responses; and (D) evaluate text through critical analysis. (12) Reading/literary concepts. The student analyzes literary elements for their contributions to meaning in literary texts. The student is expected to: (A) compare and contrast elements of texts such as themes, conflicts, and allusions both within and across texts; (B) propose and provide examples of themes that cross texts; (C) analyze relevance of setting and time frame to text's meaning; (D) describe the development of plot and identify conflicts and how they are addressed and resolved; (E) analyze the melodies of literary language, including its use of evocative words and rhythms; (F) connect literature to historical contexts, current events, and his/her own experiences; and (G) understand literary forms and terms such as author, drama, biography, autobiography, myth, tall tale, dialogue, tragedy and comedy, structure in poetry, epic, ballad, protagonist, antagonist, paradox, analogy, dialect, and comic relief as appropriate to the selections being read. (13) Reading/analysis/evaluation. The student reads critically to evaluate texts and the authority of sources. The student is expected to: (A) analyze the characteristics of clear text such as conciseness, correctness, and completeness; (B) evaluate the credibility of information sources, including how the writer's motivation may affect that credibility; (C) recognize logical, deceptive, and/or faulty modes of persuasion in text; (D) apply modes of reasoning such as induction and deduction to think critically; (E) describe how a writer's motivation, stance, or position may affect text credibility, structure, and tone; and (F) analyze aspects of texts such as patterns of organization and choice of language for their effect on audiences. (14) Reading/inquiry/research. The student uses reading and research skills to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Lessons.doc The student is expected to: 6

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead develop self-selected topics. (A) generate relevant, interesting, and researchable questions; (B) locate appropriate print and non-print information using text and technical resources, including databases and the Internet; (C) use text organizers such as overviews, headings, and graphic features to locate and categorize information; (D) evaluate the credibility of information sources and their appropriateness for varied needs; (E) organize and record new information in systematic ways such as notes, charts, and graphic organizers; (F) produce research projects and reports in varying forms for audiences; and (G) draw relevant questions for further study from the research findings or conclusions. (15) Listening/speaking/critical listening. The student listens attentively for a variety of purposes. The student is expected to: (A) demonstrate proficiency in each aspect of the listening process such as focusing attention, interpreting, and responding; (B) use effective strategies for listening such as preparing for listening, identifying the types of listening, and adopting appropriate strategies; (C) demonstrate proficiency in critical, empathic, appreciative, and reflective listening; (D) use effective strategies to evaluate his/her own listening such as asking questions for clarification, comparing and contrasting interpretations with those of others, and researching points of interest or contention; and (E) use effective listening to provide appropriate feedback in a variety of situations such as conversations and discussions and informative, persuasive, or artistic presentations. (16) Listening/speaking/purposes. The student speaks clearly and effectively for a variety of purposes. The student is expected to: (A) use conventions of oral language effectively, including word choice, grammar, and diction; (B) use informal, standard, and technical English to meet demands of occasion, audience, and task; (C) respond appropriately to the opinions and views of others; (D) adopt verbal and nonverbal strategies to accommodate needs of the listener and occasion; (E) ask clear questions for a variety of purposes and respond appropriately to the questions of others; (F) make relevant contributions in conversations and discussions; (G) express and defend a point of view using precise language and appropriate detail; and

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (H) speak responsibly to present accurate, truthful, and ethical messages. (17) Listening/speaking/presentations. The student prepares, organizes, and presents oral messages. The student is expected to: (A) present clear thesis statements and claims; (B) support major thesis with logical points or arguments; (C) choose valid evidence or proofs to support claims; (D) use effective appeals to support points, claims, or arguments; (E) use language and rhetorical strategies skillfully in informative and persuasive messages; (F) analyze purpose, audience, and occasion to choose effective verbal and nonverbal strategies for presenting messages and performances; (G) interpret literary texts such as telling stories, and interpreting scenes from narrative or dramatic texts or poems; and (H) use feedback to judge effectiveness in communicating and setting goals for future presentations. (18) Listening/speaking/evaluation. The student evaluates and critiques oral presentations and performances. The student is expected to: (A) apply valid criteria to analyze, evaluate, and critique informative and persuasive messages; (B) apply valid criteria to analyze, evaluate, and critique literary performances; (C) use praise and suggestions of others to improve his/her own communication; and (D) identify and analyze the effect of artistic elements within literary texts such as character development, rhyme, imagery, and language. (19) Viewing/representing/interpretation. The student understands and interprets visual representations. The student is expected to: (A) describe how meanings are communicated through elements of design, including shape, line, color, and texture; (B) analyze relationships, ideas, and cultures as represented in various media; and (C) distinguish the purposes of various media forms such as informative texts, entertaining texts, and advertisements. (20) Viewing/representing/analysis. The student analyzes and critiques the significance of visual representations. The student is expected to: (A) investigate the source of a media presentation or production such as who made it and why it was made; (B) deconstruct media to get the main idea of the message's content; (C) evaluate and critique the persuasive techniques of media messages such as glittering generalities, logical fallacies, and symbols; (D) recognize how visual and sound techniques or design convey messages in media such as special effects, editing, camera angles, reaction

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead shots, sequencing, and music; (E) recognize genres such as nightly news, newsmagazines, and documentaries and identify the unique properties of each; and (F) compare, contrast, and critique various media coverage of the same event such as in newspapers, television, and on the Internet. (21) Viewing/representing/production. The student produces visual representations that communicate with others. The student is expected to: (A) examine the effect of media on constructing his/her own perception of reality; (B) use a variety of forms and technologies such as videos, photographs, and web pages to communicate specific messages; (C) use a range of techniques to plan and create a media text and reflect critically on the work produced; (D) create media products to include a ten- to fifteen- minute investigative documentary, ad campaigns, political campaigns, or parodies to engage specific audiences; and (E) create, present, test, and revise a project and analyze a response using data-gathering techniques such as questionnaires, group discussions, and feedback forms.

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Existentialism
1. Existentialism opposes any absolutes; thus, naturalism's "I perceive; therefore, I am," is rejected as accepting the binding control of nature's laws. 2. The existentialist starts with experience first: he exists; because he exists, he thinks; he feels; he perceives. 3. Our feeling, our state, our existence is one of dread, and anxiety. 4. When the existentialist is no longer conscious of himself as being, he feels that he is nothing. 5. Because each man knows that he is free and that he is the origin of his own having, possessing, creating, and existing, he is in anguish, pain, and dread. 6. But each man is isolated, alone with his own freedom. 7. No other person or agency—except time—can take this burden, this freedom from him. 8. Man should never fool himself with any hope of future success. 9. Thus, human existence is replete with lack of fulfillment, emptiness, and frustration. 10. The existentialist believes that belief is consciousness of choosing. 11. Choice is always possible, but what is not possible is not to choose. 12. When he fulfills himself, he exists. This fulfilling can come only through the agony of choices which uphold his own selfconsciousness. 13. The conviction of making choices is never one of reason, only one of intense passion: human existence is no more than passion. 14. What counts as real is the individual's inner response to a situation which he has experienced. 15. Man is absurd. He could escape his agony by suicide, alcoholism, protracted narcotic states, and other abnormal acts against human existence, but he avoids these. He prefers to live with his consciousness—certain only of uncertainty. He learns to accept and to live with the fact of death. He equates his constant negation as a death, or as reduction to nothingness. 16. Because of what I am, as an existentialist, I cannot stop time, except through death, suicide, insanity, alcoholism, or narcotics addiction.6

1Excerpted

from Wesley Barnes, The Philosophy and Literature of Existentialism (New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1961), 91-99.
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STUDY QUESTIONS
1.) Why do people keep mixing up Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? 2.) Why do they mix up each other? 3.) Why did they agree to come to the castle in the first place? 4.) How does Guildenstern view Rosencrantz? 5.) What is the Player‘s relationship to the two main characters? 6.) Describe Hamlet in this play, and compare him to Shakespeare‘s Hamlet. 7.) What are the major differences between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? 8.) Is Rosencrantz happy? 9.) Compare the end of the play to its beginning. What has changed? 10.) What does death mean in this play?

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Introduction
Adapted from: http://www.enotes.com/rosencrantz-guildenstern//print

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard's best-known and first major play, appeared initially as an amateur production in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August of 1966. Subsequent professional productions in London and New York in 1967 made Stoppard an international sensation and three decades and a number of major plays later Stoppard is now considered one of the most important playwrights in the latter half of the twentieth century. Recognized still today as a consistently clever and daring comic playwright, Stoppard startled and captivated audiences for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead when he retold the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet as an absurdist-like farce, focusing on the point of view of two of the famous play's most insignificant characters. In Shakespeare's play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are little more than plot devices, school chums summoned by King Claudius to probe Hamlet's bizarre behavior at court and then ordered to escort Hamlet to England (and his execution) after Hamlet mistakenly kills Polonius. Hamlet escapes Claudius's plot and engineers instead the executions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whose deaths are reported incidentally after Hamlet returns to Denmark. In Stoppard's play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern become the major characters while the Hamlet figures become plot devices, and Stoppard's wildly comic play becomes the story of two ordinary men caught up in events they could neither understand nor control. Stoppard's play immediately invited comparisons with Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and also brought to mind George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Luigi Pirandello. "Stoppardian" is now a recognizable epithet that suggests extraordinary verbal wit and the comic treatment of philosophical issues in often bizarre theatrical contexts.

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO TOM STOPPARD

EDITED BY KATHERINE E. KEL LY Texas A&M University

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p u b l i s h e d b y t h e p r e s s s y n d i c a t e o f t h e un i v e r s i t y o f c a m b r i d g e The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom cambridg e university press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge cb2 2ru, UK 40 West 20th Street, New York, ny 10011-4211, USA 10 Stamford Road, Oakleigh, vic 3166, Australia Ruiz de Alarcón 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa http://www.cambridge.org © Cambridge University Press 2001

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1
PA U L D E L A N E Y

Exit Tomás Straüssler, enter Sir Tom ˇ Stoppard
Tomás Straüssler (Tomik to his parents) arrived in India as a four-year-old Czech refugee in 1942; but in early 1946 ˇ the eight-year-old who left India as Tommy Straüssler would become Tom Stoppard.1 By then he had a new father, British Army Major Kenneth Stoppard, whom his mother had married after her husband had died in Singapore following the Japanese invasion. He had a new language, English, which he had learned at Mount Hermon, a Darjeeling school run by American Methodists. He had a new nationality – neither American nor Indian nor Czech but British. He had a new identity in a land where he and his brother would be ―starting over as English schoolboys.‖2 And he had a new name. Three weeks after arriving in England, the Straüssler brothers received, from their stepfather, the surname Stoppard. After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead opened to acclaim – and a welter of interpretations – both in London and on Broadway, its 29-year-old author would jokingly refer to himself as ―a bounced Czech‖ and dismiss his biographical background as irrelevant to his play about Elizabethan courti- ers. But to describe what it felt like to have his play examined for hidden meanings, the Czech émigré who had arrived from Singapore to attend an American school in India before relocating with a new name to Derbyshire significantly invoked the metaphor of going through customs. When a customs officer ransacks Rosencrantz and ―comes up with all manner of exotic contraband like truth and illusion, the nature of identity, what I feel about life and death,‖ Stoppard confesses, ―I have to admit the stuff is there but I can‘t for the life of me remember packing it.‖ Noting that ―one is . . . the beneficiary and victim of one‘s subconscious: that is, of one‘s personal history, experience and environment,‖ Stoppard pointed to his own identity as a concrete example of such a subconscious influence: My mother married again and my name was changed to my stepfather‘s when I was about eight years old. This I didn‘t care one way or the other about; but then it occurred to me that in practically everything I had written there was something about people getting each other‘s names wrong, usually in a com- pletely gratuitous way, nothing to do with character or plot.3 Over thirty years later, the 61-year-old author of The Invention of Love could look back on his career and say that he ―could write an awfully good book about The Plays of Tom Stoppard! To me, it‘s so obvious. Many of my plays are about unidentical twins, about double acts. Twins, in Hapgood. There are the two Housmans here.‖4 The Invention of Love shows us Housman as young and old, as poet and critic, as passionate lover and repressed celibate. Hapgood dramatizes the coolly professional buttoned- down title character and a woman who appears to be her raucous, impetu- ous twin in a play that uses quantum mechanics as a metaphor for the ineluctable duality of human personality. But Stoppard was also by this time the author of Arcadia in which romantic impetuosity and classical restraint are as interwoven in personal temperament as in poetry. Even Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead contains, in the contrast between its two title characters, a sense of the multiple possibilities of identity. ―They both add up to me in many ways in the sense that they‘re carrying out a dialogue which I carry out with myself,‖ Stoppard says. ―One of them is fairly intel- lectual, fairly incisive; the other one is thicker, nicer in a curious way, more sympathetic. There‘s a leader and the led. Retrospectively, with all benefit of other people‘s comments and enthusiasms and so on, it just seems a classic case of self-revelation even though it isn‘t about this fellow who wrote his first novel.‖5 Given the benefit of Stoppard‘s canon to date, we may see a classic case of self-revelation in his recurrent concern with unidentical twins, his pervasive sense that inside any self may be some other self waiting to be revealed.
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Indeed, Stoppard talks about moving from Darjeeling to Derbyshire almost as the discovery of a new self. ―I came here when I was eight,‖ Stoppard says, ―and I don‘t know why, I don‘t particularly wish to understand why but I just seized England and it seized me. Within minutes it seems to me, I had no sense of being in an alien land and my feelings for, my empathy for English landscape, English architecture, English character, all that, has just somehow become stronger and stronger.‖6 The Czechoslovakia he never knew, the Singapore he could only dimly recall, the American school in Darjeeling where he had been ―old enough to know it was not my natural surroundings,‖7 all receded. ―As soon as we all landed up in England, I knew I had found a home,‖ Stoppard says, ―I embraced the lan- guage and the landscape.‖8 After settling in Derbyshire, Stoppard attended the Dolphin School in Nottinghamshire and then the Pocklington School in Yorkshire. Although he says he has often dreamed of India, his prep school years are associated with feeling ―depressed, longing for the holidays, and a bit homesick, usually to do with the severity of one or two of the teachers.‖9 In Arcadia, Stoppard would depict a sixteen-year-old whose love for learning leads her to grieve the loss of the library at Alexandria and to question the Newtonian model of the universe. But when he was that age, Stoppard couldn‘t wait to abandon academe. ―The chief influence of my education on me was nega- tive,‖ Stoppard says. ―I left school thoroughly bored by the idea of anything intellectual . . . I‘d been totally bored and alienated by everyone from Shakespeare to Dickens besides.‖10 Leaving school age seventeen after com- pleting O-levels in Greek and Latin, Stoppard got a job as a reporter on the Western Daily Press in Bristol, where his family was then living. ―When I left school,‖ Stoppard says, ―I wanted to be a great journalist. My first ambi- tion was to be lying on the floor of an African airport while machine-gun bullets zoomed over my typewriter.‖11 Stoppard‘s fascination with journal- ism would eventually find its way into his 1978 play Night and Day, dealing with British newspapermen facing bullets while on assignment in Africa. In the meantime, Stoppard was discovering theatre. As a prep school student, he had been taken to see Laurence Olivier‘s film of Hamlet (1948) and was ―very bored . . . It didn‘t seem to be a very exciting film, until they got to the swordfight.‖12 But while working as a journalist, Stoppard started attending productions at the Bristol Old Vic. In 1958 the 24-year-old Peter O‘Toole‘s performance as Hamlet ―had a tremendous effect on me,‖ Stoppard says. ―It was everything it was supposed to be. It was exciting and mysterious and eloquent. I used to dash back from evening jobs, or rather get the reporter on the rival newspaper to cover for me, to catch the end of it.‖13 Although he had been serving as a second-string theatre critic through- out his stint as a journalist, by 1960 Stoppard had decided he wanted to write for the theatre. Besides his own fascination with O‘Toole‘s Hamlet, the theatre was a center of intellectual ferment in Britain. Peter Hall directed the first British production of Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot in 1955 and was about to found the Royal Shakespeare Company; John Osborne‘s Look Back in Anger was staged at the Royal Court in 1956 followed by a London visit of Bertolt Brecht‘s Berliner Ensemble; and Kenneth Tynan was churn- ing the intellectual waters in his capacity as drama critic for the Observer. ―After 1956 everybody of my age who wanted to write, wanted to write plays,‖ says Stoppard. In the summer of 1960 while on holiday in Capri to celebrate his twenty-third birthday, Stoppard was struck with the sense ―that I was never going to start writing unless I did something active about it.‖ When he returned, he handed in his notice, making sure he had two weekly columns to pay for room and board while he wrote his first play, A Walk on the Water. ―I was working in a sort of panic because,‖ Stoppard says, ―it seemed incredibly important that I hadn‘t done any of the things by the age of 23 that I‘d intended doing by the age of 21; so I was doing everything two years late, and really had to get down to it.‖14 Although A Walk on the Water would eventually be televised, the play‘s greatest significance for Stoppard was that it brought him to the attention of Kenneth Ewing, who has continued as Stoppard‘s agent throughout his career. After sending Ewing his play, Stoppard received ―one of those Hollywood-style telegrams that change struggling young artists‘ lives,‖15 though it would be three years before the play was produced. Meanwhile, he applied for a job on a new London magazine called Scene and to his amazement was offered the position of theatre critic. He moved to London and reviewed dozens of shows during the seven months of the magazine‘s existence. When the chronically underfunded magazine could not pay its writers, Stoppard borrowed money
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from friends and went fly-fishing in Scotland. Back in London, he lived a hand-to-mouth existence, borrowing money from Ewing because his bank account was, perpetually, overdrawn. But even in those days, Ewing says, Stoppard ―always travelled by taxi, never by bus. It was as if he knew that his time would come.‖16 In the summer of 1963, Stoppard sold A Walk on the Water to ITV for £350 and went on a ten-week holiday in the Mediterranean with his girlfriend Isabel Dunjohn. But by fall a penniless Stoppard was considering hack work on the TV Times. A Walk on the Water was filmed in November to be Play of the Week in March; but in late November Stoppard received a call saying the play would be aired that night – with no advance publicity – to replace a play deemed inappropriate so soon after President Kennedy‘s assassination. A Walk on the Water sank without a trace. Stoppard continued to pound out unproduced scripts for television plays and one-acts for BBC Radio. Then came ―the idea.‖ On a ride back from an unsuccessful attempt to pitch one of Stoppard‘s efforts, a sixty-minute television play called I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby, Ewing and Stoppard were talking about a production of Hamlet at the Old Vic. 17 ―[Ewing] said there was a play to be written about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern after they got to England,‖ says Stoppard. ―What happened to them once they got there? I was attracted to it immediately.‖18 Ewing mused aloud that the two courtiers might have found King Lear on the throne, raving mad at Dover. In 1964 while in Berlin on a Ford Foundation grant, Stoppard wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Meet King Lear, a one-act play in which Hamlet and the Player change identities on the boat and ―the Player is captured by Pirates and goes off to fulfill Hamlet‘s role in the rest of Shakespeare‘s play.‖19 Years later Stoppard would write a screenplay about Shakespeare as a penniless writer trying to come up with a plot for ―Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate‘s Daughter.‖ Clearly, Stoppard can identify with a penniless young writer struggling with pirates. Stoppard can also identify with a penniless young writer struggling with love. Before leaving for Germany on the Ford Foundation grant, he had become romantically involved with Jose Ingle. While Stoppard in Germany had Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at sea bound for England, he was debat- ing where to disembark upon his own return to England. Should he return to London as Jose wished or to Bristol where he could live more cheaply and ―write like a madman till April‖20 to fulfill a contract for a novel (eventually Lord Malquist and Mr Moon). Although the relationship with Jose seemed more fully formed in her mind than in his, Stoppard returned to London in October 1964, took a flat with two other Ford fellows, and instead of writing like a madman till April, married Jose on 26 March 1965. In May the Royal Shakespeare Company took a year‘s option on Stoppard‘s play about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern which then existed in a two-act version. With high hopes Stoppard wrote a third act as requested. But a year later the RSC returned Stoppard‘s script, leaving Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as much at sea as ever. Meanwhile the newly wed Stoppard was attempting to make ends meet by writing five fifteen-minute episodes each week for a BBC World Service serial – broadcast in Arabic – about the expe- riences of a Palestinian medical student in London. Although critics have repeated Kenneth Tynan‘s assertion that none of the scripts survive, transcripts of ―A Student‘s Diary‖ are preserved on microfilm at the BBC Written Archives Centre. In the first, the announcer introduces Amin Osman cross- ing the English Channel ―on his way to London with high hopes of being accepted as a medical student.‖ For a young man anticipating ―a new country‖ with ―new experiences,‖ the announcer intones, ―the prospect is exciting‖: A nnounc e r . So as the boat ploughs through the twenty-two stormy miles between Calais and Dover, one might well guess Amin‘s emotions . . . which, as it happens, can be expressed in a single sentence . . . Am i n . (with measured deliberation) I think I‘m going to be sick.21 For Amin or for Rosencrantz as for Tomás all boats seem bound for England. A month after Amin‘s arrival in ˇ England was broadcast on 3 April 1966, Stoppard‘s son Oliver was born. When the RSC and the Royal Court both rejected Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Ewing sent the play to the Oxford Playhouse which passed the script to undergraduates looking for something to perform on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Ewing reluctantly agreed to allow the amateur production to proceed. When Stoppard went to Edinburgh in August he found ―a stage the size of a ping pong table‖22 for a production panned by the Scotsman and the Scottish Daily Express (in a review headlined ―What‘s It All About Tom?‖23). Then Ronald Bryden‘s review in the Observer hailed Rosencrantz as an ―erudite comedy, punning, far-fetched, leaping from depth to
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dizziness‖ that was ―the most brilliant debut by a young playwright since John Arden‘s.‖24 After reading Bryden‘s review, Kenneth Tynan, then literary manager for the National Theatre, cabled Stoppard to request a copy of the script. The National asked for a fortnight to decide and paid £50 for a six months‘ option, while saying they might not be able to schedule the play until October 1967 (and Stoppard worried that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could be dead if a play of greater interest came along in the meanwhile). Negotiating to publish the play and fielding inquiries from several coun- tries regarding possible productions, Stoppard remained beseiged by credi- tors and continued to write installments of his Arab serial for the BBC. Going home one day, he threw himself once again on the mercy of his agent, who agreed to loan Stoppard £40. The heretofore penniless playwright ―turned right around and hailed a taxi,‖ Ewing says, ―I went home on a bus.‖25 Cancellation of a production of As You Like It meant Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could tread the boards of the Old Vic in April 1967, making Stoppard the youngest playwright to have a play performed by the National Theatre. Harold Hobson hailed the production as ―the most important event in the British professional theatre of the last nine years,‖26 that is, since the London debut of Harold Pinter. On the South Bank of the Thames, Stoppard‘s ship had come in. In October, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern disembarked once more, landing on Broadway as the first National Theatre production to transfer to New York. The play by a previ- ously unknown 29-year-old would win the Tony award for best play of the year on Broadway. After the triumph of Rosencrantz, it was a foregone conclusion that the National Theatre would produce Stoppard‘s next play unless he completely lost his way. But after Rosencrantz lifted the pressure of achieving success, Stoppard began to feel the pressure of not being a one-hit wonder. Although he turned out superbly crafted entertainments like The Real Inspector Hound along with radio plays and short pieces, his next major play, Jumpers, would not be staged until five years after Rosencrantz. Stoppard‘s second son, Barnaby, was born in September 1969; but all was not well at home. Overshadowed by Stoppard‘s international acclaim, Jose had a nervous breakdown. ―In her cups, she would tell Tom‘s friends how she had really written Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,‖ a friend would say years later. ―And all the time, Tom was behaving with a kind of chivalric constancy. His friends were throwing up their hands because he was spending all his time looking after the children and doing the washing up. Then came the time when he decided it was over, at which point he behaved with a kind of frightening clarity, taking the two kids with him and setting up a new home with Miriam.‖27 Stoppard left Jose in December 1969; began divorce and custody proceed- ings in early 1970; and, with his two sons, moved in with Dr. Miriam Moore- Robinson in August 1970. Stoppard‘s divorce was not granted until January 1972; he married Miriam on 11 February; and their first son, William, was born on 7 March 1972. The couple would have a second son, Edmund, born 16 September 1974, and would rear all four boys throughout two decades together as a family. Besides being a medical doctor, Miriam Stoppard became a television personality (whose fame with the British public exceeded her husband‘s), and the author of numerous books of advice on health care, beauty, and sexual issues. With two highflying careers, the Stoppards pur- chased a large Victorian house in Iver Heath and then Iver Grove, a Georgian mansion set on seventeen acres in Iver. Stoppard seemed to thrive not only on the life of the country squire but also on the stability of his family life. He would write in the afternoons or late at night so he could be with his children when they got home from school. In the meanwhile, Jumpers, which opened at the National Theatre during the same fortnight that Stoppard divorced Jose and married Miriam, intro- duced Stoppard to what would become a long-term theatrical partnership with the director Peter Wood. Wood was reluctant to direct Jumpers, saying he ―was a little affronted by the play‖ because his Catholicism ―at first made me question its facetiousness about belief.‖28 In fact, in creating Jumpers – the play Kenneth Tynan described as ―a farce whose main purpose is to affirm the existence of God‖29 – Stoppard says, ―I wanted to write a theist play, to combat the arrogant view that anyone who believes in God is some kind of cripple, using God as a crutch.‖30 But while Stoppard wanted to write ―about a man who really believed that good and bad were absolute moral truths,‖ he acknowledges that such ―internal subject matter‖ in Jumpers had ―so much mayonnaise on it that it was very hard to taste the roast beef at all.‖31 With bursts of flashing lights, a trapeze striptease, the projection of televised images onto a gargantuan screen,
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and a concluding musical number that might bring down the house in Las Vegas, Jumpers offered lots of mayonnaise. But Wood and Stoppard found they quite enjoyed working together and would share numerous theatrical roast beef sandwiches over the years. Stoppard would turn to Wood to direct Travesties (in London and New York), Night and Day (in London and New York), The Real Thing, Rough Crossing, a 1985 West End revival of Jumpers, Dalliance, Hapgood (in London and Los Angeles), The Dog It Was That Died, and Indian Ink. The playwright would attend virtually all rehearsals. Stoppard wanted to let audiences have the satisfaction of figuring out some things for themselves; Wood wanted audiences to understand what was going on even if they had to be told. Between the playwright‘s reluctance to be overly obvious and the director‘s concern about being overly obscure, the two formed a complementary team. But Stoppard also took on challenges from the sheer insatiable desire to do the impossible. ―You see, ultimately, before being carried out feet first, I would like to have done a bit of absolutely everything,‖ Stoppard says. ―Really, without any evidence of any talent in those other directions, I find it very hard to turn down offers to write an underwater ballet for dolphins or a play for a motorcyclist on the wall of death.‖32 Thus when conductor André Previn asked if Stoppard might want to write a play that included a symphony orchestra, it was an offer the playwright couldn‘t refuse. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour began as a play about a Florida grapefruit mil- lionaire who owned an orchestra. But about the time Stoppard realized the symphony could be in the mind of his protagonist, he was meeting with political prisoners who had been confined in Soviet psychiatric hospitals for their political beliefs. By the time Every Good Boy was performed, the play had been transposed to a Soviet psychiatric hospital where a prisoner of political conscience is confined alongside a patient whose psychiatric symp- toms consist of believing he has a symphony orchestra. Every Good Boy was a fantasia compared to the realistic format of Professional Foul televised later in 1977. But in both, Stoppard was dealing more directly with overtly political issues as he would in Night and Day (1978), Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth (1979) and Squaring the Circle (1984). Besides the new emphasis in his plays, Stoppard was also speaking out against Soviet abuse of Jewish dissidents, Czech violations of human rights, and limitations on journalists‘ freedom of expression in Britain. However, he pointed to the- matic continuities between his so-called ―political plays‖ and his earlier work, insisting that despite their differences in form, both Professional Foul and Jumpers address themselves to the same moral questions: ―Both are about the way human beings are supposed to behave towards each other.‖33 Besides thematic connections, Stoppard‘s involvement in an array of projects shows other continuities, one of which is simply how much he enjoys working with a coterie of people on the task of mounting a production. ―Rehearsing a play is more or less the best time in my life,‖ Stoppard says, adding that by the end of the process ―you‘re sort of a family of a kind.‖ Besides Stoppard‘s partnership with Wood as director and Carl Toms as designer, such actors as Michael Hordern, Diana Rigg, John Wood, and Roger Rees show up again and again in Stoppard plays. ―By the time you open a play you are very close to the people you‘re working with,‖ says Stoppard, ―even the ones you‘ve never met before.‖ 34 In the course of one such job, Stoppard‘s adapation of a Nestroy play as On the Razzle (1981), another actor would join Stoppard‘s theatrical team. Years later in his screenplay for Shakespeare in Love, Stoppard would show the already married Shakespeare falling in love with a young woman named Viola who would become the muse of his plays after an inauspicious first meeting in which she is dressed in male attire attempting to pass herself off in the theatre as a boy. After joining the coterie of Stoppardian actors, Felicity Kendal would eventually become the playwright‘s companion, the leading lady of his casts, and the one whose evocation of such characters as Flora Crewe, Hapgood and Hannah Jarvis would lead some to describe her as his muse. But his first association with Kendal was in On the Razzle where the already married Stoppard encountered a pert actress with an alluringly husky voice who, a year after appearing in the BBC Twelfth Night as Viola, was in male attire attempting once again to pass herself off in the theatre as a boy, in a ―dogsbody‖ role as the stock clerk Christopher. A year later Kendal would star in Stoppard‘s The Real Thing, dedicated to his wife, about an adulterous relationship between a playwright and an actress whom he met ―in this poncy business‖ of theatre. Kendal – who married the Jewish, Texas-born theatrical director Michael Rudman in 1983 – had become Stoppard‘s leading lady on stage although it would be some while before life would imitate art. Stoppard revised Jumpers for a spectac- ular 1985 West End revival with Kendal as a striking Dotty. Although he wrote Hapgood with Kendal in mind, cast members were amazed when Stoppard delayed the production for six months so she could play the title role after giving birth. Kendal was divorced in late February 1991 and Stoppard in February 1992. But by November 1990 the two were linked romantically in a relationship that
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would continue for eight years. Recorded in early February 1991, Stoppard‘s radio play In the Native State – dedicated ―For Felicity Kendal‖ who starred as Flora Crewe – seemed in some ways to be not only for and by but also about Kendal. In the Native State deals with India, where Stoppard and Kendal spent their childhoods, and focuses on the freespirited Flora Crewe who scan- dalizes prim Brits and Indian Anglophiles with her delight in native Indian art and interest in the rasa of erotic love. Although the play as performed contains only brief excerpts of Flora Crewe‘s poetry, Stoppard says com- pletion of In the Native State was delayed because he became so caught up in writing the young woman‘s sensual poetry. The next major project Stoppard turned to, shortly after becoming romantically involved with Felicity Kendal, was a screenplay called Shakespeare in Love. With the sets already built and filming set to begin in October 1992, the production was cancelled when Julia Roberts withdrew from the cast, delaying the film by six years. In the meanwhile Stoppard had completed Arcadia, the stage play that may well be his masterpiece. Opening at the National Theatre in April 1993 with a well-balanced ensemble, Arcadia would win both the Evening Standard and Olivier awards for best play of the year. It would run for two years, eventually transferring to the West End two months after a major RSC revival of Travesties starring Antony Sher also transferred to the West End. With Arcadia still running, Stoppard opened Indian Ink (1995), a stage adaptation of In the Native State that again starred Felicity Kendal as Flora Crewe. As Irina Arkadina in Stoppard‘s translation of Chekhov‘s The Seagull (May 1997), Kendal would make her eighth appearance in a Stoppard production. On 12 December 1997, Stoppard went to Buckingham Palace to be knighted, the first playwright thus honored since Sir Terence Rattigan in 1971. Since Stoppard had been Tomás and Tom but never Thomas, the ˇ newly dubbed knight of the realm would, as the leading article in The Times put it, ―Arise, Sir Tom.‖35 As he arose, the sixty-year-old knight‘s thoughts were of coming to Britain as an eight year old. ―I was instantly proud,‖ said Stoppard. ―I have felt English almost from the day I arrived, but the knighthood puts some kind of seal on that emotion.‖ His one regret was that his mother had died a year earlier: ―She would have liked it very much.‖36 Sir Tom did not mention the more recent death of his stepfather who, as an Anglophile, might have been expected to take pride in a Stoppardian knighthood. During the last years of his mother‘s life, however, the play- wright had been discovering more of his background than his mother had ever revealed. From a Czech relative, Stoppard learned that rather than having one Jewish grandparent as he had supposed, he had four Jewish grandparents, all of whom had died at the hands of Nazis, that both his father and mother had been Jewish, and that he had three aunts whom he had never heard of who died in concentration camps. Titling a 1999 article ―On Turning Out To Be Jewish,‖ the 62-year-old Stoppard discloses some wonderment at his altered sense of self. He talks about his state of mind ―now that I‘m Jewish,‖ and a sentence that begins ―before I was Jewish‖37 expresses not religious conversion but a certain amazement at who, after six decades, he turns out to be. His recovery of his Straüssler Jewish past became all the more poignant when he was asked to return what he had supposed for half a century to be his for life. A few days after his mother died, Stoppard says his stepfather ―wrote to me to say that he had been concerned for some time about my ‗tribalization,‘ by which he meant mainly my association, 10 years earlier, with the cause of Russian Jews, and he asked me to stop using ‗Stoppard‘ as my name.‖38 From Tomás Straüssler, Czech émigré, to Sir Tom Stoppard, one of the greatest playwrights in the English ˇ language, covers a territory almost too vast to span in one lifetime. But Shakespeare in Love would remind us of the inexplicable distance between juvenilia and genius. Indeed, the journey from ―Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate‘s Daughter‖ to Romeo and Juliet is scarcely less plausible than the journey from ―Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Meet King Lear‖ to Arcadia. In Stoppard‘s screenplay for Shakespeare in Love, which won seven Academy Awards, the experience of Shakespeare as lover and Shakespeare as playwright intersect as the off- stage world and the onstage world reflect and inform each other in a swirl- ing kaleidoscope. In Stoppard‘s career the reflections and intersections of life and art also form a swirling kaleidoscope as he has doubled and redou- bled his explorations of double acts. From Tomás or Tomik to Tommy to Tom and then Sir Tom; from Straüssler to ˇ Stoppard and then, if his step- father had had his way, back to Straüssler; from Czech to British while belatedly ―turning out to be Jewish,‖ Tom Stoppard turns out to be his own unidentical twin in a way he could not have imagined. Or, to rephrase that, the playwright who throughout his career had written about unidentical twins, about double acts, turns out to be his own unidentical twin in a way he had always imagined.
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NOTES

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

Tom Stoppard, ―On Turning Out to be Jewish,‖ Talk (September 1999), p. 243. Tom Stoppard, ―Going Back,‖ Independent Magazine, 23 March 1991, p. 29. Tom Stoppard, ―Something to Declare,‖ Sunday Times, 25 February 1968, p. 47. Alastair Macaulay, ―The Man Who Was Two Men,‖ Financial Times, 31 October 1998, p. 7. Giles Gordon, ―Tom Stoppard,‖ Transatlantic Review, 29 (summer 1968), reprinted in Paul Delaney, ed., Tom Stoppard in Conversation (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), p. 19. Paul Allen, Third Ear, BBC Radio Three, 16 April 1991, reprinted in Delaney, ed., Stoppard in Conversation, p. 246. Michael Pye, ―A Very English Kind of Celebrity,‖ Daily Telegraph, 31 March 1995, p. 25. Diana Maychick, ―Stoppard Ascending,‖ New York Post, 26 November 1989, reprinted in Delaney, ed., Stoppard in Conversation, p. 233. Mel Gussow, Conversations with Tom Stoppard (London: Nick Hern, 1995), p. 132. Roger Hudson, Catherine Itzin and Simon Trussler, ―Ambushes for the Audience,‖ Theatre Quarterly 4 (May 1974), reprinted in Delaney, ed., Stoppard in Conversation, p. 53. Jon Bradshaw, ―Tom Stoppard, Nonstop,‖ New York, 10 January 1977, reprinted in Delaney, ed., Stoppard in Conversation, p. 91. Jasper Rees, ―‗So, Mr. Stoppard, What Is Your New Play About?,‘‖ Independent, 2 December 1995, p. 3. Ibid. Hudson, ―Ambushes,‖ p. 54. Ibid., p. 55. Kenneth Tynan, Show People: Profiles in Entertainment (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), p. 66. John Patrick Fleming, ―Defining Stoppard,‖ Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1996, p. 58; Hudson, ―Ambushes,‖ pp. 56–57; Bradshaw, ―Tom Stoppard, Nonstop,‖ p. 94. Bradshaw, ―Tom Stoppard, Nonstop,‖ p. 94. Stoppard quoted by Fleming, ―Defining Stoppard,‖ p. 72. Stoppard quoted by Fleming, ibid., p. 70. Tom Stoppard, A Student’s Diary: Episode 1, BBC World Service, 3 April 1966, p. 1. Transcript: BBC Written Archives Centre. Gordon, ―Tom Stoppard,‖ p. 17. Colin Donald, ―On the Dazzle,‖ Scotsman, 5 November 1996, p. 18. Ronald Bryden, ―Wyndy Excitements,‖ Observer, 28 August 1966, p. 15. Stephen Schiff, ―Full Stoppard,‖ Vanity Fair, 52.5 (May 1989), reprinted in Delaney, ed., Stoppard in Conversation, p. 219. Harold Hobson, ―A Fearful Summons,‖ Sunday Times, 16 April 1967, p. 49. Schiff, ―Full Stoppard,‖ p. 220. Peter Lewis, ―Doubles Match That‘s Lasted 20 Years,‖ Sunday Telegraph, 12 February 1995, p. 6. Tynan, Show People, p. 93. Oleg Kerensky, The New British Drama (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1977), p. 170. Melvyn Bragg, The South Bank Show, London Weekend Television, 26 November 1978, reprinted in Delaney, ed., Stoppard in Conversation, p. 121. Bradshaw, ―Tom Stoppard, Nonstop,‖ p. 98. Hugh Hebert, ―A Playwright in Undiscovered Country,‖ Guardian, 7 July 1979, reprinted in Delaney, ed., Stoppard in Conversation, p. 127. Bragg, The South Bank Show, pp. 118, 119. ―Arise, Sir Tom,‖ The Times, 13 December 1997, p. 23. Robin Young, ―Wood and Stoppard Honoured at Palace,‖ The Times, 13 December 1997.
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37 Stoppard, ―On Turning Out To Be Jewish,‖ p. 241. 38 Ibid., p. 243.

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Adopted from: http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/monkeynotes/pmRosencrantz05.asp

Short Plot/Scene Summary (Synopsis)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two Elizabethan gentlemen, traveling in a featureless landscape. They are spinning coins together, and Rosencrantz keeps winning over and over again, each time calling ‗heads.‘ The number of times the coin lands on heads is no surprise to Rosencrantz, who is simply excited about his ‗new record.‘ He also feels a bit bad about taking so much money from his friend. Guildenstern, on the other hand, is shocked at the improbable results of the coin spins. He wonders what it means about the nature of the universe-does probability really exist? Are they living in some kind of alternate world? Guildenstern is irritated that Rosencrantz isn‘t interested in his musings; he thinks it is very important to understand phenomena such as this. Rosencrantz has his own curiosities, but they are less serious: he wonders why his toenails never seem to grow, for example. They try to remember what they are doing traveling, and finally recall that they were awakened that morning by a man summoning them to the King. They don‘t know what he wants, but they know it is urgent. Then suddenly they hear a band, and a group of actors appears, led by the Player (the lead actor.) The Player tries to interest Rosencrantz in a "show," making it clear that what he is really selling is pornography. Rosencrantz doesn‘t understand this, and the actors are about to leave, when Guildenstern steps forward. He asks for elaboration, and the Player tries to appeal to him in a sleazy way. Guildenstern backs off, disgusted. He asks them if they know any plays, and the actors reluctantly take positions. The Player stays where he is for a long time, uncomfortable, then finally goes off. The scene changes, and Ophelia (a young woman in love with Hamlet), followed by Hamlet (the Prince), runs in front of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Claudius and Gertrude, King and Queen of Denmark, approach Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, telling them that Hamlet has been acting strange lately. Hopefully they, who were Hamlet‘s childhood friends, can find out what is wrong, and perhaps do something fun with him to cheer him up. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern agree heartily, but as soon as everyone leaves, they get very disturbed. They want to go home, they don‘t know what they‘re supposed to do for Hamlet, and they‘re afraid. Also, everyone keeps confusing their names, including them. Guildenstern convinces Rosencrantz to stick around and try to relax: they will help Hamlet, and when they are done they will get to leave, well rewarded. They play a game, "Questions," to help them practice talking to Hamlet. The game consists of never making a statement: they have a conversation entirely composed of questions. They realize that neither one of them can remember which name belongs to who. They then play a game where Guildenstern pretends to be Hamlet and Rosencrantz represents both of them, so that they can practice questioning him further. At this point, through their conversation, they summarize the plot of Hamlet. The King of Denmark dies; Hamlet was his only son. Hamlet is of age, but his Uncle Claudius quickly marries his mother and becomes King instead of Hamlet. Claudius murdered Hamlet‘s father, and Hamlet has been visited by his father‘s angry ghost, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don‘t know this. They understand that Hamlet would be upset by his father‘s death, his mother‘s quick remarriage, and the fact that he didn‘t get to become King, but since they don‘t know about the murder (though Hamlet does), they don‘t understand why he‘s acting as crazy as he is. And he certainly is acting crazy-- they overhear him talking to Polonius, the King‘s advisor, and it is complete nonsense. Still, Hamlet seems happy to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Though we do not hear their conversation, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz‘s conversation afterward indicates that it did not go well. Hamlet tricked them repeatedly, found out that they were there because the King sent for them, teased them with nonsense, and revealed nothing of his own troubles. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to make sense out of his obvious nonsense, in vain. Their conversation turns to random thoughts about the nature of existence. Guildenstern is disturbed that they seem unable to learn from their mistakes, or even, indeed, to remember their pasts. Rosencrantz demonstrates free speech by yelling "Fire" into the audience--and commenting that nobody has moved. Hamlet, Polonius and the Tragedians come in, and Hamlet asks the Player if he knows the play "The Murder of Gonzago." The Player agrees to perform that play tomorrow night, with some lines added by Hamlet.

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The Player approaches Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, very angry that they left him and his actors alone in the middle of their performance. He claims that the only reason an actor has to live is that someone might be watching them, so that when they discovered, halfway through the play, that no one was, it was an enormous shock to them. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have no reaction; they only hope aloud that seeing a play will be good for Hamlet. The Player maintains that he knows his way around the castle, and does not fear vague consequences the way Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do. He advises them to act natural, not worry so much. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern explain Hamlet‘s situation to him, but the biggest hole in their story is evident immediately: they don‘t know why Hamlet is acting so strangely. The Player has heard that Hamlet is in love with Ophelia, Polonius‘s daughter. Guildenstern tries to get control of the situation, but cannot establish authority. The Player leaves, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern talk about death: what does it feel like? Is it like being asleep? It‘s depressing to think about, even though it shouldn‘t be because you‘re not conscious of it once you‘re dead. Gertrude and Claudius come in, asking how the meeting with Hamlet went. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz bluff, telling them it went very well. Rosencrantz gets upset that everything seems to happen to them at the whim of someone else. They catch sight of Hamlet, who is in the midst of deciding whether or not to commit suicide. Rosencrantz tries to approach him, realizing this would be a good time to get him to talk openly, but cannot quite bring himself to speak. Hamlet leaves, and Guildenstern makes fun of Rosencrantz for even trying to assert himself. Rosencrantz tries some halfhearted games as another way to make his presence felt, but finally gives up. The Actors come in for a dress rehearsal. They mime The Murder of Gonzago, which is really just the story of Hamlet. It explains that the King‘s brother poisoned him, and married his unknowing wife. During the rehearsal, the real Hamlet and Ophelia run onstage, fight violently, and are totally ignored by the actors. Claudius, noting this outburst, decides that Hamlet is dangerous and must be sent to England Meanwhile, the Player explains his understanding of plays: they end when everyone who is supposed to die dies. This is not a decision made by anyone, "it is written," says the Player. He goes on with the play, which is now moving into the future for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In The Murder of Gonzago, says the Player, two of the Prince‘s friends arrive, try to help him, then take him to England by the King‘s orders. Once they get there, however, the Prince has disappeared and somehow the letter they are bringing to the English King changes and commands him to execute Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Guildenstern maintains that these sorts of stories are not the way to understand death: death is a non-existence that only becomes real after a long time, when it has had time to sink in for the survivors. The Player argues that people only believe what they expect--which is not day-to-day reality, but drama. The next day, Claudius informs Guildenstern and Rosencrantz that Hamlet has killed Polonius. He wants them to find Hamlet, and the body. At first happy to have been given real instructions, the two men quickly realize that they don‘t know how to look for Hamlet, and end up back just where they started. Hamlet then comes in, and while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try desperately to apprehend him, he escapes them easily. They question him about the body and he just teases them, and when he finally agrees to go with them it is his own decision--it has nothing to do with their powers of persuasion. Once Hamlet has been delivered to Claudius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern think for a moment that their work is done, but then realize that they must go with Hamlet to England. They wake up some time later on a boat, not sure how they got there and not sure where they‘re going, though they assume it is England. Hamlet is off to the side, but they do not notice him. They feel unreal, and wonder whether death might be a boat. Guildenstern decides it could not be--death is nothing, therefore, it is not a boat. They discover Hamlet and start thinking about the future, getting nervous. What will they tell the English King? Guildenstern assures Rosencrantz that everything will be fine: they have a letter, which will explain everything. Rosencrantz isn‘t very convinced, so the two begin to role-play, with Guildenstern pretending to be the King. Rosencrantz questions him viciously, and in his excitement tears open their letter. It is directly from Claudius to the English King, and it asks him to behead Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are disturbed, but Guildenstern tries to rationalize their situation by saying Hamlet is going to die someday anyway, and besides, who knows what death is like? It might be a good thing. Rosencrantz
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doesn‘t seem to buy this, and Hamlet may have overheard them, because once they go to sleep he sneaks over to them and switches their letter for a different one. The next morning, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern discover the Player and his troupe on the ship. Their play offended the King (the Player wryly points out how similar their play was to the King‘s real life) so they had to make a run for it, as stowaways. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern aren‘t exactly thrilled--they are beginning to feel like their life is a never-ending series of repetitions. Suddenly, pirates attack the ship, and by the time everything has settled down, Hamlet has disappeared. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are very upset - what will they do without Hamlet? - but the Player urges them to calm down: the English King will understand. This time Guildenstern doesn‘t buy it, and he and Rosencrantz play-act their encounter with the King again, this time with Guildenstern playing the King. He excitedly rips open the letter and reads it aloud. It now asks the English King to execute Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hysterical, they appeal to the Player, who offers no sympathy: they should accept their fates, he says. This infuriates Guildenstern, who still believes the Player has no idea what death is. He grabs the Player‘s knife and stabs him with it, telling him, "that‘s--death." The Player falls, but gets up a moment later. The knife was fake. The Player has proved that people believe what they expect, and nothing more. Triumphant, the Tragedians stage many deaths at once. They are still in costume from The Murder of Gonzago, so they die as they would in that play--that is, as the main characters of Hamlet do. The light fades until only Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are visible. They aren‘t sure what to think. Slowly, they decide that they cannot fight their destinies. Rosencrantz, in fact, proclaims that he is relieved: he doesn‘t want to have to struggle anymore. He disappears. Guildenstern doesn‘t notice. He wonders how they might have prevented this, and doesn‘t have a clue. He too, gives up, says, "Well, we‘ll know better next time," and disappears as well. Out of the blackness there emerges the final scene of Hamlet. All the principle characters are dead on the stage, and an Ambassador from England is wondering what has happened. He has just arrived to tell the Denmark court that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, just as they requested. THEMES Perhaps what this play is most "about" has nothing to do with its content. Stoppard continually reminds the reader that he or she is reading a play, an artificial representation of decidedly uneventful events. Thus, one of the play‘s central Themes is plays themselves. We are constantly made to think of Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, and encouraged to find humor in the tragic drama. Even though most of the characters in Rosencrantz die by the end, one is not likely to feel sad when they do--it is not a tragedy. The play is deeply dependent on Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, to the point that the reader‘s reaction to it is dependent on his or her knowledge of the earlier play. Thus, one of the major Themes of Rosencrantz must be what some theatre critics have called "theatrical parasitism." Stoppard‘s play is about Shakespeare‘s play, and feeds on it for its own meaning. In fact, one would have no idea what was going on in Stoppard‘s play without a good understanding--a complex, analytical understanding, even--of Hamlet. The artificiality of the play is one of its major characteristics: we can never suspend our disbelief, because we know we are watching the story of minor characters from Shakespeare. At the same time, fate is a great force in the lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, despite--or because of--their cardboard quality. They have real fates, destinies, purposes, within their confused world. Were they to change in any way the world of Hamlet might come crashing down. But they never will change, because they have been created to serve a specific function in Hamlet‘s world, and they must carry out their duties until there is nothing else for them to do, at which time they simply disappear. While an English Ambassador arrives at the end of the play to assure us that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, we don‘t see them die. To us, they simply fade out, as though they were never really there in the first place. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern served but one purpose in Shakespeare‘s play, and Stoppard has seized on an interesting idea: what if those one- note characters had personalities? What would their conversations be about? Not much, as we learn from the play. This is why the existential Themes in Rosencrantz never get fully fleshed out, the way they do in Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot. Though probably most people can understand feeling confused about what their purpose in life is, or wishing that someone would just tell them what to do so they don‘t have to decide for themselves, no one can really relate to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They are unsympathetic because they are comic, whatever their philosophical woes may be. Their pants fall down. They forget their own names. No audience feels the chill of a meaningless life onstage with these men. Their artificiality is one of their central characteristics, and it is comic and unsympathetic at the same time. MOOD
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There is very little emotion in this play--even at the end, when the main characters disappear (seemingly dying); the audience does not exactly feel bad for them. This is perhaps because the audience is so muddled by the play‘s events that they find it difficult to align themselves with any particular character. Comedy is interspersed with tragedy in such a way as to make the viewer unsure of just how to react. Thus, the prevailing mood of the play may be a kind of darkly humorous confusion, throughout which the audience is just as confused as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about what is real, what is fake, and what is really happening at the castle. For all their angst, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are clowns in the end. Their attempts to understand their situation read like comic routines rather than desperate grasping at straws. However, there is something chilling in their complete inability to keep their heads above water. As Rosencrantz says at the end, throughout the play, they have done nothing wrong. They are likable enough. And yet they are doomed to die, because of decisions they had no part in that they didn‘t even know were being made. Another essential ingredient to their demise is, however, their own foolishness. The play revels in absurdity, moving through numerous comic set pieces. Yet Stoppard does not allow us to forget that all of their ineffectual humorous rambling actually has consequences: by the end of the play, it has killed them. This is hard to swallow for an audience who must feel fairly similar to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: unsure of what they‘re witnessing, and unsure what to do about it. This sort of confusion is surely designed, at times, to make the audience uncomfortable--but never far from a laugh. BACKGROUND INFORMATION-BIOGRAPHY Tom Stoppard was born Tomas Straussler in Zlin, Czechoslovakia on July 3rd, 1937. His family moved to Singapore shortly after his birth. His father was killed during the war and his family moved to Darjeeling, India, for several years. There his mother met a British officer named Kenneth Stoppard. They married and the family moved to England. Tom Stoppard left school at age 17, bored with academics and began working for small newspapers. Though he was a good reporter and was promoted to writing feature stories quickly, he made little money and had to live at home. He was made a theatre critic, and he gradually learned that he loved the theatre. He says, however, that he was a terrible critic: he was under the impression that art was an objective business, and judged it accordingly. He began to feel that he would be better off writing plays. He has said that during the sixties in England, almost everyone who wanted to write a play wrote one, because of the recent successes of John Osborne‘s "Look Back in Anger" and Samuel Beckett‘s "Waiting for Godot." Most of those plays, Stoppard continues, were copies of either Osborne or Beckett. At twenty- three he wrote his own first play, "A Walk on the Water," but he now considers it so unoriginal that he counts his next play, "The Gamblers," as his real first play. Stoppard says he is a notorious procrastinator, and his plays tend to be written the way a student "crams" for an exam. He notes the constant problem with writing: one cannot begin until one knows what to write, and one cannot know what to write until one begins. Yet he is prolific. He has written dozens of plays and numerous screenplays. His single novel, "Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon," published in 1967, was not a success, but he continued to work. (Interestingly, it has been noted that the names Boot and Moon recur in Stoppard‘s works. Boot tends to be someone who makes things happen, while Moon lets things happen to him.) Later that year he introduced Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It was his first major play, and is perhaps still his most famous. It was also the beginning of a school of criticism that objected to his "derivative" material: R&G, like much of his work, takes its inspiration from another play. He is also criticized for his supposed overuse of flashy words and ideas. This same showy wordplay, however, has brought him much admiration from most critics. Most of his plays are filled with light jokes, though they deal with dense subjects. His play Arcadia unravels chaos theory and fractals, but miraculously maintains the feeling of a parlor game throughout- -it may be complicated, but it is never boring. Stoppard writes intelligent plays that never stray into preachiness. Amy Reiter notes that his plays, though they sometimes deal with moral issues, never present the audience with a simple moral lesson. In fact, for many years Stoppard avoided moral or political issues altogether: he thought they polluted his art. He once said, "I must have the courage of my lack of convictions." This changed when, in the late seventies, he became concerned about the plight of political rebels in Eastern Europe. One of his most acclaimed plays, "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor," deals with this subject. He joined Amnesty International, among other human rights organizations, and met with several dissident writers. He has translated a number of these. Though he sometimes tries to avoid commenting on the role of the arts in society, he clearly believes free expression has its importance, and has wrestled with its strengths and flaws in his writing. He has criticized
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current visual artists who allow their works to be built by other people: art, he says, only makes sense to him if it includes creating. Though he believes outsider art, and challenging art, has an important place in society, he cannot accept selfindulgence. He maintains that art should only be shocking if it needs to be, not simply to draw attention to the artist. Though he has drawn some criticism for this viewpoint, he is generally a widely respected popular playwright in England. He is also comfortable with writing for mass audiences. He wrote the screenplay for Shakespeare in Love, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, and won an Oscar for it in 1998. He has won three Tony awards, in 1968, 1976, and 1984. He wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil, Empire of the Sun, and Billy Bathgate, among others. He may have left school out of boredom, but he has written on extremely varied and complex subjects, including: poetry, love, history, math, philosophy, and physics. Yet he can honestly say--as he did, about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead--that his plays are written to entertain. It was his first goal, and he has never forgotten it. LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION Tom Stoppard admits that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was influenced by many different writers. He does not, however, think of himself as entirely within the framework those writers shared. He has always said that his play was not meant to be taken too seriously, that it is intellectual entertainment but not designed to change one‘s philosophy. Thus, one might say that Stoppard is part of a literary tradition, but often sets himself apart from that tradition by fondly ridiculing it. One of the most obvious of Stoppard‘s influences is Samuel Beckett, an Irish playwright working mainly in the midtwentieth century. Beckett‘s plays are often confusing, uncomfortable to watch, and mysteriously depressing, yet darkly humorous at the same time. His most famous play, Waiting for Godot, concerns two men, Vladimir and Estragon, who, as the title indicates, wait for Godot. Just who Godot is never really explained, but it hardly matters: he never comes, and Didi and Gogo are left in a timeless state of inaction to the point of non-existence. They do not even really seem to care whether Godot ever arrives: they are emotionless and unexcitable. The play‘s audience often experiences the aforementioned depression: the two men have nothing to live for, realize that their lives are empty, yet continue to trudge on absurdly through a string of petty incidents. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern certainly share some of Didi and Gogo‘s pathos, and no one who has not felt some kind of discomfort regarding his or her life‘s purpose could truly see the humor in Stoppard‘s play. Yet while Beckett often seems intent on disarming his audience, Stoppard, for the most part, welcomes them. Certainly, he enjoys discord: Horatio‘s speech at the end of the play is swallowed up by music, stealing its solemn meaning. Yet death is ultimately seen as a game, and Stoppard does not try to scare his audience. The players act out a death scene later mirrored by the "real" members of the court, falling into the exact same positions. Stoppard diffuses with laughter what Beckett leaves heavy on the stage. Another literary work that Stoppard acknowledges as an influence is T.S. Eliot‘s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Eliot, one of English literature‘s most respected and widely read poets, often wrote about people who were confused and desolate in the wake of the decline of religion that marked the first half of the past century. Feeling purposeless and yet strangely in control of their fates, Eliot‘s characters stumble when trying to make even the simplest decision. His Love Song is in no way about love. Its narrator stands alone, worrying helplessly about whether or not to pursue a woman, while realizing that no one cares what he does, and which ever choice he makes, it will not matter. He recognizes that he is not the main character of his world--he is an "attendant lord," used to move the story forward but lacking a personality of his own. "Do I dare," he famously asks, "disturb the universe?" Clearly, he does not dare, and as he gets older he can only stutter ineffectually, never changing his situation. He walks along the beach, noticing the beauty in the world--he hears mermaids singing--but believing it does not exist for him ("I do not think that they will sing to me.") His tragedy is that he is just enough part of the world he lives in to realize how much he is missing by not being completely part of it. Yet he does not know how to become part of it, how to become real--though it seems clear that it would have something to do with asserting himself. Rosencrantz and, especially, Guildenstern, share this problem with Prufrock. They are aware of something taking place under the spotlight, but they can only watch from the wings, knowing that they will never be able to understand, let alone take part in, the main action. Yet they differ from Prufrock (as is noted in the chapter summary notes). They seem to be truly under the spell of some outside force--which may very well be Stoppard himself, or Stoppard-as-Shakespeare--making his presence known in the play. When they try to develop a plan but seem somehow tied down by their inertia, one gets the sense that they are actually completely unable to influence their own fates, because they serve a purpose to their playwright that cannot be changed. Prufrock, on the other hand, exists in a realistic world as a "real" person whose failures are essentially his own fault. Thus while they exist in the same universe, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Prufrock cannot be said
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to be identical in their plights. The difference between them leads one to consider a more general influence on Stoppard: the Theatre of the Absurd. This type of theatre, which was most popular in the first half of the twentieth century, is the result of a complex set of ideals that are often disagreed upon. Many of the playwrights associated with this movement were interested in representing the artificiality of theatre. They wanted to remind the viewer constantly that he or she was watching a play. The performance was not about the story, but rather its context: the experience of watching a play. Stoppard frequently employs devices associated with this type of theatre. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern look into the audience, and seem (though it is never made clear) to talk to them. Rosencrantz cries out "Fire!" to prove that free speech exists--a famous example of a political ideal at work in the real world--.that has nothing to do with what is happening onstage. Even their conversations, full of words, phrases, and references that come from the modern world, remind the viewer that the story is not really taking place during the Elizabethan era. The Player blurts out, "We‘re actors! We‘re the opposite of people!" The audience is made to laugh at Hamlet, one of the most famous tragedies in English literature (Ophelia‘s grief, so potent in the original story, becomes but a backdrop for the actors‘ dress rehearsal.) It is very difficult, in this situation, to suspend one‘s disbelief, and that is just what Stoppard wants. The play is not the extended story of the "real" Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, friends of Prince Hamlet. It is a collection of jokes about theatre, literature, and philosophy, among other things. It is not meant to be real; it is meant to be entertaining. To see how this concept plays out in real life, one might watch the movie made in 1990, starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. It was adapted for the screen by Stoppard himself, who made some interesting changes. He extended the scenes taken directly from Shakespeare, and made many of the jokes between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern visual rather than verbal: Oldman, as Rosencrantz, discovers several laws of physics, each of which goes completely wrong when he tries to demonstrate it to his long-suffering friend. In the movie, Rosencrantz is played as a fool and Guildenstern his patient yet irritable protector-- their dynamic recalls Steinbeck‘s Of Mice and Men. It seems strange that anyone could confuse one for the other. In the play, they are, as they might say, "two sides of the same coin." Rosencrantz is less intellectual, more childlike, perhaps, but they seem forever bound to one another, so much so that they might as well be the same person. They are truly interchangeable. The movie, also, cuts much of the "existential fear and angst" monologues, making the play, read or seen, a much darker and more cerebral experience. Seen in a theatre or read, the play offers some sense of intimacy: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, with their nervous introspection and stunted ambition, would most likely not seem unfamiliar to the average person interested enough in the play to read or see it. The jokes, in a small setting, are shared. In the movie, that sense of intimacy is lost, and it is no surprise that Stoppard cut many of the "directly to the audience" jokes. Still, the movie provides an interesting perspective on how a story without a real story is portrayed in different media.

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Chapter Summaries with Notes
ACT ONE SCENE 1: The Coin Spin Summary Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two well-dressed Elizabethan men in the middle of a coin-spinning game. Their location is featureless. Whoever calls the coin correctly wins it, and Rosencrantz has been calling heads and winning dozens of times. While he feels guilty about taking so much money from his friend, he does not see the consistent "heads" tosses as peculiar at all. Conversely, Guildenstern doesn't care about the money, but he is disturbed by the lengthening series of "heads" tosses. Rosencrantz is caught up in the game, but Guildenstern wants to think about it theoretically. He begins thinking about the laws of probability, focusing on the idea that if six monkeys were thrown up in the air repeatedly, they would land on their heads and tails about equally often. He tries to calculate the idea of an "even chance" in his head: he just can‘t believe that the coin could land heads-up so many times in a row if there was a fifty-fifty chance each time that it would land tails. Rosencrantz, however, continues to be embarrassed at his success, calling it "boring," which irritates Guildenstern, who is very interested in what is going on. Rosencrantz calls out that heads has come up eighty-five times: a new record for him. Guildenstern gets angrier, asking what Rosencrantz would have thought if the coins had come down against him eighty-five times. Not understanding that, in terms of probability, this outcome would have been no different, Rosencrantz simply tells him he would suspect that the coins were fake. Guildenstern wants Rosencrantz to feel some awe, or even fear, at the strangeness of the results of their game, but Rosencrantz cannot be moved. Guildenstern imagines possible reasons that this could be happening: he is willing it out of some unremembered guilt, or God is willing it, or time has stopped and they are repeating the same coin toss over and over. Trying, more idly now, to understand, he asks Rosencrantz about his memories. He asks him what the first thing he remembers is, but Rosencrantz doesn‘t understand. He tells Guildenstern he‘s forgotten it: "it was a long time ago." Guildenstern, irritated, becomes more driven to philosophize. He tries to decide whether, since probability is a natural phenomenon, they might not be in a "natural" realm of existence. He suddenly remembers "we were sent for," by someone, which will gain importance as the play progresses. He tries to prove that if one says that while operating under unnatural forces the probability is that probability does not exist, that in itself is a probability. This means (he says) that since probability does not seem to apply to their coin game, they must not be operating under unnatural forces. However, his pleasure at his own reasoning does not last long, as he remembers how many times in the past they have spun coins together, never getting such results before. He believes that normal living depends on basic equality; it creates harmony, preventing anyone from losing or winning too much. Rosencrantz, meanwhile, talks randomly about strange scientific phenomenon, such as the fact that fingernails grow after death. Guildenstern becomes more and more tense, demanding what the first thing Rosencrantz remembers from today is. Finally Rosencrantz begins to follow the thread, crying that a messenger woke them up. He summoned them on official business, no questions asked. Rosencrantz remembers them leaving very quickly, afraid of arriving too late, but when Guildenstern asks him "Too late for what?" he cannot answer. They don‘t know where to go now; Rosencrantz doesn‘t even remember where he came from. Guildenstern begins to get depressed, feeling that, since they were picked out by this messenger, they should not be left to find their own way from now on. When Rosencrantz thinks he hears a band playing, Guildenstern begins to theorize about the nature of illusions. He suggests that one can turn an extraordinary happening into an ordinary one at will. His example is a unicorn: if one man sees it, he is amazed, but if a whole crowd sees it, they simply assume it is a horse with an arrow in its forehead. As Guildenstern continues, his friend realizes that a band is, in fact, coming. Notes In all the debate early in this scene, it is unclear who is "right": while Rosencrantz seems to be the foolish one of the pair, who simply enjoys his game and doesn‘t examine it theoretically, Guildenstern also seems misguided. After all, while it is very unlikely that a coin would come down heads nearly a hundred times in a row, it is possible. While it is unusual, it is not necessarily cause for shock and philosophical analysis.

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Guildenstern doesn‘t see this. He evaluates his elementary ideas about probability, even down to the simple idea that a twosided, equally weighted coin has as much chance of coming down heads as tails. Guildenstern also seems just as confused about their being "sent for" as Rosencrantz. Neither of them really wonders why they were sent for, and we are not told exactly who sends for them. Their curiosity about life has no direction. They either ask random questions, like why fingernails might grow after death, or worry uselessly over metaphysical ideas. Rosencrantz doesn‘t seem interested in important questions. Guildenstern attempts to answer those questions by applying bizarre, inappropriate strategies. He uses a syllogism to try to determine whether they are still in reality as they know it. This kind of reasoning becomes all the more absurd when the two begin their discussion about where they are going and why. They barely remember that they were sent for by royalty, and they certainly have no idea what they will be asked to do once they get where they‘re going. All of their complicated theorizing means very little when one realizes that they are completely in the dark about the simplest things. They follow orders without any knowledge of the purpose of their mission. It seems that, while they (or at least Guildenstern) would like to have some understanding of life‘s mysteries, they are somehow able to largely ignore an idea so central and personal as their own fates. They skirt around major issues, focusing on the minor ones instead. An example of this is the appearance of the band: Guildenstern is so caught up in wondering about the nature of illusion that, at first, he ignores the fact that the band is not an illusion at all and is, in fact, standing right in front of him. Their surroundings or lack thereof underscore their confused mental states. ACT ONE SCENE 2: Meeting the Players Summary A band of players ("tragedians"-- actors, musicians, clowns, etc.) appears in the woods. The spokesman for the group, the Player, is thrilled to have an audience, even if it is just two people. He tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that they are actors who perform high tragedy-- battles, ghosts, romance, etc. He also implies that they might offer more services, of a sexual nature, for a higher price. He tries to interest Rosencrantz, who is far too innocent to understand what is going on. Nevertheless, Rosencrantz begins to haggle with the Player over a price. The Player discusses the declining morals of todays world, all the while attempting to make a deal. When he finally realizes that Rosencrantz will never catch on to what he is being offered, the Player gives up, and is about to leave when Guildenstern begins to question him and his troupe. He seemingly understands that the Player is offering him prostitutes but when the Player tries to seal the deal (a private performance of "The Rape of the Sabine Women, or rather woman, or rather Alfred") Guildenstern is disturbed. When the Player tries to push him into accepting the offer, Guildenstern "smashes" him across the face. The Player seems used to this sort of treatment, and when Guildenstern cries that he wishes he could receive another-worldly sign of some kind, not just an encounter with a "comic pornographer," the Player agrees quietly. He begins to leave again, but then Rosencrantz comes forward, seeming finally to understand what the Player is really selling. He asks the Player what he and his group "do," and, while protesting that he is not the type to enjoy such things, nevertheless throws a coin down and says, "What would you do for that?" The Player dismisses the coin, even though some members of his troupe reach for it. This makes Rosencrantz furious, and he begins yelling about the "filth" the players practice. Suddenly, Guildenstern asks them if they would like to bet on a coin toss. They play several times, and each time the coins come down heads. The Player begins to protest, but Guildenstern keeps going. Finally the Player stomps on the coin to prevent the bets from continuing. Guildenstern then begins to tease them, asking them to bet him that the year of his birth doubled is an odd number. When they reject this, he suggests that they bet on the year of the Player‘s birth doubled being an odd number. The troupe agrees, then slowly realizes that any number doubled is even. The Player admits that they have no money, and brings forward Alfred, a young boy, as "payment." Guildenstern feels sorry for Alfred, and is angry at the Player for doing this to the boy. Guildenstern begins to comfort Alfred, then suddenly
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requests that the players act out a play to pay for their lost bet. Rosencrantz is still confused, thinking there will be some kind erotic performance, but the players get organized to perform a real play. The Player just stands there, doing nothing. Finally, Rosencrantz approaches him, and as the Player moves away, leaving the stage with the rest of his troupe, Rosencrantz reaches down and picks up the coin from under the Player's shoe, saying, "That was lucky. It was tails." Notes The difference between the two main characters, who nevertheless cannot keep their own names straight, is made clearer in this scene. While what the player is really offering remains obscure to Rosencrantz, Guildenstern not only understands it, he clearly has enough experience with it to feel cheated. He says he wanted a "tongueless dwarf" or "a bird out of season" as a sign to mark his journey. When he is confronted with a "rabble of prostitutes," he is furious, because they are nothing like the poetic, classic symbols he expected. In fact, they seem to signify nothing at all, which drives Guildenstern crazy. He wants life to have meaning, to fall together in a pretty and satisfying way. This is part of why Rosencrantz is often so annoying to Guildenstern. The former is not interested in the meaning of life. He is curious, but in a silly, random sort of way. Guildenstern wants to find someone who will help him understand all of his burning questions, because not knowing disturbs him. However, he is clearly not the kind of philosopher he would like to be. He cannot grasp the issues, either theoretical (the coin toss) or worldly (the actors/prostitutes) in a useful way. The banter between the Player and his "audience" has the feeling of Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. This play concerns Vladimir and Estragon, who wait for the entire play for something that never comes. Nothing ever happens, and all their excitement and efforts feel depressing and hopeless. Similarly, even the pompous Player says at one point, "We have no control." Interestingly, however, only Guildenstern seems to have a problem with this. Rosencrantz and the Player move through life relatively unconcerned with meaning. But Guildenstern, who tries to be humane, to fulfill his humanity, cannot keep it up for long either. He begins talking to the young Alfred, but does not get very far in comforting him before he grows more interested in seeing a play performed. Much of the action and thought in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead feels undirected, misdirected, or merely cut off. Guildenstern rambles endlessly about theoretical coin tosses to little effect. He attempts to extract answers about life‘s questions from the Player--clearly a poor choice. Rosencrantz half-heartedly tries to piece his life together, something he hardly finds interesting. The players start to perform a play, but somehow get stalled and then disappear before they can proceed. All of this has something of the flavor of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," a play whose influence on this one will become more obvious in the scenes to come. Hamlet is a character who, though wracked by great emotion and ideological angst, does very little until the end of the play. Indeed, many of his actions are half-hearted or strangely motivated or contradictory, much like those of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. At this point, Stoppard‘s play shares much of Hamlet‘s philosophizing but little of its high drama. In fact, when Guildenstern wishes for a sign, one imagines something along the lines of the ghost of Hamlet‘s father, who appears before his son and tells him what to do. The equivalent of the ghost in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appears to be the Player, who has little interest in or ability to direct Guildenstern. ACT ONE SCENE THREE: Directions from the King Summary There is a subtle lighting change, and Ophelia runs into the room, followed by Hamlet. He is dirty and crazed, and he grabs her arm tightly, holding her for a moment. Then, with a shudder, he lets her go, backing away from her, out of sight. She
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runs off in the other direction. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern watch the wordless scene, frozen, then Guildenstern begins to take action- -but, immediately, Claudius and Gertrude, the King and Queen of Denmark, enter the room. Claudius tells them that he is glad to see them; he sent for them abruptly because he needs them urgently. He mistakes Rosencrantz for Guildenstern, and it becomes clear that, while Guildenstern might know which one he is, Rosencrantz is pretty unsure. They adjust their clothes, self-conscious in front of the King, as he continues: Hamlet has changed recently, both inward and outward, and no one really knows why. He hopes that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who were friends with Hamlet as children, might be able to find out what is going on, because Hamlet has been acting very strangely. The King can‘t imagine what it could be, except for Hamlet‘s father‘s recent death. Gertrude agrees: if they can help figure out what is wrong with Hamlet, she assures them she will reward them well. They protest that they are so eager to help that the King and Queen need not even ask them if they will. The King and Queen confusedly say good bye to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (mistaking their identities again) and two attendants take Rosencrantz and Guildenstern out of the room. As they leave, Polonius enters, and they pause to look at him. He is the King‘s advisor, an elderly, formal man. He tells Claudius that the ambassadors from Norway have returned, and begins to tell the King how highly he values his duty. He suggests that he knows the cause of Hamlet‘s strange behavior. He and the King leave the room, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are left there. Rosencrantz is disturbed by everything he has seen. He wants to go home, because he doesn‘t know what he‘s doing at court--he feels he is out of his depth. Guildenstern assures him that, once they have done their work for the King, they will be rewarded and allowed to leave. Rosencrantz is upset about how confusing the world is now. It didn‘t used to be this way--in fact, he used to know his own name with perfect certainty, and now, he simply cannot remember which is which. Both names sound like they might be right, but he doesn‘t feel an instinctive attachment to either of them. Guildenstern understands: truth is such a constant in life that after a while you take it for granted--until you realize you don‘t know what‘s true anymore, and then you‘re lost. Rosencrantz tries to get Guildenstern to simply pick which name he wants, claiming he himself doesn‘t care anymore what he is called. But Guildenstern says that they can‘t do that; it would be too arbitrary. Rosencrantz gets very upset, desperate for a name, either name, to cling to, and cries that he wants to go home. He can‘t even remember which way home is--he‘s lost his sense of direction. Guildenstern tells him that death and birth are the only true beginnings and ends, and the men seem to connect again. Rosencrantz tries to claim that they don‘t have to do this, but Guildenstern argues that now that they are caught in the action, everything they do has an effect on everything else. Therefore, they must complete their job, and then they will be free to go. He suggests that it might feel good--like being a child, who is only expected to follow directions, not to think for himself. Rosencrantz wonders how they can figure out Hamlet. Guildenstern reminds him of what the King told them: Hamlet has changed, and since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have always been close to him, they may be able to cheer him up and find out what is wrong. Rosencrantz begins to wonder what their reward will be like. They try to do something constructive, but decide that they have been placed, and the best thing to do would be to wait until something happens. Rosencrantz looks at the audience and mentions that he hates feeling like a spectator, whose only hope is that someone interesting will come on in a minute. Guildenstern agrees: they are being kept interested without ever being allowed explanations, and it is driving him crazy. Rosencrantz suggests that they play Questions, a game which consists of two players having a conversation without ever making a statement--only questions are allowed. Through the game, they have a light, uninformative conversation, asking questions like "What does it all add up to?" to which the response is, "Can‘t you guess?" Finally, Guildenstern asks Rosencrantz, seriously, what his name is, but Rosencrantz doesn‘t see he is serious. Even when Guildenstern asks him "Who do you think you are?" Rosencrantz thinks it is rhetoric. They cry out to no one, wondering what the game at court is, what the rules are. Hamlet enters behind them, reading, and Guildenstern notices him just as he leaves. To alert his friend, Guildenstern calls out, "Rosencrantz!" and, miraculously, Rosencrantz responds. The men are both thrilled, as it appears that Rosencrantz really does instinctively know his own name. He suggests that they try the same thing with Guildenstern, but Guildenstern, irritated, points out that he would have to be surprised in order for it to work. Rosencrantz doesn‘t quite get this, and tries to surprise Guildenstern immediately. Guildenstern then calls to his friend again, this time using his own name--but Rosencrantz responds to it. Disgusted, Guildenstern asks for consistency from his friend.

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They begin to talk about Hamlet. Rosencrantz has nothing much to say, but Guildenstern sees that Hamlet has changed. Rosencrantz begins to ask him about it, and Guildenstern realizes that they might play Questions with each other to analyze what is happening to Hamlet. He thinks Rosencrantz gets this too, and begins to play with him, pretending to be Hamlet. But Rosencrantz doesn‘t get it, and thinks Guildenstern has gone crazy. Very annoyed, Guildenstern explains what he is trying to do. Rosencrantz seems to understand, but it is soon clear that he doesn‘t, and Guildenstern gets very irritated. He throws up his hands, wondering what he and Rosencrantz possibly could share except their situation. They sit in silence for a while, then Rosencrantz finally realizes what Guildenstern was trying to do. They begin the game again, but when Guildenstern calls Rosencrantz by his name, Rosencrantz gets confused--he is thinking he is Guildenstern again. Finally, they get it all sorted out, and Guildenstern impersonates Hamlet while Rosencrantz asks him questions. At first, he doesn‘t see that what they want to do is get as much information as possible from Hamlet. Finally, however, he establishes a conversation with Guildenstern-as-Hamlet. Rosencrantz points out that Hamlet‘s father was King, and Hamlet is an adult, but after his father‘s recent death, his Uncle Claudius was made King instead of him. This has something to do with the fact that his uncle married his mother, Queen Gertrude, very soon after his father‘s death. Rosencrantz, following the thread, muses aloud that Hamlet‘s much-loved father is dead, and Hamlet, who should be King, is now merely Claudius‘s "son." All of this is common knowledge, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern cannot figure out why they were sent for by Claudius. Rosencrantz hears music again, and when Guildenstern calls him, using both names, Rosencrantz answers to both, infuriating Guildenstern. He tells Rosencrantz to go peek in on Hamlet. Rosencrantz reports that Hamlet is talking to himself--though he is not alone. Hamlet enters backward, followed by Polonius. Hamlet teases Polonius with nonsense, while Polonius tries to maintain his dignity. Finally, Polonius says he is leaving, and Hamlet wryly announces his eagerness for this. Guildenstern calls to Hamlet. Hamlet is very excited to see them--though even he confuses one man with the other. Notes It is significant that the scene changes with hardly any changes to the scenery. One of Stoppard‘s major purposes in this play is to make the reader (or, more likely, viewer) unable to forget that he or she is reading or watching a play. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern refer to the audience, look at the audience, and are undeniably on a stage throughout the production. Stoppard supports this manner of performance by substituting long, random conversations for action. If we are caught up in the story, it is because we enjoy wordplay, not because we are worried about the characters or the plot. The action of Rosencrantz is set against the backdrop of Hamlet, a play in which almost nothing happens until the very end. The vast majority of the play concerns Hamlet‘s debates about whether or not to kill his uncle (who murdered his father.) Few of his arguments advance him in any particular direction--he considers suicide, he rejects his own love interest, he decides that no one should get married anymore. These serious and yet ineffective attempts to resolve his problems are reminiscent of Guildenstern, who is very serious but never gets anywhere with his thoughts. The game of Questions mirrors their experience at Elsinore: much rhetoric with very little information. Once the audience sees that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don‘t even know their own names, it is clear that these two will never succeed in communicating with Hamlet. Their case is hopeless, yet they blunder on, mainly because they are unsure of how to give up.

ACT TWO SCENE ONE: A Conversation with Hamlet Summary Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern continue their conversation, which appears to have been long. Hamlet is talking, almost to himself, about the situation at court. He seems to play at being insane, making bizarre statements, half teasing and half serious. Polonius comes in, telling Hamlet that the actors have arrived. Hamlet and Polonius leave, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern evaluate the conversation with Hamlet.
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Guildenstern begins to suggest that they did all right--got some information, didn‘t reveal too much, and got a sense of Hamlet‘s state of mind in general--but Rosencrantz scoffs at him. He proclaims that they fumbled every question to Hamlet, and that Hamlet teased them, smoothly getting them to reveal everything about their purpose at the castle. Rosencrantz derisively points out how useless their practice with the game of had been. They discuss Hamlet‘s famous statement, "I am but mad north-northwest. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw." They begin to reason that the weather must be important, and wonder which way south might be. Guildenstern gets obsessive about it, which irritates Rosencrantz, who tells him to just go outside and see where the sun is in the sky. They do not, however, even seem able to establish what rough time of day it is. They hope someone might come in. Rosencrantz suggests that they do something to make someone enter, but Guildenstern disagrees: if they start acting randomly, they will upset the order of the plot they have become part of. Not listening, Rosencrantz jumps up, yelling, "Fire!" He says he is demonstrating the misuse of free speech. Guildenstern muses on each person‘s short-lived experience; their inability to learn from the past. Rosencrantz responds by engaging Guildenstern in a game with a coin. Polonius, the players, and Hamlet come in. Hamlet asks the Player to perform a play tomorrow night, with some added lines Hamlet himself has written. Everyone leaves but the Player, who regards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern coldly. They tease and berate him, and he angrily accuses them of leaving him and his troupe in the forest. He explains how awful it is to be in the middle of a play and then realize that there is no one in the audience. He tells them that he and his actors cannot even look at each other anymore, they are so ashamed. He makes a long speech about it, to which Guildenstern reacts ironically. The Player haughtily tells them that he knows his way around the castle, and warns them to be careful. Guildenstern tries to get information, or at least sympathy, from the Player, but he tells them simply that life is confusing and uncertain, so they should just act natural and relax. They try to explain why they are there to the Player, but cannot even begin to grasp Hamlet‘s state of mind: they suggest he is depressed, crazy, or neither. They really have no idea. The Player points out that Polonius thinks that Hamlet is in love with Ophelia. Guildenstern decides to bring some order to the situation, forbidding anyone to leave, but then immediately lets the Player go learn his lines. Alone again, and depressed by it, they begin to talk about the future. Rosencrantz thinks of what it would be like to be dead, in a box. He can‘t decide whether or not it would be better to be alive in a box. He goes on and on about this, until finally Guildenstern screams at him to stop. Undaunted, Rosencrantz keeps right on talking, saying that eternity is an awful idea, because it never ends. He desperately wants someone, anyone, to come onstage. He wonders when we first learn about death. He reasons that the knowledge must have been devastating, and yet he can‘t remember it. All of this talk seems to be making him uncomfortable, because he continues his introspection (usually seen more in Guildenstern) until he finally decides he doesn‘t want anyone to come on, after all. Notes One must have a keen understanding of Hamlet in order to appreciate Stoppard‘s play. Hamlet‘s father was secretly murdered by his brother Claudius. Claudius then married Gertrude, Hamlet‘s widowed mother. Hamlet has a sense that something terrible has happened, and his father appears to him as a ghost, confirming his suspicions about his uncle (and now stepfather). For a long time, Hamlet deliberates about whether or not to murder his uncle. He stages a play that mirrors the murder of his father, in order to let his uncle know that he is aware of the murder, and to observe his uncle‘s reaction. Claudius, meanwhile, has called in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, friends of Hamlet from his youth, to find out how much Hamlet knows. However, once Claudius sees the play Hamlet has staged, he realizes that Hamlet knows everything. Plus, Hamlet murders Polonius, Claudius‘ advisor, in a fit of mad rage. Claudius promptly decides that Hamlet must be eliminated, and sends him to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be killed by the English King. Hamlet, however, figures out the plan and switches the letter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have with a forged letter, which says that the English King should kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet returns home and kills Claudius in a milieu that includes many other deaths as well, including that of his mother Gertrude. The silliness of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern trying to figure out which direction south is made even more ridiculous by the fact that their efforts are pointless. Clearly, Hamlet‘s claim of sanity depending on a south wind was just nonsense. Even Rosencrantz and Guildenstern seem to know that, and yet they cannot resist getting caught up in such a ridiculous detail.
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They get furious with each other, talking in circles, and reveal their complete ineptitude when they cannot even figure out whether it is morning or night. At the same time, however, the fact that their numerous questions are rarely answered leaves the audience feeling somewhat uncomfortable. All we know is what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell us, which is limited, to say the least. Their confusion keeps us confused. We are never told, for example, by an omniscient narrator, whether it is morning or night. Thus, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern‘s confusion becomes ominous, because it makes the audience insecure. It is one thing to laugh at a fool. But when we are no better off than the fool himself, our experience of the story changes, even if it is essentially a comedy. When they hope someone will come in, they seem to be looking at the audience for answers, or at least entertainment. This is extremely bizarre for an audience who is used to going to a play for entertainment, to lose themselves in a story. ACT TWO SCENE TWO: Things Start to Fall Apart at the Castle Summary Immediately after Rosencrantz decides he doesn‘t want anyone to come in, everyone except Hamlet does. Gertrude and Claudius question Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: How did Hamlet seem to them? Did he answer their questions? Did they do anything together for entertainment? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern respond that Hamlet seems fine. They explain (lying) that their conversation went fairly well--Hamlet answered their questions easily, and he seemed happy to hear that the Player and his troupe were coming to the castle. Polonius agrees with this, saying that Hamlet has told him to ask the King and Queen to attend the play. Gertrude and the King agree happily, seeming pleased about Hamlet‘s apparent recovery. They all leave, and Rosencrantz is perturbed that he is so much at the mercy of the court. He decides to leave, though Guildenstern doesn‘t seem to believe he‘ll actually do it. Sure enough, as he begins to walk off, he catches sight of Hamlet and comes running back. They watch Hamlet together as he tries to decide whether or not to kill himself. Rosencrantz tries to gather up the courage to speak to Hamlet, but he cannot do it. He is, as he says, "overawed" by Hamlet‘s personality. Ophelia comes in, and Hamlet leaves with her. Guildenstern ridicules Rosencrantz, telling him to stop trying to influence things and simply sit down and be quiet. Rosencrantz, hysterical, tries to tease someone who seems to be the Queen but turns out to be Alfred, the young actor from the Player‘s troupe. More actors enter the room, till all the exits are blocked, and Rosencrantz finally gives up and sits down. The actors start their dress rehearsal for the play they are to perform for Hamlet. It begins with a pantomime, which explains the action to follow. (The Player explains that the language of the play is very difficult to understand.) The silent action shows the King and Queen embracing. He falls asleep, and she leaves him. The King‘s brother enters and pours a bottle of poison into the ear of the sleeping King. The Queen comes in and, finding her husband dead, cries. The Poisoner consoles her, until she accepts his love. The mime ends and Ophelia runs on, Hamlet right after her. He cries out that he will allow no more marriage, and fiercely demands that Ophelia go to a nunnery. Ophelia falls to the floor weeping, as Hamlet storms out. After a moment, the actor playing the new King begins to speak again. Abruptly, Claudius and Polonius enter, and help Ophelia to her feet. Claudius decides that Hamlet is not acting strangely because he is in love with Ophelia. He is worried that the reason for Hamlet‘s angst is going to be revealed in some way dangerous to him, so he decides to send Hamlet to England. As the three leave the room, the Player, without missing a beat, begins to critique his cast‘s performance. He calls to move on to Act Two, and when Guildenstern is surprised that there is more to the story, the Player laughs: how could the play end if almost no one is dead? He tells Guildenstern that art has a design to it that must be played out. The design never changes--the play cannot end until everyone who is meant to die dies. He explains that this is a good thing, since his actors are so good at dying. The story works this way because it is written this way--the Player denies that any decision was made to make it that way--it just is. There is no choice for the actors. The pantomime resumes: the new King and the Queen are locked in a very sexual embrace. Rosencrantz protests, saying people don‘t want to see that, but the Player happily assures him that they do. He then comes on stage as Lucianus, nephew to the poisoner-King. The Player, as Lucianus, acts the part of Hamlet: he staggers around the stage, weeping, raging, and murdering a "Polonius" figure. Throughout the pantomime, he describes what he is doing to Rosencrantz and
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Guildenstern, and it is evident that Lucianus is a perfect replica of Hamlet. He is even being sent to England, in the care of two "friends--courtiers---- two spies." The Player goes on: these spies are given a letter to give the English court, and take a ship to England. The letter requests that the English King murder Lucianus, but once they get there, Lucianus has disappeared and the letter has been switched for another, asking the King to kill the spies. The Player removes the spies‘ coats, revealing that they wear coats identical to those of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Clearly, they are meant to represent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern‘s role in the story. Rosencrantz, seeing something familiar about them, approaches one spy. After some thought, he decides that the spy must be mistaken-- he doesn‘t know him after all. Guildenstern looks at the other spy, confused. When the Player asks him if he knows the play, Guildenstern says he doesn‘t. When the Player reiterates how great he and his troupe are at playing death, Guildenstern begins to get angry. He demands to know what these actors could possibly know about death. The Player explains that the actors represent death perfectly. Guildenstern rejects this, calling it "cheap melodrama," which doesn‘t bring the significance of real death home to any audience. The Player argues that in fact, their kind of death is the only kind the audience can believe in. Once, he says, he was able to show a real death on stage, and it was a disaster--no one believed it was real! Undisturbed, the Player turns back to the spies on stage, who are about to pantomime death. As they do, the light fades, and Guildenstern protests. He says death is not dramatic: it happens suddenly, but the reality of it sinks in slowly, as those left behind realize that the dead person is never coming back. The stage goes black, and one hears screams of people attending the play, who see that the King is very upset and call for the play to stop. After a moment, the stage lights as a sunrise. Only Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are left on stage, in the positions the spies fell when they died. They wake up slowly, and begin earnestly trying to determine which way is east based on where the sun is in the sky. Guildenstern keeps knocking down Rosencrantz‘s attempts to get his bearings. Just as they are complaining that any moment someone is going to come in, shouting at them confusedly, Claudius calls to Guildenstern. Claudius and Gertrude enter, clearly upset. Hamlet has murdered Polonius, and the King wants Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find out where he is and bring the body to the chapel. At first, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are paralyzed. They try to evaluate their situation. Rosencrantz decides that this turn of events is positive, because they are finally being given direct and simple orders: go find the body! Guildenstern misinterprets this, thinking that Rosencrantz is happy that Polonius is dead. They go through a lengthy process of deciding how to search for Hamlet. First, they begin to go in opposite directions. Then they decide Hamlet might be dangerous, so they should go together. Then they realize that if they leave, and Hamlet comes there, they will feel silly. So they return to their original positions on stage. Guildenstern points out that of course he might not come, but Rosencrantz is confident. However, when he sees Hamlet coming, he is shocked. Hamlet is dragging Polonius, and suddenly Guildenstern has an idea. They undo their belts and join them together, holding them out as a rope for Hamlet to walk into. But Hamlet enters and exits from the same side, never even seeing them. Barely fazed, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern consider that there wasn‘t much else they could have done. When Guildenstern suggests that Hamlet might come back again, Rosencrantz begins to take off his belt again, and Guildenstern angrily entreats him not to make the same mistake twice. Rosencrantz decides he will call for Hamlet, and then is shocked when Hamlet responds. Rosencrantz tries to find out where Hamlet has taken the body, but Hamlet teases him. He knows Rosencrantz is a "sponge" who is working for the King, and he bitterly lets Rosencrantz know that he knows. Rosencrantz doesn‘t understand his teasing. Hamlet finally agrees to go with them, and walks toward the door. Suddenly he appears to see Claudius and bows deeply. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern follow his lead, and when their heads are lowered Hamlet walks offstage. Claudius comes in behind Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are thoroughly confused. Claudius demands Hamlet, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern aren‘t sure what to do--till an escort, luckily, brings Hamlet in at the last moment. Everyone else leaves, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are left alone again. They at first try to believe that they are done at the castle, but realize despairingly that they now have to take Hamlet to England. Rosencrantz tries to claim that he doesn‘t care what anyone wants him to do, or the reasons for it. They hear Hamlet offstage again, and Rosencrantz reports that he is talking--to a soldier, and to himself. Rosencrantz suddenly mentions that the weather must change at some time--the spring can‘t last forever. Guildenstern agrees, calling the mood "autumnal," which he says has nothing to do with leaves. It is about color--everything is turning brown. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hear the Tragedians‘ band again, very faintly. After the soldier leaves Hamlet, Rosencrantz asks him if he would like to depart as well. Hamlet tells him to go with Guildenstern ahead, and he will catch up. Guildenstern seems
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immobilized. He is afraid that if he leaves, he won‘t know anything anymore--at least where he is now, he knows he doesn‘t know where he is. He worries that they might never come back, and Rosencrantz points out that they don‘t want to come back. Guildenstern counters with, "but do we want to go?" Rosencrantz tries to tell him that they will no longer be obligated to some higher authority if they leave, but Guildenstern isn‘t so sure they‘ll actually be free. Rosencrantz argues that they have come a long way already, and anything can still happen. They leave together, and the stage blacks out. ACT TWO SCENE TWO: Things Start to Fall Apart at the Castle Notes When Rosencrantz tries to approach Hamlet when he is debating suicide, we realize that this would be the perfect time to talk to Hamlet seriously, to really get him to divulge is innermost thoughts and feelings. Yet for some reason Rosencrantz cannot do it. The only explanation he gives is that he has succumbed to Hamlet‘s personality. Indeed, it seems likely that someone like Rosencrantz, who, though he has existential troubles, most likely never thinks about suicide, would be intimidated by someone with real emotion. He would not know what to say to Hamlet were Hamlet to confess his secrets to him. He has no real character, and therefore no real part in the story of Hamlet. He is a minor character--from the way he acts, it seems that he was somehow created that way and has no way of changing. This inability to advance to "reality" is similar to the situation of the main character of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," a poem by T.S. Eliot. Tom Stoppard acknowledges this work as a parallel, if not a direct correlation, to Rosencrantz. The poem is a narration by someone who can never quite decide what to do, because he is so afraid of the consequences of his actions that he prefers not to act at all. He stands on the sidelines, saddened that he can never be part of the action. Yet his sadness is not high tragedy, like Hamlet‘s. Rather, it is pathetic. He does not nobly and bravely try to fight, failing because of something beyond his control. His failure comes from his fear, foolishness, and perhaps his laziness. These are qualities he arguably shares with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Yet one gets the sense in Rosencrantz that the two main characters are bound to a certain plot, from which they cannot escape. Even they themselves seem to understand that they have no control (as does the Player, who also is relegated to a mere bit part in Hamlet). Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Prufrock all stand aside, morosely watching the main characters of their worlds play out their lives. But Prufrock seems to be there by his own doing, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, though they have some of Prufrock‘s sad silliness in them, seem to truly be at the mercy of some higher power. Thus, while Eliot‘s poem might share some elements with Stoppard‘s play, Stoppard is not as concerned with how to be (or not be) a genuine person. He is also, in a sense, playing with paper dolls: he creates pseudo-personalities for two minor characters from a Shakespeare play, using them as mouthpieces for his clever dialogue. They are never, unlike Prufrock, even treated as entirely real. Nor, of course, is the rest of the cast of Hamlet--Ophelia‘s tears are played for a laugh in Stoppard‘s play. The audience is not meant to take the tragic play seriously. The Player does not seem to even notice the events of the castle: these "bit players," in fact, are not often even curious about the intense drama that is playing out around them. They recognize that they are spectators, and feel little more than annoyance when the "main characters" interrupt their little lives. The players watch Hamlet scream at Ophelia, then immediately go back to their rehearsal. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are focused not on helping their friend Hamlet, but on simply returning home again. When the stage goes black and the audience hears the cries of people watching The Murder of Gonzago, we are meant to understand that the King is finally realizing that Hamlet knows that he murdered Hamlet‘s father. Though this is perhaps the climax of Shakespeare‘s play, Stoppard does not even allow it to occur in the background: it is composed of voices heard in a dark room. There is no real reaction to it by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Its only effect on the play is to draw the main characters nearer to their own inevitable ends. Their connection to the forces that bring about those ends is strangely inconsequential. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern themselves fixate on the most inconsequential aspects of their experience: they hear Hamlet proclaim a bit of nonsense about which directions of the wind find him sane and which insane, and they cannot let it go. They spend the rest of the play trying desperately to determine which way is east. As well, they are convinced that the events going on around them actually revolve around them, and that the members of the court may actually be trying to confuse them.
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ACT TWO SCENE TWO: Things Start to Fall Apart at the Castle Notes (continued) They also consistently confuse each other: at times, the audience seems to understand their conversation better than they do themselves. They speak vaguely and do not follow through their thoughts--another reason why they rarely come to a decision. This is one of the greatest sources of comedy in the play, and there is a strong physicality to it which one must see the play to experience. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern go through the motions of making a grand decision to look for Hamlet, only to return to their original positions minutes later, the audience cannot help but laugh, even though two people so bumbling are surely doomed (their silliness prevents them from accomplishing anything, ever.) Even they are surprised when their actions are successful. Their idea for a trap (their two belts tied together) is so ridiculous that only someone like them might fall for it. They assume that Hamlet, like them, is prisoner of a grand dramatic scheme, so that if they lay a trap for him, he would have no choice but to fall into it. If one thinks about this for a moment, it becomes rather sad: Hamlet has a freedom that confounds these two men, who have never experienced it. But Stoppard never allows us to get too caught up in their pitiful situation: he uses their pathetic scheme as a chance to let Rosencrantz‘s pants fall down. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern often try to fake their way through situations they do not understand. When the King asks for Hamlet and they don‘t know where he is, they cannot admit that; instead, they stall. This is a big part of their problem: they live in a world that makes it impossible to just say, "Wait! Stop! I don‘t understand! What exactly do you want me to do, and why?" Their role in life demands that they keep moving, going about their duties, without hesitating or questioning. Claudius does, therefore, play some role in their inability to get their bearings: their fear and awe in his presence forces them to act without understanding. In a rare show of imagery, Stoppard describes autumn, using Guildenstern as a mouthpiece. Though described almost entirely through different shades of brown, this autumn seems to have much to do with death. He talks about the baked earth, a "brownness at the edges of the day." Everything sounds dead, at an end, and somewhat ominous. Stoppard, who usually avoids lyrical passages in Rosencrantz, seems similar to the players: he‘s best at "doing death." It is perhaps no accident that this description is fitted in between Hamlet‘s conversation with the soldier about the impending war against Poland, with Denmark and Norway as allies. Since Stoppard has selected only a few direct scenes from Hamlet to include in his own play, it is significant that he has highlighted the political aspect of Hamlet that most modern productions of the play leave out. (Shakespeare‘s play takes place on the brink of a war, in which Denmark and Norway are allied against Poland, and Norse soldiers are occupying Denmark.) The final conversation in the second act is perhaps the most reminiscent of Waiting For Godot. They seem unable to determine even the reasons to go or stay, even though they have been discussing why they want to leave for almost the whole play so far. It seems that Rosencrantz actually has a better understanding of himself here: he has always complained more about wanting to go home, and now that he has a chance to get closer to that goal, he wants to take it. Guildenstern, however, who has always been proud of his ability to analyze situations, seems to have analyzed himself into a corner. He is no longer sure that freedom really exists, and he is beginning to feel hopeless. Finally Rosencrantz convinces him to move, but the viewer might get the sense that things are taking a turn for the worse: Guildenstern, who used to be excited about symbols, omens and double meanings, now seems to believe that nothing has any meaning. Rosencrantz, on the other hand, seems caught up in life at the castle--he no longer cares what the grand meaning of it all is, he just wants to get one step ahead of where he is at the moment. One gets the sense that they are falling deeper into an inescapable well. ACT THREE SCENE ONE: On The Boat Summary
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The scene opens in total darkness, and we hear Guildenstern‘s voice. He is trying to determine whether Rosencrantz is there, and where they are. They hear the sound of the sea. Rosencrantz seems incapable of providing a straight answer--he is confused as to whether he can see, think, or feel. Guildenstern is back to being irritated with Rosencrantz‘s stupidity full time. They hear sailors yelling boat terminology, and they realize they are on a boat. Hamlet, a ways off, lights a lantern, so the stage is dimly visible. Rosencrantz confusedly mentions that it seems to be getting lighter outside. He says that, this far north, it will soon be night, and they will have to go to sleep. Guildenstern says that he thinks he might never be able to be doubtful about anything again. Rosencrantz tries to interest him in a stroll, but he refuses, worrying that someone might come in. They stay where they are, and begin to admire the boat. Guildenstern likes the lack of choice on a boat: one never has to decide where to go or what to do, because there is really nowhere to go and nothing to do. Yet he does not feel completely free: he still feels tied to his duty to Claudius, and no amount of exploration or adventure on this boat will cut that tie. No matter what, he still has to deliver a letter--and Hamlet--to the English King. Rosencrantz seems to be losing his excitement: he is beginning to feel sick, and the salty air did not enthuse him the way he expected. He begins to explore, and discovers Hamlet behind a large beach umbrella. He returns to Guildenstern and urgently whispers the news. Guildenstern is hardly surprised, and asks what Hamlet is doing. When Rosencrantz tells him he is sleeping, Guildenstern bitterly points out that Hamlet can sleep easily, since every decision has been made for him, and he has his two friends to escort him to the place he has to go. They wait a moment, then Rosencrantz asks what will happen next. Guildenstern explodes at him, asking him what he expects, when they are on a boat with no instructions, relying only on what they either know or were told, which isn‘t much. Without answering, Rosencrantz hides a coin in his fist and invites Guildenstern to guess which hand it‘s in. Guildenstern guesses right, and Rosencrantz gives him the coin. They repeat this scene several times, until Guildenstern taps both hands so quickly that Rosencrantz opens them both and shows that he has a coin in each. Guildenstern asks him why he would do this, and Rosencrantz reveals that it was a pathetic effort to make Guildenstern happy. Guildenstern suddenly wants to know how much money Claudius gave Rosencrantz. For some reason Rosencrantz doesn‘t want to tell him, and turns the question around. There is some "I asked you first" banter, then they decide that they got the same amount, because the King wouldn‘t discriminate between them--even if he could. Suddenly Guildenstern realizes that throughout this conversation Rosencrantz has simply been mirroring his own thoughts, never adding anything. This infuriates Guildenstern, who longs to hear something original. Rosencrantz begins to cry, admitting that he can do nothing but support his smarter, more domineering friend, and Guildenstern relaxes and comforts him. He tries to answer all of Rosencrantz‘s questions, but finds himself getting confused. Rosencrantz demands to know exactly how things will go once they get to England--will the King know who they are? Will he care? How will they present Hamlet to him? Guildenstern tells him that the letter they are bringing will solve everything. They simply present the letter to the King and, if there is something in the letter that directs them further, they follow those directions. If not, they can do as they please. Rosencrantz seems to find this too ambiguous. He wants to know what the letter says, so that they can feel like they accomplished something by knowing just what it was they accomplished. Guildenstern suggests that the letter is merely a description of goings on at court, asking of favors, and other basic forms of diplomacy. Rosencrantz suddenly misunderstands the situation, believing that he is supposed to have the letter, which was in fact given to Guildenstern. ACT THREE SCENE ONE: On The Boat Summary (continued) He begins to get hysterical, and Guildenstern, for once, wonders rationally why Rosencrantz would get upset about not having it if he never thought he was supposed to have it in the first place. Rosencrantz has no answer for this. Guildenstern, not wanting this debate to go any further, calmly searches for the letter in his own jacket, producing it in a moment. Once they realize that the entire fuss was over nothing, they get somewhat depressed. Rosencrantz, beginning to get hysterical again, blurts out that he doesn‘t believe the story about England--why would this foreign King care what they have to say, or believe their story? He just can‘t imagine how they will proceed once they get off the boat. Guildenstern tries to explain that nothing is really real until it happens.

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They discuss what death might be, since Rosencrantz is beginning to feel almost dead. Guildenstern argues that death is the ultimate Not. It is nothing. Rosencrantz, wishing he was dead and getting upset again, drags Guildenstern into a game in which Rosencrantz pretends to be the English King and Guildenstern speaks as himself and Rosencrantz. During the game, Guildenstern presents the letter with great confidence, and Rosencrantz, excited by pretending, grabs it and rips it open, reading it aloud without thinking. The letter turns out to ask the King to behead Hamlet. They absorb this gravely, not knowing quite what to do. Rosencrantz feels awful--they are Hamlet‘s friends. Guildenstern, however, tries to analyze the situation objectively. Everyone dies, he reasons, and besides, no one knows what death is like, so it might actually be very nice. Rosencrantz tries to protest, wondering why this should happen, especially when Hamlet has done nothing to them, but Guildenstern refuses to allow either of these lines of thought to intrude in his rationalization. Rosencrantz tries to clarify the situation: they were awakened one morning by a summons from the King of Denmark, to try to comfort their old friend Hamlet and find out what is wrong with him. Hamlet stages a play which seems to upset a lot of people, and murders Polonius, so is being sent to England for his own good and the good of the court. During Rosencrantz‘s short speech, Hamlet appears behind them. He blows out his lantern, and the stage goes black for a few moments. When the moon comes out to light the stage, Hamlet can be seen approaching the sleeping Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He takes their letter, and replaces it with another. He then blows out the lantern, and it is morning. Rosencrantz gets up, still trying to establish which way is west, and recites the most recent information he has to work with. They hear a recorder playing, and Guildenstern gets very excited. He tells Rosencrantz to go find its source. He seems to believe that this will lead to something important. Rosencrantz reluctantly searches out the sound, finding the Tragedians in a group of barrels on deck. The Player emerges joyously, banging on the other barrels. He explains that they are still in costume from the play, because the play upset the King and they had to leave quickly, without even being paid. They are stowaways on the boat. Guildenstern explains that, at the moment, he and Rosencrantz are not under any real obligation. They can relax and do whatever they want--to a point. Rosencrantz describes Hamlet to the Player--introspection is his major characteristic, according to Rosencrantz--and Hamlet comes forward to spit over the side of the boat, into the audience. Guildenstern gives a long list of Hamlet‘s symptoms, which again leads them nowhere. They recite everything that they now know, including the Player‘s recent escape from the King, and Rosencrantz angrily demands some coherence, a little action. Immediately, pirates attack the boat. Hamlet, the Player, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern all escape by jumping into barrels. The stage goes black, and when the lights come up again, everyone emerges from their barrels except Hamlet, who has disappeared. The Player explains that he is gone, and not coming back. Infuriated, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern argue that Hamlet can‘t be gone--without him, they can‘t have their freedom. The Player tells them to simply bring their letter to the English King and explain what has happened. Meanwhile, he tells them, just relax. This time, it is Guildenstern who finds it hard to swallow, so they repeat their game, with Guildenstern playing the English King this time. When he reads the letter aloud, he finds that it now asks the King to murder Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They are, of course, shocked. The Player kicks another barrel, shouting for his troupe to come out. They all form a menacing circle around Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Guildenstern tries to determine what they could have done to avoid this end, and they both wonder why they are suddenly so important as to deserve to be killed. The Player tries to comfort them, telling them that most things end in death, but Guildenstern becomes furious. He grabs a knife from the Player‘s belt and holds it against his throat, telling him that their acting has nothing to do with death--death is not dramatic. He stabs the Player, and as the Player is dying, cries out to the crowd that since there are no reasons for him and Rosencrantz, there will be none for the Player either. Abruptly the Player gets back up again, smiling, and shows Guildenstern that the knife had a collapsing blade. He tells him that dramatic death is, clearly, the only kind of death people believe in. It‘s what they expect. He calls for a show from his troupe, and they all die dramatically--in exactly the same ways that their play‘s characters died in Hamlet. During this scene, in which even the Player falls, Guildenstern protests. Death is not anything, he argues again, death is nothing, so, he seems to mean, it cannot be represented. The light falls until only Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are visible. There doesn‘t seem to be anything left to do. Quietly, Rosencrantz wonders aloud why they cannot simply assert themselves. No one can make them leave, he says, and they‘ve done nothing wrong. When he gets no answer, he finally gives up, and says he is relieved to be going. He disappears, and
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Guildenstern does not notice. He wonders whether they could ever have refused their duty. He looks around for his friend, murmurs that "we‘ll know better next time," and also disappears. Immediately, the stage brightens, and the entire court is revealed dead, just as it happens in Hamlet, and just as it happened a few moments before with the Tragedians. An ambassador from England is telling Hamlet‘s friend Horatio, the only survivor, that they have killed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as planned. Horatio begins to explain what has happened, but music swells over his voice, and the stage darkens. ACT THREE SCENE ONE: On The Boat Notes Stoppard is still playing jokes: he makes the audience listen to long lists of sailor calls, until they are forced to laugh at the absurdity of it. He wants it to be painfully obvious that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are on a boat, so that it becomes painfully obvious how ridiculous they are. If they had not immediately started debating about where they were, they would have figured it out quickly enough. One also wonders how they got on the boat without knowing it: they truly do seem like paper dolls, placed in different situations for the amusement of their owner. Stoppard again draws a parallel between the life of a character within a play (who is there to serve a certain purpose) and a courtier (who, most likely, is at court for a similar, and equally unyielding, reason.) And again, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern‘s plight is both funny and tragic--but mostly funny. Who could feel sorry for a character who cannot tell the difference between a lantern and the rising sun? Indeed, Rosencrantz especially gives no indication that he has any deep concerns or will of his own--he has just awakened, but as soon as he decides it will be night soon and he will "have to" go to sleep, he gets tired again and prepares to do so. Guildenstern, on the other hand, has made his mind a prison in a different way: he no longer seems to be fighting his situation intellectually. He says that, presumably because of all the unexpected things that have happened to him lately, he can no longer be skeptical about anything. He no longer wants to move, and he seems to be vaguely afraid of what might happen at any moment. Still, Stoppard continues his word games, and the two banter absurdly. The sense of doom creeps in despite, or perhaps because of, these games, in which they talk endlessly without conveying any information, much less reaching any decisions. Guildenstern claims he likes boats because of their limited possibilities: he could just as well be talking about the court of Denmark, where he is forced to follow the whims of those superior to him. He does not even seem to understand that what he has wanted all along was freedom: in fact, he doesn‘t even seem to want freedom anymore. His proclamations sound lame: "One is free on a boat. For a time. Relatively." During this expressive and ominous speech, Rosencrantz threatens to vomit over the side--onto the audience. Stoppard seems to want to avoid letting the viewer get too involved in any of the dialogue. He does not really want us to sympathize with either of his main characters, the way that Beckett might have wanted his audience to see themselves in Vladimir and Estragon. He is most interested in shaking us up, making us laugh in various ways, so that it comes as no surprise that he claims he wrote the play as entertainment. It most likely appeals to the viewer on many different levels, none of which are too profound. The metaphors Guildenstern uses to describe his feeling of obligation to the King are astronomical: he mentions a "fixed star," and changes of their angle in relation to it. There is a vague feeling of the fates at work behind this speech: he believes that his attachment to the King transcends even the earth, and is of the same nature as the unchanging galaxy itself. Nor do either of them seem to understand that not everyone lives this way: they argue that Hamlet has things easy, since everything has been done for him. They do not realize that Hamlet, unlike them, is not a pawn in someone else‘s game, and therefore does not have to do whatever Claudius says simply because Claudius has written a letter and sent him off. Ironically, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wail about their petty concerns as Hamlet makes real decisions in the background: should he let the English King kill him? (He has had suicidal thoughts in the past.) Should he murder his uncle? Might he just escape the entire scene altogether? Again, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern envy Hamlet in his supposed security. They wish they had what he has:
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someone who wants him to do something concrete and specific. They would gladly carry out any clear and finite order they were given. ACT THREE SCENE ONE: On The Boat Notes (continued) Immediately after this jealous tirade, Guildenstern murmurs, "Give us this day our daily cue." This is a sort of joke in itself, since Guildenstern has been making "Give us this day our daily- -" comments throughout the story--and he has just been "cued" to make another. Rosencrantz has his own verbal flair. He has mastered the art of talking without saying anything. (Guildenstern: "He couldn‘t even be sure of mixing us up." Rosencrantz: "Without mixing us up.") This infuriates Guildenstern, and plays a big part in their inability to get anything done. Guildenstern tries to make a point, Rosencrantz confuses it, and Guildenstern, often bossy and pretentious, can‘t resist explaining even the most pointless point. He gets completely sidetracked, forgets what he was trying to say in the first place, and they are back where they started. Clearly, Stoppard is making a point about the limitations of words. One hears echoes of an earlier conversation: Rosencrantz: "What are you talking about?" Guildenstern: "Words. They‘re all we have to go on." Much of the play seems to consist of talking about words, and if it is all they have to go on, it is clearly not enough. As the story proceeds, they get increasingly disturbed, as Rosencrantz‘s hysteria following the "loss" of the letter indicates. Not having made a decision of their own in a long time, they begin to worry more and more that nothing is real. Rather than simply believing they will get to the English King somehow, they try to picture it in their heads. They are not satisfied to let things happen, yet they are unable to influence their surroundings. Gripped by a picky sort of curiosity--they demand to know every detail before they are willing to get involved in anything--they nevertheless stand around immobilized. It is as if they are stiffening, becoming cardboard characters, who cannot act with any natural ease. More and more, they demand that the plot be laid out for them, and more and more, they are absorbed into the demands of the plot. They cannot even be sure that they are Hamlet‘s friends. There is little affection in them for anything, including each other, though they do share moments of tenderness. Guildenstern, especially, is careful to keep things "in proportion"-which seems to mean, "let‘s not think too much about what this means for Hamlet, or for ourselves. Let‘s just fulfill our duties." He uses many philosophical arguments about whether death is a good or bad thing, never taking into account his own role in the problem. It is one thing to argue about whether or not one man‘s death is an awful or even a momentous event. To lead that man to his death is something else entirely. By this point, both of them are completely grasping at straws, and it shows in their conversations. When Rosencrantz gives a list of what has happened to them since they were summoned by the King, it is a bare jumble of words held together by direct quotes from people like Claudius and Hamlet. It is clear that Rosencrantz remembers remarkably little even of what has happened since they have been at the castle. If he had no one to tell him things, he would be completely lost. It is particularly interesting that he can remember exact quotes from other people, but seems to have no idea of his own words or actions (he is often unsure if he is even alive.) He has been wondering for days, perhaps weeks, which way is west, and even when he watches the sun come up, he can‘t be sure. Even reciting back the details of what they will do with the letter for the English King, he relies on Guildenstern for all the concrete information. He has just read the letter out loud himself, and he has not connected that one of his questions about it has been answered- there is nothing in the letter telling them what to do after dropping off Hamlet. He acts as though he still doesn‘t know. Hamlet called Rosencrantz a sponge, but he is in many ways just the opposite: he doesn‘t absorb anything, and information slides off of him like oil. OVERALL ANALYSES
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS Major Characters Rosencrantz An Elizabethan gentleman traveling with his friend, Guildenstern, to the castle Elsinore to see their friend Hamlet. Rosencrantz is at times like Guildenstern‘s younger brother: he tries to please him, make him laugh, and entertain him, but he usually just ends up annoying him. Neither of them is sure of his own name, but he is the one who cannot remember what happened to him this morning. Rosencrantz is helpless, depending on Guildenstern for comfort even when he is just sitting still. He is pathetically ingratiating, pretending to play betting games with Guildenstern but letting him win so many times that he finally figures out Rosencrantz is just trying to make him feel better. Rosencrantz has no real interest in learning more about his existence, or his duties at the castle. When Guildenstern muses about why they are there or what their purpose in life is, Rosencrantz ignores him. Guildenstern wants things explained to him; Rosencrantz just wants to be told what to do. He thinks he has a basic understanding of the way the world works (you can‘t question a king; nobility are not interested in pornography, etc) and doesn‘t care to know anymore. From the very beginning of the story, he just wants to go home. One cannot imagine what his relationship to Guildenstern must be--how did they end up together? Guildenstern comments on this at one point: he often picks on Rosencrantz. Rosencrantz never stands up for himself; he either ignores the insults or cries until Guildenstern pities him. He is not really interested in changing his life. He dies because Hamlet writes a letter to the English King asking him to kill both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and even though they know about the letter, neither of them is able to decide not to go to England. This apathy may be what kills him in the end: he gets sick of trying to do what everyone wants him to do, so he just disappears. Guildenstern He might be called the better half of the inseparable duo that is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern--at the very least, he is the smarter one. He is fairly quick to understand implications, hints, etc., unlike his friend. He is deeply unhappy, because he is just smart enough to know that he will never fully understand his life. He wants to know the reasons for things--from why Hamlet would want to die to why a coin could spin a hundred times, always landing heads up. But his analyses, though thorough, are confused, backward, and sometimes totally irrelevant. He wastes a huge amount of energy for very little result. He desperately wants things to happen a certain way (they deserve an omen on the way to the castle, and continued specific instructions once they get there) and is furious when the world seems to turn its back on him. He wants to be important-believes he is important--and is pained when he sees how unimportant he is. And, for all his limitations, he seems the most human of everyone in the play. Rosencrantz is a clown, Hamlet is played here as a clown and a madman, the Player is a soulless opportunist, and the King and Queen have no personalities at all. Guildenstern looks at all of this, shocked, and usually the audience agrees with him. If anyone is the audience‘s window to the action, it is he. He also makes valid philosophical points. To him, death is not a chance for a dramatic scene, as it is for the Player. It is something that happens gradually, as the people who knew the deceased begin to realize he or she is really gone forever. Nevertheless, Guildenstern is never able to fully realize his personality. He is too afraid of what might happen, and more and more he loses faith in the power of logic and reason to set things right. Eventually, he too disappears into his confusion and inaction. Guildenstern dies because Hamlet writes a letter asking the English King to kill him and Rosencrantz, and they seem unable to fight this turn of events, or even decide whether they want to fight it. It is significant that they do not die in the play: they just disappear. The Player

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The Player is a ridiculous yet sinister figure in the lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He may be dramatic and clownish, but he is not a fool like Rosencrantz. He merely does whatever he must to get by. Once, he was an actor. Now he is, as Guildenstern says, "a comic pornographer." He doesn‘t seem to differentiate between the two. He is a man for hire: he and his troupe go to the castle and put on a play at Hamlet‘s request. They add lines to it without wondering why (or thinking of the similarities between the play and life at the castle) then get kicked out when the play frightens the King. They end up stowaways on a boat with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, heading to England with no real plan, completely unsurprised that they never got paid. The Player is always onstage, no matter where he is, so he is both larger than life and completely false at the same time. "We‘re actors," he says pointedly. "We‘re the opposite of people!" He has a strong feeling that life imitates art--he believes that things happen the way they do because they were planned, as though by an author. The only time he gets upset with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is when they leave him to act out a play alone, without an audience. He feels completely betrayed by this, since his life is only valuable when other people are watching. He, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is more of a character than a person, but in his case he seems to have done this to himself. PLOT ANALYSIS (Structure) It is difficult to comment on the plot of R&G as a whole, because it is composed of so many disparate ideas. One moment there is talk of the nature of probability, next, death and what it means to die, followed directly by jokes about how to appease an angry king. This is, however, exactly what Stoppard wanted: he has avoided coherence at all costs. The comic scenes undercut the solemn scenes, which undercut the absurd scenes. Hamlet considers committing suicide, then spits into the wind, hitting himself in the eye, then happily sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths. In the midst of it all, pirates attack. The play references extremely serious works, such as Waiting for Godot and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Both of these are concerned with what to do in a world where nothing is required, no one cares what you do and, sometimes, there is nothing to do. R&G is, of course, also about these issues, but in a much less serious way. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not two people trying to find meaning in their lives after a loss of faith, for example. They have never had any meaning, because they are essentially paper dolls. This is where the comedy often comes in: though they might be disturbed by their lack of purpose or relevance in the world they live in, we recognize them as minor characters from Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, and thus can never take them seriously. They are not people in search of meaning, they are characters in search of motivation. They ask for explanations and directions, but free will is beyond them: they only exist for the pleasure of Claudius and Gertrude--and, we are given to understand, the audience and Stoppard himself. Stoppard plays with them constantly. They stalk around the stage, scheming, then slowly "decide" not to do anything at all, returning to their exact original spots. Even though they desperately want to change their situation, the audience recognizes that, since they are only characters, not people, what they "want" doesn‘t matter--they must always obey their writer. This theme is paralleled within the play by the situation at court. No matter what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern want, they must completely forget their own goals and obey the King. Much like their writer/creator, Stoppard, the King asks much of them but never offers them anything in return. He asks them to help Hamlet and then checks on them periodically, but offers them no concrete instructions. He uses them as he wishes and then forgets about them: to him, they only serve to advance his plot. This infuriates them: they want to be told exactly what to do, rather than be thrown into a mess and instructed to sort it all out. This puts them in a strange position, and it is the ultimate form of "the audience knows what the characters on stage do not." They believe that their problem is that they are not directed enough: if someone would just come in and tell them to do something, they would gladly do it. What really bothers them is trying to decipher the puzzle of Hamlet on their own. We the audience know, however, that the real problem is that they are completely and unchangeably controlled by outside forces. They have not really been left to their own devices, as they believe. They are being swept along by a current so strong and swift that they do not even notice it: the plot. If they were somehow able to assert themselves, identify their wants and needs, then perhaps they might have had a chance. But they have been created without real wants or needs.
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They think, at the beginning, that they want to go home. But soon enough, even that fades away. "We‘ve got nothing," they agree on the boat, but it‘s only partially true. They have a purpose they had no part in creating, and the smallest realization of that fact. What they lack is any way of changing that. PLOT ANALYSIS (Structure) It is difficult to comment on the plot of R&G as a whole, because it is composed of so many disparate ideas. One moment there is talk of the nature of probability, next, death and what it means to die, followed directly by jokes about how to appease an angry king. This is, however, exactly what Stoppard wanted: he has avoided coherence at all costs. The comic scenes undercut the solemn scenes, which undercut the absurd scenes. Hamlet considers committing suicide, then spits into the wind, hitting himself in the eye, then happily sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths. In the midst of it all, pirates attack. The play references extremely serious works, such as Waiting for Godot and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Both of these are concerned with what to do in a world where nothing is required, no one cares what you do and, sometimes, there is nothing to do. R&G is, of course, also about these issues, but in a much less serious way. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not two people trying to find meaning in their lives after a loss of faith, for example. They have never had any meaning, because they are essentially paper dolls. This is where the comedy often comes in: though they might be disturbed by their lack of purpose or relevance in the world they live in, we recognize them as minor characters from Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, and thus can never take them seriously. They are not people in search of meaning, they are characters in search of motivation. They ask for explanations and directions, but free will is beyond them: they only exist for the pleasure of Claudius and Gertrude--and, we are given to understand, the audience and Stoppard himself. Stoppard plays with them constantly. They stalk around the stage, scheming, then slowly "decide" not to do anything at all, returning to their exact original spots. Even though they desperately want to change their situation, the audience recognizes that, since they are only characters, not people, what they "want" doesn‘t matter--they must always obey their writer. This theme is paralleled within the play by the situation at court. No matter what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern want, they must completely forget their own goals and obey the King. Much like their writer/creator, Stoppard, the King asks much of them but never offers them anything in return. He asks them to help Hamlet and then checks on them periodically, but offers them no concrete instructions. He uses them as he wishes and then forgets about them: to him, they only serve to advance his plot. This infuriates them: they want to be told exactly what to do, rather than be thrown into a mess and instructed to sort it all out. This puts them in a strange position, and it is the ultimate form of "the audience knows what the characters on stage do not." They believe that their problem is that they are not directed enough: if someone would just come in and tell them to do something, they would gladly do it. What really bothers them is trying to decipher the puzzle of Hamlet on their own. We the audience know, however, that the real problem is that they are completely and unchangeably controlled by outside forces. They have not really been left to their own devices, as they believe. They are being swept along by a current so strong and swift that they do not even notice it: the plot. If they were somehow able to assert themselves, identify their wants and needs, then perhaps they might have had a chance. But they have been created without real wants or needs. They think, at the beginning, that they want to go home. But soon enough, even that fades away. "We‘ve got nothing," they agree on the boat, but it‘s only partially true. They have a purpose they had no part in creating, and the smallest realization of that fact. What they lack is any way of changing that. POINT OF VIEW Since Rosencrantz is a play, there isn‘t as much opportunity for point of view as there might be in a novel. A novel can devote much time to describing one person‘s experience of everything around him or her. Rosencrantz, of course, cannot do that, but it does seem to ally the reader much more closely with Guildenstern than with any other character. This is interesting because it can be argued that Rosencrantz is actually more sympathetic than his friend: he pities Hamlet, and he is innocent about pornography. Nevertheless, the reader likely tends to look to Guildenstern for the most reasoned
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account of the confused happenings of the play. Though he does not often seem to understand very well what is going on, he at least understands that he does not understand it. This separates him from Rosencrantz, who does not seem to care very much what happens to him; from the Player, whose only goals are selfish; from Claudius, who is desperately trying to cover his lies; and from Hamlet himself, who is rarely forthcoming with his thoughts and feelings. Guildenstern is at times the voice of reason--though he also can be completely absurd. He therefore sometimes leaves the audience with no one at all to turn to, stuck in the middle of a group of people who can‘t tell day from night.

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IMPORTANT QUOTES • Guildenstern: It must be indicative of something, besides the redistribution of wealth. (Act One, pg. 16) • Guildenstern: The scientific approach to the examination of phenomena is a defense against the pure emotion of fear. (Act One, pg. 17) • Rosencrantz: It was urgent--a matter of extreme urgency, a royal summons, his very words: official business and no questions asked (Act One, pg. 19.) • Guildenstern: Do you know any good plays? (Act One, pg. 32) • Player: Blood is compulsory--they‘re all blood, you see. (Act One, pg. 33) • Rosencrantz: I feel like a spectator--an appalling business. (Act One, pg. 41) • Polonius: Though this be madness, yet there is method in it. (Act One, pg. 52) • Rosencrantz: They know nothing of that and you know nothing of them, to your mutual survival. • Guildenstern: From now on reason will prevail. • Rosencrantz: Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where‘s it going to end? • Player: Events must play themselves out to aesthetic, moral and logical conclusion. (Act Two, pg. 79) • Guildenstern: Even if I don‘t know where I am, I like to know that. (Act Two, pg. 95) • Guildenstern: We act on scraps of information--sifting half-remembered directions that we can hardly separate from instinct. • Guildenstern: Well. He is a man, he is mortal, death comes to us all, etcetera (Act Three, pg. 110) • Player: Life is a gamble, at terrible odds--if it was a bet you wouldn‘t take it. Act Three, pg. 115) • Rosencrantz: Couldn‘t we just stay put? I mean no one is going to come on and drag us off--(Act Three, pg. 125)

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

by William Shakespeare

Hamlet

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead
by Tom Stoppard
Adapted from: Gillian Herbert, Forster High School
http://hsc.csu.edu.au/english/advanced/comparative_study/transformations/rose_guild/EngAdv13111.htm

An explanation of the elective This elective is one of three within the module entitled Comparative study of texts and context. The module overall requires students to examine texts in relation to the different contexts in which they were written. Understanding the effects of social, cultural and historical contexts on an individual text should emerge through examining texts with similar themes written in different time contexts. The varied values of each context will also be reflected in the texts. Your study of the texts should include:    language use consideration of audience and purpose analysis of the content, values and attitudes conveyed through a range of readings.

You may be required to write about these texts in different ways such as imaginative or interpretive compositions, and in a variety of forms such as an essay, imaginative re-creation in the role of a character, newspaper report, or letter. In this particular elective, Transformations, we are looking at stories from the past being adapted to contemporary situations. In summary, two minor characters called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Shakespeare‘s play Hamlet are given the lead roles in a contemporary play with their own names: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead written by Tom Stoppard. Your task is to consider how the different context of each play generates a range of reflections about each play. In both cases the main characters are moving towards and reflecting on their own deaths. Key terms ―Comparative‖ means finding similarities and differences between the two plays. ―Context‖ means the situation in which each play was written. This includes the historical period, the type of society and the attitudes of its people, the type of stage presentation and audiences for whom the playwright was writing. ―Transformations‖ means adapting a story to a new situation, using the benefits both of the inspiration of the original story and what can be added from the new context. Gaining an understanding of each play It is important to remember that plays are written to be performed on stage. Any opportunity you have to see a production should be taken. Film versions are available also. However, the techniques of film production differ from those of the stage, and in the case of the film of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, it was made 24 years after the original play was written and is different from the original play. It is the original play in each case which you are studying. The Hamlet Interviews is a useful video production about Hamlet. Its outline of the play‘s story is helpful as you begin your study of the play. There is also a good analysis of Hamlet‘s character which will be of value once you are more familiar with the play.

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A short summary of each play, with an emphasis on the aspects common to both will help you begin your study of this elective. Hamlet has many themes and you will not have time to study all of them, so focus on those which also arise in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

Hamlet: a short summary
Shakespeare wrote this play in 1600-1, based in itself on versions of the story written throughout the previous century, in particular that by Thomas Kyd. He used the Senecan Tragedy conventions of revenge, adultery, incest, murder, mutilation and general carnage and included features such as ghosts, insanity, suicide, a play-within-a play, all of which are to be found in Shakespeare‘s play. The play begins with Hamlet returning to his home from university because of the death of his father and the marriage of his mother to his uncle Claudius. Hamlet is alerted to the presence at the castle (Elsinore) of a ghost who claims to be that of his father. The ghost tells Hamlet that he has been poisoned by his brother and then betrayed by the marriage of his beloved wife to the murderer. Hamlet is commanded by his father‘s ghost to exact revenge against Claudius, but not to hurt his mother Gertrude. Even before hearing this Hamlet has been distressed to the point of contemplating suicide about his mother‘s hasty remarriage to his uncle. His depressed mood has been manifested in rather inconsistent treatment of his loved one, Ophelia, and in his dispirited appearance around Gertrude and Claudius. After hearing the ghost of his father he resolves to focus solely on revenge against Claudius. Meanwhile Gertrude and Claudius, concerned about the change in Hamlet, have invited two friends of Hamlet called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spend some time trying to brighten his mood and discover what ―afflicts him‖. From the moment they enter the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern speak on behalf of each other, as though they were one. When Hamlet first meets them he appears genuinely pleased to see them and is open with them about his lack of mirth. He welcomes their news that they have engaged some Players or city tragedians to provide him with some entertainment. Hamlet uses the Players to construct a play within a play about a King being murdered. He intends to use the play to gauge Claudius‘ reaction to assure himself that Claudius did indeed kill his father. Claudius spies on a scene set up by Polonius between Ophelia and Hamlet. He becomes suspicious that something which may be dangerous to him is troubling Hamlet. He decides to send Hamlet to England, a decision confirmed after he sees the play that Hamlet has constructed in order to reveal his guilt. Claudius organises Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in whom Hamlet has now lost trust, to accompany Hamlet to England. Letters to be carried by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Claudius to the King of England request that he organise the death of Hamlet. Before he leaves, Hamlet has a dramatic argument with his mother about her disloyalty to her first husband, Hamlet‘s father. Polonius spies on this conversation, and Hamlet, believing him to be Claudius, kills him. On board the ship Hamlet finds the letters and rewrites the instructions so that they read that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern should be put to death. Hamlet then returns to Denmark to take his revenge. On his return he encounters the funeral procession of Ophelia who has drowned because of her sadness over her rejection by Hamlet and Hamlet‘s killing of her father Polonius. Hamlet challenges Ophelia‘s brother Laertes to a duel to prove which one of them loved Ophelia more. Claudius sees yet another opportunity to rid himself of Hamlet and poisons the sword used by Laertes, as well as poisoning a drink provided for Hamlet during the duel.
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Gertrude, however, drinks from the poisoned cup and dies. In the scuffle Laertes and Hamlet swap swords and are both cut with the poisoned one. Before he dies Hamlet also cuts Claudius with the sword. Thus revenge is finally enacted, and all the key characters including Hamlet die.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead: a short summary
This play was written in 1967 by Tom Stoppard and uses most of the characters from Shakespeare‘s Hamlet. However in this play, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and the Players are the most important characters and the main characters fromHamlet are literally in the background most of the time. The actual plot is different, however in it‘s treatment of the issues. The meaning of life and the inevitability of death draw attention to the fact that these themes are also present in the original play by Shakespeare. All the themes discussed in Hamlet revenge, Hamlet‘s ―madness‖ and the madness of other characters and Hamlet‘s procrastination can be linked to the themes of life and death. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead opens with the two main characters tossing coins and betting each time on the result, which happens to be ―heads‖ 92 times in a row. The closeness between them indicated in Hamlet is immediately evident here by the uninterrupted repartee between them, even though they are frequently challenging and questioning each other while the coin tossing is taking place. They lead into a discussion of probability and the direction their lives are to take, alluding to Hamlet with mention of the fact that they have been sent for. As they try to decide in which direction they have to travel, they hear music and the Players or tragedians that they meet in Hamlet appear. In identifying Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as an audience, the main Player has given them now some purpose, just as in Hamlet he provides Hamlet with the means to catch Claudius out. The difference is however that in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead the Player has an active role, whereas in Hamlet he responds to requests by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and then by Hamlet. In the process of discussing how the Players are going to entertain Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the Player makes the important point that they ―do on stage the things that are supposed to happen off stage. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look upon every exit being an entrance somewhere else.‖ This is an important lead into the fact that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who were mostly off-stage in Hamlet, will be onstage in this play, whereas Hamlet will be mostly off-stage in this play after having been the central character in Hamlet. The stage subsequently becomes the symbol of life (a reference to lines from other plays by Shakespeare, eg. ―all the world‘s a stage‖) and through the character of the Player who has also assisted Hamlet in finding meaning, Stoppard is able to use his play to treat the theme that the direction in which life takes us is towards death. Shortly after this discussion, Hamlet and Ophelia appear and mime the scene fromHamlet in which Hamlet questions the loyalty of women and effectively dismisses Ophelia from his life. Immediately after this the actual scene where Gertrude and Claudius greet and welcome Rosencrantz and Guildenstern occurs, using the language of Shakespeare and also the difficulty of distinguishing between the personalities of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Thus, although as a pair they are given a purpose in life to ―glean...what afflicts‖ Hamlet. They then continue to discuss their purpose in life through the game of asking each other questions and trying to avoid statements. This is followed by a game in which Guildenstern plays the part of Hamlet and Rosencrantz asks him pertinent questions relating to events in the original play, which again assist us in reflecting upon the original play. At the end of Act One, Hamlet enters, engaged in a conversation with Polonius fromHamlet, and then greets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. At the opening of Act Two, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern reflect on their conversation with Hamlet, exposing his state of mind at this point in Hamlet. They note that Hamlet has asked several rhetorical questions, and repeated himself. Soon
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afterwards some more interaction occurs between the Player and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who are treated to some more of the former‘s philosophies on life. Then, left to themselves, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern introduce the subject of death. Rosencrantz starts this with the question, ―Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with a lid on it?‖ and then follows with his conclusion that ―there‘s only one direction, and time is its only measure‖. Some more interactions with characters from Hamlet follow, and the stage directions indicate that most of the time the latter characters are positioned upstage, allowing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to remain the focus of the audience. A collage of the dumbshow from Hamlet, and the scene between Hamlet and Ophelia in which he rejects her follows, ending with the determination by Claudius that Hamlet should be sent to England. After the exit of the characters fromHamlet, the Player picks up the death theme, pointing out that his troupe are tragedians, who follow directions and no one escapes death: ―…there is no choice involved. The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily‖. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to counter this argument saying they want ―a good story, with a beginning, a middle and an end‖, and ―I‘d prefer art to mirror life,if it‘s all the same to you‖. The Player responds by miming, with some narration, scenes from Hamlet where Hamlet interviews his mother and kills Polonius, Claudius organises Hamlet‘s trip to England with two ‖smiling accomplices- friends-courtiers-two spies‖ (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) showing how a ―twist of fate and cunning has put into their hands a letter that seals their deaths‖. This Act ends with references to the season of autumn (symbolising the move closer to the end of life - winter) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern preparing to escort Hamlet to England, which ironically is the scene before their deaths in Hamlet. Act Three opens with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on board the ship taking Hamlet to England, bearing a letter from the Danish King to the English King, and feeling depressed that once this task is achieved they will be at a loose end again, with no sense of what direction they are heading into. They read the letter and realise that they carry the death warrant for Hamlet. They comment that the sun is going down and it will be dark soon. They also note that they are heading west, as they come to terms with the significance of the letter they are carrying. In the background we see Hamlet exchange the letter for another, which we know from Hamlet, gives instructions that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are to be killed, not Hamlet himself. It then becomes apparent from music they can hear, that the tragedians are also on board, in three large barrels. The Player launches into more philosophy, regarding, ―Life is a gamble, at terrible odds - if it was a bet you wouldn‘t take it.‖ Watching Hamlet spit into the audience, Rosencrantz reflects that ―philosophical introspection is his (Hamlet‘s) chief characteristic‖. Pirates attack the ship and all the characters hide in barrels. When the attack is over and they re-emerge, Hamlet has disappeared, giving Rosencrantz and Guildenstern the cue that without him they have no function in life. They then re-discover the letter and its changed instruction that they are to be killed. Death and the purposelessness of their lives is now the focus of their discussion with the Player, who tries to give it some perspective by saying that he has acted death many times and ways and it is commonplace. Still protesting, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern disappear, and the play ends with part of the last scene from Hamlet, where all the main characters lie dead and the Ambassador from England reports that as Hamlet requested Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. The plots and characters of the two plays The short summary of Hamlet excludes details that do not relate to the characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This may seem to give them more importance than they merit in the play. On the other hand it is difficult to be brief about the second play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, because of the many references to Hamlet. The plot is far less complex than that ofHamlet but an understanding of the play is dependent upon a comprehensive understanding of Hamlet..
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Exercises on plot and character 1. Draw a mind-map of the characters in each play, placing the characters of each play‘s title at the centre, and then showing how all the other characters relate to them and to each other. 2. Again, taking each play separately, rank the characters in each play in their order of importance, giving reasons. Your reasons should relate to the plot and the themes of each play. Then compare your two lists and make some conclusions about how Stoppard has used Shakespeare‘s characters in his play. 3. Discuss how important Hamlet is in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, compared with how important Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are in Hamlet. 4. Draw a diagram for each play that summarises the progress of the main characters in each towards their inevitable deaths. 5. To get a feel for the closeness of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern act out the scenes in which they appear in Hamlet, and then in their own play, the coin-tossing scene, the question-game scene and any others you think may be relevant to this understanding. 6. Act out or mime the scenes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead that come from Hamlet. 7. Write letters between the characters Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern explaining how you feel about each other, and about life and the hand it has dealt you in general. The themes of the two plays After examining the themes that are common to both plays, consider the other themes in Hamlet and their links to these common themes. For example, does Hamlet‘s procrastination inevitably lead to his death and those of others? Exercises on themes 1. Examine the soliloquies in Hamlet for references to the desire to die, as opposed to the reasons for continuing to live. 2. ―That life is a mystery and that this mystery ends in death are the two truths Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do discover as the play proceeds. Ultimately they develop an awareness of the lack of control they have over their lives.‖ Collect quotes from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead that support this statement. In Act One you will find references to direction, probability, certainty and uncertainty. By the end of Act Two references to death begin, but the Player discusses how he makes meaning out of life. By Act Three there is a clear indication of awareness of death. 3. Your references in exercises (1) and (2) can now be examined together to make some connections between the themes of the two plays. Comparison of the historical, social, moral and religious contexts

Hamlet
This play was written in the Elizabethan period in England. The monarch was well established and was also the head of the Church of England. Both the monarch and the church played a strong role in the lives of the people. This is reflected in Shakespeare‘s plays in that the great majority of his characters are either monarchs or high-ranking members of their country‘s nobility. His audiences were interested in the lives of these people whose lives seemed for the most part. far removed from their own Socially, a middle class was only just beginning to emerge with the development of trade, and the majority of people were poor and ill-educated. Hamlet‘s scruples about suicide and about killing Claudius, despite the ―justice‖ of revenge, reflect the strong Christian beliefs of the time.

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In the Elizabethan world, order was the keynote of all things, and the hierarchical system of carefully arranged ranks of man was a part of this. The King was ordained to rule by God and men were empowered with reason so they could, even at the very last moment, be master of their fate. There was also a pagan view that men fall or prosper according to fate. One code of conduct recommended Christian charity and mercy to human beings, whereas another encouraged all men to strive for their own advantage. Shakespeare‘s plays were written for the common audience of that time, and his plays were popular. Plays were performed in palace courts where their audiences would include the most eminent and the most highly educated people in the country. They were also performed at the Inns of Court where their audiences would be professional lawyers, courtiers and their guests. In the public theatres, like the Globe, there would be a sprinkling of the nobility and the gentry, young apprentices, some foreigners, and a fair section of characters from low life, most of whom were illiterate. People moving from the country to the towns would also be in the audiences. Theatre going was popular universal entertainment. The audiences enjoyed action such as duels, wrestling and fighting; they enjoyed ghosts and the supernatural; they enjoyed ceremonial processions such as that at the close of Hamlet; clowns, jesters and fools were also important. However there was also a love of the spoken word, which is not surprising in a time when printed books were not readily available and knowledge was mostly communicated orally.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead
Written in 1967, this play is not too far removed from your own lifetime and therefore it should not be necessary to detail historical, social, religious and moral differences from the times in which Hamlet was written. However, democratic governments and constitutional monarchies have obviously changed attitudes towards and interest in the nobility and the monarchy. This is reflected in the changed subject matter of literature. While there is still some awareness of upper, middle and lower classes, there is more sympathy for and interest in the ―common man‖ now, who may be defined as representative of the majority of people from the middle and lower classes, rather than the upper classes. Consequently, literature turned its attention in the twentieth century to everyday people and their concerns. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two such people from Hamlet, but in their own play, they become the characters who are central to the audience‘s interest. Audiences in the twentieth century had many other sources of entertainment besides going to the theatre, so in a sense the audience for this play would be narrower than that for Hamlet. Most people can read and the printed word is readily available through books of all types and the print media. Radio, film at the cinema, videos, television and computers provide significant competition for live theatre. A playwright writes therefore for a small and fairly sophisticated and educated audience - people who consciously seek this form of entertainment, but not necessarily on a regular basis. Professional actors and theatre companies struggle to survive because of limited audiences. What does a playwright such as Stoppard have to do, therefore, to make his play a success. Religious and moral attitudes in the twentieth century have changed since Hamlet was written. While many people in the English-speaking world would still call themselves Christians, attendance at and reverence for the church is very limited and it certainly does not have the influence on people that it has done in the past. The 1960s, in fact, heralded the beginning of what was known as the ―permissive society‖ which broadly meant that people‘s religious and moral beliefs and practices were far more individual and not bound by conventions of their society. Exercises on the historical, social, moral, religious significance of each play 1. Make a list of aspects of the plays‘ structures, plots, characters and themes which demonstrate any of the points made above. Then make a comparison between the two plays on these grounds. 2. What aspects of Hamlet would appeal to an audience of Shakespeare‘s time? 3. Given the diminished popularity of live theatre in 1967, what appeal would Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead have for an audience of this time?
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Comparison of acting and theatrical conventions Information about Shakespeare‘s theatre abounds, and attending a performance of any contemporary play should allow for some worthwhile comparisons. Draw a table of the differences and similarities, using the following ideas to guide your analysis:             division into acts and scenes how the ending of a scene is signified the descriptions by the playwright of the settings of time and of place the stage directions given to the actors by the playwright, either directly, or implied through the content of the speeches managing effective exits and entrances the degree of realism needed for the staging of each play, such as the props and costumes required the size of the stage required to perform some of the simultaneous actions the provision of lighting and sound devices for each play, in the context in which it was written the assumed understandings of the audience by each playwright the type of audience the play was written for the structure of the plot of each play - aspects such as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement or resolution the features expected by an audience, such as soliloquies, duels, comic relief, processions, play within the play.

The language of each play There are some obvious differences from the outset in that Hamlet is mostly written as poetry, in blank verse, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead is written as prose at a colloquial level. The sections from Hamlet which are incorporated into the second play are recognisable however, as they are faithfully quoted in their original form. The language style of each play would meet the expectations of the audience for whom it was written. Both plays however are rich in the suggestive power of their language. The images of death throughout Hamlet, and the symbolic references to death which accumulate throughout Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, are worthy of very close attention, as they convey the meanings which link the two plays thematically. Write down quotes from each play which have these references and images of death. Examples will include this excerpt from Hamlet‘s first soliloquy: ―O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,‖ From Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, note references to heading ―west‖ and ―autumn‖ (near the end of Act Two), as well as repeated use of words such as ―direction‖, ―death‖ and ―tragedians‖. There is clever repartee between characters in both plays, but for the most part the pace of dialogue between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is faster than that ofHamlet. In both plays, an audience that delights in word play would be satisfied.

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Useful references Ludowyk, E.F.C, Understanding Shakespeare, Cambridge University Press, 1962. Part One, The Background, is excellent on Shakespeare‘s times, stage and audiences. Schafer, Elizabeth, ―Onstage and Offstage in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead‖, Metaphor, NSW English Teachers‘ Association Newsletter, August 1997, Issue 3. Elizabeth Schafer lectured in Drama at the Royal Holloway College, University of London. Vonwiller, Benjamin,“The Spectre of Shakespeare in Tom Stoppard‘s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead”, Sydney Studies pages 63-82 The Hamlet Interviews produced by Mirage Theatre in Taree. This can be purchased with the script from Bev Perks, P.O. Box 798, Taree, for $45. (Phone 6550 5612).

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Between "just desserts" and "tragic irony" we are given quite a lot of scope for our particular talent.Generally speaking, things have gone about as far as they can possibly go when things have got about as bad as they reasonably get. -- The Player The first professional production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead was given on April 11, 1967 at the Old Vic Theatre, London, by the National Theatre Company. It was directed by Derek Goldby and designed by Desmond Heeley. THE CAST ROSENCRANTZ -- John Stride Guildernstern -- Edward Petherbridge THE PLAYER -- Graham Crowden ALFRED -- Alan Adams TRAGEDIANS -- Oliver Cotton, Neil Fitzpatrick, Luke Hardy, Roger Kemp HAMLET -- John McEnery OPHELIA -- Caroline John CLAUDIUS -- Kenneth Mackintosh GERTRUDE -- Mary Griffiths POLONIUS -- Peter Cellier HORATIO -- David Hargreaves FORTINBRAS -- David Bailie AMBASSADOR -- David Ryall 1ST SOLDIER -- Christopher Timothy 2ND SOLDIER -- Denis de Marne COURT AND ATTENDANTS -- Petronella Barker, Margo Cunningham, Kay Gallie, David Belcher, Reginald Green, William Hobbs, Lennard Pearce, Ron Pember, Frederick Pyne SYNOPSIS Stoppard's first and perhaps most famous full-length play, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead presents a worm's-eyeview of a classical tragedy, Shakespeare's Hamlet, as filtered through the existential sensibilities of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The play opens with the title characters alone on stage, placing bets on the toss of a coin while traveling toward Elsinore, the castle of Danish King Claudius and their childhood friend, Prince Hamlet. Guildenstern is perturbed that the coin has come down heads eighty-five times in a row. This seems ominously significant to him. Rosencrantz sees nothing particularly amiss. R&G inhabit a world completely beyond their comprehension. Unsure of where they are going (and even of who they are and where they come from), they depend upon others to give their lives meaning. While awaiting instructions, they fall back upon games -- word play and simple wagers -- that rarely achieve their intended goals. Instructed by the King and Queen to "glean what afflicts" poor Hamlet, the boys attempt to cross-examine the prince but end up only more confused. Neither do they have the wit to see their own deaths foretold when the Player and his Tragedians rehearse the melodramatic tragedy, The Murder of Gonzago, which includes the execution of "two smiling accomplices -- friends -- courtiers -- two spies" who accompany a prince to England, only to be betrayed by a purloined letter. After Hamlet kills Polonius, R&G are dispatched to retrieve the body, but they of course bungle the job. They are then dispatched to England with the prince. During the ocean voyage, R&G discover that the letter they carry from Claudius calls for the immediate cutting off of Hamlet's head. Before they can decided what to do with the letter, it is stolen from them by Hamlet and replaced with another. After the ship is attacked by pirates and Hamlet escapes overboard in a barrel, R&G open the letter again, only to learn that it is now they who must be killed when they arrive in England.
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The Player and his band are also on the ship, but he is not especially surprised to learn of this treacherous turn of events, saying, "In our experience, most things end in death." Infuriated, Guildenstern plunges a knife into the Player's throat and watches him die spectacularly. After a moment, the Player jumps up, brushes himself off and reveals the knife to be a spring-loaded fake. Guildenstern is too distraught to be impressed, saying, "Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over...Death is not anything...death is not...It's the absence of presence, nothing more...the endless time of never coming back...a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows throught it, it makes no sound..." In the end, R&G resign themselves to their fate, although Guildenstern says, "There must have been a moment, at the beginning, when we could have said -- no. But somehow we missed it." Perhaps. But the play ends with two ambassadors from England informing Horatio that, at long last, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. THE CRITICS SPEAK "This is a most remarkable and thrilling play. In one bound Mr. Stoppard is asking to be considered as among the finest English-speaking writers of our stage, for this is a work of fascinating distinction..." Clive Barnes, The New York Times

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House in which Beckett was born and lived as a child, Cooldrinagh. Photo by Markus Friedl.

House where Beckett and Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil stayed in Roussillion during the War, c. 1942-44. Photo, 1993, courtesy of William M. Buckner. The house is now being preserved as La Maison Samuel-Beckett by the Samuel Beckett Foundation. For more in formation, contact beckett.roussillon@wanadoo.fr

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Grave of Samuel and Suzanne Beckett in Montparnasse

Beckett wanted this image, from a German rotogravure, for the dustjacket of Murphy, with the following caption: "What! You are giving up your Queen? Sheer madness!"

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Lessons

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Lesson 1 Handout 1

It's a Bird! It's a Clock! It's Surrealism!
Directions: Sometimes our eyes can deceive us or confuse us. We look at something—a painting, a familiar place—and we recognize certain objects or people or trees, but they are out of kilter. Things are the wrong size or in the wrong shape or don't exist together. This confusion happens in dreams and nightmares. It also happens in art and literature. Examine the picture in Handout 2. What familiar elements do you recognize? How has the familiar been distorted? What effect does the picture have on you? The art technique is surrealism, which often has dreams as its subject and shows a kind of fantasy in detailed style. Its practitioners consider it not only an artistic process but also a poetic and literary one. It does not. allow for reason or morality to interfere in the creation of the art.

Surrealism

Fig. 1.1 Marc Chagall, Peasant Life, 1925, 39 3/8" x 31 1/2", Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1941.

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Lesson 1 Handout 3 (page 1)

Magritte: The Mystery Man
Directions: Read the following. Examine the paintings in Handout 4 before discussing the aphorisms. Rene Magritte, whose paintings never fail to shock, surprise, or amuse their viewers, often paints visual jokes—a pipe with the words "This is not a pipe" written under it, a crystal goblet containing a giraffe or a man with a hat but no head; some very serious, such as one entitled The Survivors, a shotgun, standing in a corner of a room, with blood running out of its muzzle. In 1970 Tom Stoppard, author of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, wrote a play entitled After Magritte which incorporates some of the jokes in the paintings and some of Magritte's philosophy. Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot, like Magritte, favors men wearing bowler hats. Examine Magritte's paintings in Handout 4. They contain mysteries, intentional mysteries. They do not explain the mysteries or answer the questions brought up by them. The answers are up to the viewer or are perhaps non-attainable. How could anyone explain Golconde? Magritte once wrote, "To equate my painting with symbolism, conscious or unconscious, is to ignore its true nature. People are quite willing to use objects without looking for any symbolic intention in them, but when they look at paintings, they can't find any use for them. So they hunt around for a meaning to get themselves out of the quandary, and because they don't understand what they are supposed to think when they confront the painting.... They want something to lean on, so they can be comfortable. They want something secure to hang on to, so they can save themselves from the void. People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image.. . . By asking 'What does this mean?' they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things."' Absurdist authors say roughly the same things about their plays. They and Magritte intend to shock and stun us out of our complacency. Magritte once quoted Victor Hugo as saying, "We never see but one side of things." He then said, "It's precisely this 'other side' that I'm trying to express."2 As you read each play, especially Stoppard's, see how his ideas are reflected. See how the plays can be considered "surrealistic" (although they do not fit into the category of surrealistic fiction).
1Bennett 2Ibid.,

Schiff, "The Artist Who Was Master of the Double Take," Smithsonian Magazine (September 1992):49 56.

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Lesson 1 Handout 3 (page 2) Below are some of Magritte's aphorisms. Read each one and decide what you think he means. 1. It is possible to see a tip of the hat without seeing politeness.

2.

An image can sometimes seriously accuse its onlooker.

3.

The comprehension of exactitude does not hinder the pleasure of inexactitude.

4.

However far one may be from an object, one is never completely separate from it.

5. Whatever the features, words and colours scattered on a page may be, the arrangement obtained always has a meaning.3

3"Lessons

by Observation" in Rhetorique No. 7 Oct. 1962. Qtd. in Magritte 1992 . New York: to Neus Publishing Co.,

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Lesson 1 Handout 4 (page 1)

Magritte's Art

Fig. 1.2. Rene Magritte, Golconde. 1953, 31 1/2" x 39 1/2".

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Lesson 1 Handout 4 (page 2)

Fig. 1.3. Rene Magritte, L'Emplre des lumieres, 1954, 51 1/8" x 37 1/4". Figs. 1.2.-1.3. The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Lessons.doc 70

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Lesson 1 Handout 5

Sounds without Sense
Directions: Read aloud the following nonsense stanza and the interpretative information before writing your own nonsense poem.
'Twas brillig and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves. And the mome raths outgrabe.4

This is the first stanza of Lewis Carroll's famous nonsense poem from Through the Looking Glass, "Jabberwocky." Read it aloud with feeling. It sounds logical enough—the sentences are correctly structured for the English language. You can tell what part of speech each word is (can't you?), and you can tell that a scene is being set with some actions taking place. Yet none of the key words make any sense! Humpty Dumpty later explains to Alice the meanings of the hard words: " 'Brillig' means four o'clock in the afternoon—the time when you begin broiling things for dinner. . . . 'slithy' means 'lithe and slimy'... . `toves' are something like badgers—they're something like lizards—and they're something like corkscrews. . . . a 'rath' is a sort of green pig."5 Needless to say, these definitions and his others, as well as the poem itself, leave us in the same confusion we were in when looking at surrealistic paintings. Yet, they may also give us the same pleasure. Marlin Gardner, an eminent mathematician and games maven as well as the annotator of The Annotated Alice, notes, 'There is an obvious similarity between nonsense verse of this type and an abstract painting. The realistic artist is forced to copy nature, imposing on the copy as much as he can in the way of pleasing forms and colors; but the abstract artist is free to romp with the paint as much as he pleases. In similar fashion the nonsense poet does not have to search for ingenious ways of combining pattern and sense; he simply adopts a policy that is the opposite of the advice given by the Duchess in [Alice in Wonderland] *—he takes care of the sounds and allows the sense to take care of itself. The words he uses may suggest vague meanings, like an eye here and a foot there in a Picasso abstraction, or they may have no meaning at all j u s t a play of pleasant sounds like the play of non-objective colors on a canvas."6 *The Queen. quite unsoundly, says, "Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves," parodying the British proverb, "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves." Just for fun: Try writing a nonsense poem of your own. You can use the structure of "Jabberwocky" or of some other familiar poem or you can create your own form. Be true to English sentence structure and use real structure words such as the, and, that, is, etc. Make it sound logical. A warning: nonsense is hard to write, just as surrealistic paintings are hard to paint; you have only your imagination to rely on.
'Lewis Carroll, The Annotated Alice (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1960), 270. 'Ibid., 270-272. 'Ibid., 192.

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Lesson 1 Handout 6 (page 1)

That's Absurdity
Directions: Read the following quotes. Be prepared to discuss a current event that could be classified under the term "absurd." Absurd dialogue from Through the Looking Glass: Here the Red Queen began again. "Can you answer useful questions?" she said. "How is bread made?" "I know that, Alice cried eagerly. "You take some flour—" "Where do you pick the flower?" the White Queen asked. "In a garden or in the hedges'?" "Well, it isn't picked at all," Alice explained; "it's ground—" "How many acres of ground?" said the White Queen. "You musn't leave out so many things."' Absurd dialogue from Waiting for Godot:
ESTRAGON: What do we do now? VLADIMIR: While waiting. ESTRAGON: While waiting. VLADIMIR: We could do our exercises. ESTRAGON: Our movements. VLADIMIR: Our elevations. ESTRAGON: Our relaxations. VLADIMIR: Our elongations. ESTRAGON: Our relaxations. VLADIMIR: To warm us up. ESTRAGON: To calm us down. VLADIMIR: Off we go.

Both are almost slapstick comedy. The Absurdists want us to see life as a kind of absurd comedy, a surrealistic painting with familiar elements in unfamiliar places. Notice what Martin Gardner, writing about metaphor in the Alice books, says: "Life, viewed rationally and without illusion, appears to be a nonsense tale told by an idiot mathematician. At the heart of things science finds only a mad, never-ending quadrille of Mock Turtle waves and Gryphon particles. For a moment the waves and particles dance in grotesque, inconceivably complex patterns capable of reflecting on their own absurdity. We all live slapstick lives, under an inexplicable sentence of death…‖8 The last sentence could serve as an introduction to both plays.

'Ibid., 322.

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Lesson 1 Handout 6 (page 2) Absurd politics During the 1992 Presidential campaign columnist Hodding Carter III wrote, "What has been going on is utterly unexplicable, an absurdist play in which the lead characters talk past each other, and the set, constructed for drama, clashes with the nonsense downstage."9 Can you think of any current or recent election or news event that can be described in similar terms?

8Ibid.,

9NEA

15. Syndicate, New York, September 6, 1992.

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Lesson 1 Handout 7

Theatre of the Absurd
Directions: Read the following characteristics of the Theatre of the Absurd. When Alice goes into the woods where things have no name, she asks, "Who am I?" This question of identity is common in absurdist theatre. Theatre of the Absurd shows a "sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought."10 The emphasis is on the situation instead of the event. It doesn't pretend to give a moral or even have a thesis. It usually even lacks a plot. It merely presents the absurdity of the human condition. Reality often merges into fantasy; language and reason often dissolve; characters lack any apparent motivation; things happen that are not rational. The actions do not happen in logical ways. The plays are often humorous. Theatre of the Absurd relies upon the image. Since it is purely subjective, it also relies upon the reader or viewer to incorporate his or her own feelings and experiences into the play. As a result no one, no matter how expert, can state what a play means. Because stage images are so important, you must read the stage directions carefully and try to visualize the setting and the movements. Also notice the author's directions for timing, such as "Silence" or "Beat." Silences can be as important as speeches in the Theatre of the Absurd.
'°Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1961), xix-xx.

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Lesson 1 Handout 8

A Poet Gets Absurd
Directions: Read the following poem and answer the questions. Absurdity is not limited to painters and playwrights. Poets practice it too. (Who can forget Gertrude Stein's "A rose is a rose is a rose?") Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a Beatnik poet of the 1950s, was inspired by paintings by Marc Chagall, a Russian whose dreamlike paintings of his childhood village contain horses, violins, upside-down peasants, and many other sane and absurd images, to write this poem.

Don't Let That Horse
Don't let that horse eat that violin cried Chagall's mother But he kept right on painting And became famous And kept on painting The Horse With Violin In Mouth And when he finally finished it he jumped up upon the horse and rode it away waving the violin And then with a low bow gave it to the first naked nude he ran across And there were no strings attached"

1. 2.

What makes the poem absurd? Where is the humor in the poem?

"Carol Marshall, Twentieth Century Poetry (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971), 48-49.

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Lesson 2 Handout 9

Emptiness
Directions: T.S. Eliot, in his well-known poem "The Hollow Men," describes the emptiness of modern man. He believes we live in an era without values and without emotions. This idea of emptiness is echoed not only in many Absurdist plays but also in many other poems, such as Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock." Read either (or both) of these poems and answer these questions: 1. How does Eliot show the emptiness of the person(s)? (actions, statements, etc.)

2.

What images does he use to suggest emptiness?

3.

How valid is his statement for today's world?

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Lesson 2 Handout 10 (page 1)

Identity
Directions: "Who am I" is a common problem in many Absurdist plays. But sometimes the real problem is that the person is not who he thinks he is. Read this poem by Miroslav Holub, a Czech poet and scientist, about a familiar character from Hamlet. Polonius
Behind every arras he does his duty unswervingly. Walls are his ears, keyholes his eyes. He slinks up the stairs, oozes from the ceiling, floats through the door ready to give evidence, prove what is proven, stab with a needle or pin on an order. His poems always rhyme, his brush is dipped in honey, his music flutes from marzipan and cane. You buy him by weight, boneless, a pound of wax flesh, a pound of mousy philosophy, a pound of jellied flunkey. And when he's sold out and the left-overs wrapped in a tasseled obituary, a paranoid funeral notice, And when the spore-creating mould of memory covers him over, when he falls arse-first to the stars, the whole continent will be lighter, earth's axis straighten up and in night's thunderous arena a bird will chirp in gratitude. 1
1 Selected

Poems (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967) 73-74.

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Lesson 2 Handout 10 (page 2)

1.

Polonius considered himself wise and prudent. The king trusted him implicitly. How does Holub show him?

2.

What verbs emphasize his character?

3.

What contrast is shown in stanzas 3 and 4?

4.

What will remain of him after his funeral? How does this relate to the theme?

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Lesson 2 Handout 11

What Is in the Future?
Directions: Read this poem. With your group, jot down answers to the questions. The characters in both Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead are constantly wondering what is ahead. Of course no one has read the script of his life; no one knows what, if anything, lies ahead. Archibald MacLeish reveals a pessimistic view of the future in his poem about an absurd circus. The End of the World Quite unexpectedly as Vasserot The armless ambidextrian was lighting A match between his great and second toe And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb— Quite unexpectedly the top blew off. And there, there overhead, there, there, hung over Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes, There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover, There with vast wings across the canceled skies, There in the sudden blackness, the black pall Of nothing, nothing, nothing—nothing at all.2

1. 2. 3. 4.

What elements of the circus are absurd? What is the effect of repeating "quite unexpectedly" in the first and eighth lines? What is the circus a metaphor for? What phrases describe the "nothing" that remains? Why are they effective? What is the emotional effect of having the end of the world lead to "nothing at all"?

5.

1Laurence

Perrine and James M. Reid, eds., 100 American Poems of the 20th Century (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1966), 162-163.

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British Literature 2 Lesson 38 Handout 55 (page 1)

Pinter: "The Black and White"
Directions: Read the following play by Harold Pinter, and consider how it can be dramatized.

The FIRST OLD WOMAN is sitting at a milk bar table. Small. A SECOND OLD WOMAN approaches. Tall. She is carrying two bowls of soup, which are covered by two plates, on each of which is a slice of bread. She puts the bowls down on the table carefully. SECOND: You see that one come up and speak to me at the counter? (She takes the bread plates off the bowls, takes two spoons from her pocket, and places the bowls, plates and spoons.) FIRST:: You got the bread, then? SECOND: I didn't know how I was going to carry it. In the end I put the plates on top of the soup. FIRST: I like a bit of bread with my soup. (They begin the soup. Pause.) SECOND: Did you see that one come up and speak to me at the counter? FIRST: Who? SECOND: Comes up to me, he says, hullo, he says, what's the time by your clock? Bloody liberty. I was just standing there getting your soup. FIRST: It's tomato soup. SECOND: What's the time by your clock? he says. FIRST: I bet you answered him back. SECOND: I told him all right. Go in, I said, why don't you get back into your scraghole, I said, clear off out of it before I call a copper. (Pause) FIRST: I not long got here. SECOND: Did you get the all-night bus? FIRST:I got the all-night bus straight here. SECOND: Where from?

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FIRST: Marble Arch. SECOND: Which One? FIRST: The two-nine-four, that takes me all the way to Fleet Street. SECOND: So does the two-nine-one. (Pause) I see you talking to two strangers as I come in. You want to stop talking to strangers, old piece of boot like you, you mind who you talk to. FIRST: I wasn't talking to any strangers. (Pause. The FIRST OI,D WOMAN follows the progress of a bus through the window.) That's an-other all-night bus gone down. (Pause) I've never been up that way. (Pause) I've been down to Liverpool Street. SECOND: Uh-uh. F I R S T : I've never fancied that direction much. (Pause) SECOND: How's your bread? (Pause) F I R S T : Eh? SECOND: Your bread. FIRST: All right, How's yours? (Pause) SECOND: They don't charge me for the bread if you have soup. FIRST: They do if you have tea. SECOND: If you have tea they do. (Pause) You talk to strangers they'll take you in. Mind my word. Coppers'il take you in. FIRST: I don't talk to strangers. SECOND: They took me away in the wagon once. FIRST: They didn't keep you though. SECOND: They didn't keep me, but that was only because they took a fancy to me. They took a fancy to me when they got me in the wagon. FIRST: Do you think they'd take a fancy to me? SECOND: I wouldn't bank on it. The FIRST OLD WOMAN gazes out of the window.) FIRST: You can see what goes on from this top table. (Pause.) It's bet-ter than going down to that place on the embankment, anyway. SECOND: Yes, there's not too much noise. FIRST: There's always a bit of noise. SECOND: Yes, there's always a bit of life. (Pause.)
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FIRST: I wouldn't mind staying. SECOND: They won't let you. FIRST: I know. (Pause) Still, they only close hour and half, don't they? (Pause) It 's not long. (Pause) You can go along, then come back. SECOND: I'm going. I'm not coming back. FIRST: When it's light, I come back. Have my tea. SECOND: I'm going. I'm going up to the Garden. F I R S T : I 'm not going down there. (Pause) I'm going up to Waterloo Bridge. SECOND: You'll just about see the last two-nine-six come up over the river. F I R S T : I'll just catch a look at it. Time I get up there. (Pause) It don't look like an allnight bus in daylight, do it?'

'Harold Pinter, "The Black and White," in A Night Out, Night School, Revue Sketches (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1961).

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British Literature 2 Lesson 38 Handout 56

Write Your Own Play
Directions: Write a scene to follow the one in The Black and White. You are to introduce new characters into the play. The following questions will guide your work. 1. Is your character male or female? young or old? rich or poor? Give a full description.

2. What will your new character add to the play? How will he or she relate to the two women?

3. What will be the basic action of the scene? Explain.

4. How will your play end? Why?

5. Write the dialogue of your scene.

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World Literature 2 Lesson 8 Handout 13 (page 1)

Eugene Ionesco's Foursome
Directions: Ionesco‘s short play, intended as a joke, makes fun of the superficiality and emptiness of many conversations and interactions. Read Foursome and answer the questions that follow. Characters DuPont, costumed like Durand Durand, costumed like DuPont Martin, costumed in the same fashion The Pretty Lady, wearing a hat, dress, shoes, cape or furs, and gloves, and carrying a handbag, etc., at least on her entrance First and only scene The entrance is to the Left, Stage Center, there is a table, and on it three potted plants are lined up side by side. Elsewhere, an armchair or a sofa. (As the curtain rises an agitated DuPont, his hands behind his back, is pacing around the table. Durand, doing the same business, moves in the contrary direction. When DuPont and Durant meet and collide, they about-face and move in opposite directions.) DuPont: . . . No Durand: Yes . DuPont: No . . Durand: Yes . DuPont: No . . . Durand: Yes . . DuPont: I tell you no ... Look out for the potted plants . . Durand: I tell you yes . . . Look out for the potted plants . DuPont: And I tell you no . . Durand: And I tell you yes . . . and I repeat to you yes . . . DuPont: You don't need to keep on saying yes to me. For it's no and no, thirty-two times no. Durand: DuPont, look out for the potted plants DuPont: Durand, look out for the potted plants . Durand: You're pigheaded. My god, how pigheaded can you be . . . DuPont: Who, me? You're the one that's pigheaded, pigheaded, pigheaded . . . Durand: You don't know what you're talking about. Why do you say that I'm pigheaded? Look out for the potted plants. I am not pig-headed at all. DuPont: Do you still want to know why you're pigheaded . . . Oh, you do bug me, you know. Durand: I don't know whether I bug you or not. Maybe I do bug you. But I'd really like to know why you say I'm pigheaded. Because, in the first place, I'm not pigheaded . . . DuPont: Not pigheaded? Not pigheaded, when you refuse, when you deny, when you resist, when you insist, in short, after I've made it all perfectly clear to you . . . Durand: Perfectly unclear . . . you haven't convinced me. You're the one who's pigheaded. As for me, I'm not pigheaded. DuPont: Yes, you are pigheaded . Durand: No. DuPont: Yes. Durand: No.
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DuPont: Yes. Durand: I tell you no. DuPont: I tell you yes. Durand: But I just told you no. DuPont: And I just told you yes. Durand: You don't need to keep on saying yes to me, it's no, no . . . NO. DuPont: You are pigheaded, you can see very well that you are pigheaded . . . Durand: You're reversing our roles, my friend . . . Don't knock over the potted plants . . . You're reversing our roles. If you are acting in good faith, you ought very well to realize that you're the one who's being pigheaded. DuPont: How could I be pigheaded? Nobody's pigheaded when he's in the right. And as you will come to see, I am right, that's all, I'm just plain right . . . Durand: You can't be right because I am right . . DuPont: I beg your pardon, I am. Durand: No, I am. DuPont: No, I am. Durand: No, I am. DuPont: No, I. Durand: No, I. DuPont: No. Durand: No. DuPont: No. Durand: No. DuPont: No. Durand: No. DuPont: No. Durand: No. Look out for the potted plants. DuPont: Look out for the potted plants. Martin: (entering) Ah, at last you have come to an agreement. DuPont: Oh, no, far from it . . . I am not at all in agreement with him . . . (He points at Durand.) Durand: I'm not at all in agreement with him. (He points at DuPont.) DuPont: He denies the truth. Durand: He denies the truth. DuPont: He does. Durand: He does. Martin: Oh . . . stop being so stupid . . . And look out for the potted plants. Characters in a play don't always have to be even more stupid than in real life. Durand: We're doing the best we can. DuPont: (to Martin) In the first place, you bug me, you and your big cigar. Martin: And you think you two don't bug me, pacing around like this, with your hands behind your backs, neither one of you willing to make the least concession . . . You'll end up by making me dizzy and by knocking over the potted plants . . . Durand: Well, you and your disgusting smoking are going to make me vomit . . . It's absurd to go around smoking like a chimney all day long. Martin: Chimneys aren't the only things that smoke. DuPont: (to Martin) You smoke like a chimney that's not been cleaned out.
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Martin: (to DuPont) What a banal comparison . . . You've got no imagination. Durand: (to Martin) It's certainly true that DuPont has no imagination. But as for you, you haven't got any either . . . DuPont: (to Durand) And neither do you, my dear Durand. Martin: (to DuPont) Nor do you, my dear DuPont. DuPont: (to Martin) Nor do you, my dear Martin. Durand: (to DuPont) Nor do you, my dear DuPont. And don't call me my dear Durand anymore, I'm not your dear Durand. DuPont: (to Durand) Nor do you, my dear Durand, you've got no imagination. And don't call me my dear DuPont. Martin: (to DuPont and Durand) Don't call me your dear Martin, I'm not your dear Martin. DuPont: (to Durand, overlapping Martin) Don't call me your dear DuPont, I'm not your dear DuPont. Durand: (to Martin, overlapping DuPont) Don't call me your dear Durand, I'm not your dear Durand. Martin: In the first place, my cigar couldn't possibly bug you because I haven't got a cigar . . . Gentlemen, permit me to tell you that you both exaggerate. You exaggerate. I'm outside whatever is bothering you. So I can judge objectively. Durand: Good, judge . . . DuPont: Judge, then. Go ahead. Martin: Permit me to tell you, freely, that you are not going about it in a way that will get you anywhere. Try to agree on one thing—find at least some basis for discussion, to make a dialogue possible. Durand: (to Martin) No dialogue is possible with Monsieur (He points at DuPont.), under these conditions. The conditions he proposes are not admissible. DuPont: (to Martin) I'm not trying to get somewhere, at any cost. hese are the conditions of Monsieur (He points at Durand.) and they're dishonorable . . Durand: Oh! What nerve . . . To pretend that my conditions are dishonorable . . . Martin: (to DuPont) Let him explain. Durand: (to DuPont) Go ahead and explain. Martin: Look out for the potted plants. DuPont: I shall explain. But I don't know if anyone will really listen to me, nor do I know if anyone will really understand me. However, understand me well, for if we're to understand each other, we have to understand each other, this is what Monsieur Durand doesn't manage to comprehend, and he's famous for his incomprehension. Durand: (to DuPont) You dare speak of my famous incomprehension. You know very well that it's your incomprehension that's famous. You're the one who has always refused to comprehend me. DuPont: (to Durand) Now you're going too far. Your bad faith is self-evident. A child of three months would understand me, that is if it were a baby in good faith. DuPont: (to Martin) You heard him, huh? You heard that . . . Durand: (to DuPont) That's going too far . . . You're the one who doesn't want to comprehend. (to Martin) Did you hear what he had the nerve to claim? Martin: Gentlemen, my friends, let's not waste time. Let's get down to it, you're talking but you're not saying anything. DuPont: (to Martin) Who, me? I'm talking without saying anything? Durand: (to Martin) What, you dare say that I'm talking without saying anything? Martin: Excuse me, I didn't mean to say exactly that you were talking without saying anything, no, no, it wasn't entirely that. DuPont: (to Martin) How could you say that we were talking without saying anything, when you are the one who has just said that there was talking without saying anything, although it is absolutely impossible to talk without saying anything inasmuch as every time one says something, one talks and contrariwise every time one talks one says something. Martin: (to DuPont) Let's grant that I said what I said about your talking without saying anything, now this doesn't mean that you al-ways talk without saying anything. There are times, however, when one_ says more in saying nothing and when one says nothing in talking too much. This depends on the situation and on the people involved. Now just how much have you actually said during the last few minutes? Nothing, absolutely nothing. No matter who says so. Durand: (interrupting Martin) DuPont's the one who talks without saying anything, not me.
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DuPont: (to Durand) You're the one. Durand: (to DuPont) You're the one. Martin: (to DuPont and Durand) You're the ones. DuPont: (to Durand and Martin) You're the ones. Martin: No. DuPont: No. Durand: (to DuPont and Martin) You're talking without saying anything. DuPont: I, I'm talking without saying anything? Martin: (to Durand and DuPont) Yes, exactly, you're talking without saying anything. DuPont: (to Durand and Martin) You too, you're talking without saying anything. Martin: (to DuPont and Durand) You're the one who's talking without saying anything . . . Durand: (to DuPont and Martin) You're the one who's talking without saying anything . . . DuPont: (to Durand and Martin) You're the one who's talking without saying anything. Martin: (to Durand) It's you. Durand: (to Martin) It's you. DuPont: (to Durand) It's you. Durand: (to DuPont) It's you. DuPont: (to Martin) It's you. Martin: (to Durand and DuPont) You! Durand: (to Martin and DuPont) You! DuPont: (to Martin and Durand) You! (Exactly at this moment, the Pretty Lady enters.) The Lady: Good day, gentlemen . . . Look out for the potted plants. (The three men halt suddenly and turn toward her.) What are you squabbling about? (She simpers.) Come now, gentlemen . . . DuPont: Oh, dear lady, here you are at last and now you're going to rescue us from this impasse. Durand: Oh, dear lady, you're going to see where bad faith has brought us... Martin: (interrupting Durand) Oh, dear lady, let me tell you just what's happened. DuPont: (to the two other men). I'm the one who will tell her what's happened, for this lovely lady is my fiancée... (The Pretty Lady remains standing and smiling.) Durand: (to the other two men) This lovely lady is my fiancée. Martin: (to the other two men) This lovely lady is my fiancée. DuPont: (to the Pretty Lady) My dear, tell these gentlemen that you are my fiancée. Durand: (to the Pretty Lady) Dear lady, tell these gentlemen that you are really . . . Martin: (to DuPont) You're mistaken, she is my fiancée. DuPont: (to Durand, interrupting) You're mistaken, she is mine. Martin: (to the Lady) Dear lady, please tell . . Durand: (to Martin) You're mistaken, she's mine. DuPont: (to the Lady) Dear lady Martin: (to DuPont) You're mistaken, she's mine. Durand: (to the Lady) Dear lady . . . DuPont: (to Martin) You're mistaken, she's mine. Martin: (to the Lady) Dear lady, please say that . . . Durand: (to DuPont) You're mistaken, she's mine. DuPont: (to the Pretty Lady, violently pulling her toward him by her arm) Oh, dear lady . . . (The Pretty Lady loses a shoe). Durand: (violently pulling the Lady by her other arm) Let me embrace you. (The Lady loses her other shoe, and one glove comes off in DuPont's hands). Martin: (who has gone to pick up a potted plant, making the Lady turn toward him) Please accept this bouquet. (He sticks the potted plant in her arms.) THE LADY: Oh, thank you. DuPont: (turning the Lady toward him and putting another potted plant in her arms) Do take these pretty flowers. (The
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Lady is jostled and loses her hat.) THE LADY: Thank you, thank you . . . Durand: (same business as DuPont) These flowers belong to you, just as my heart belongs to you . . . THE LADY: I'm delighted . . . (Her arms are loaded down with the potted plants and she's dropped her purse.) Martin: (violently pulling her toward him and shouting) Embrace me, embrace me . . . (The Lady loses her cape and furs.) Durand: (same business) Embrace me. DuPont: (same business) Embrace me. (They continue this business for several moments; the Lady drops the flowers, her skirt comes undone, and her clothes are rumpled. The three men alternatively tear her from each other's arms as they move about the table.) THE LADY: Oh, damn . . . Leave me alone. DuPont: (to Martin) Leave her alone. Martin: (to Durand) Leave her alone. Durand: (to DuPont) Leave her alone. EACH OF THE MEN: (to the other two) It's you she's telling to leave her alone. THE LADY: (to the three men) Leave me alone, all of you. Durand, DuPont, Martin: (astonished) Me? me? me? (All movement stops. The Lady, rumpled, unhooked, winded, half undressed, moves down to the footlights.) THE LADY: Ladies and gentlemen, I agree with you entirely. This is completely idiotic.

Curtain'
'Foursome by Eugene Ionesco, translated by Donald M. Allen from Evergreen Review Magazine, Vol. 4 No. 13 (May-June 1960)

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World Literature 2 Lesson 8 Handout 13 (page 7)

1. What are your initial responses to Foursome?

2. What is the subject of Durand's and DuPont's argument?

3. What pet names are used as insults?

4. What makes the references to good faith and bad faith ironic?

5. Explain Martin's comment, "Characters in a play don't always have to be even more stupid than in real life."

6. How realistic are characters such as Durand, DuPont, and Martin?

7. What is the significance of the potted plants?

8. Is the Pretty Lady less self-centered than the other characters?

9. What is the climax of frustration?

10. What serious points does Ionesco make about human communication and interaction?

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 7 Handout 27 (page 1)

Hamlet Who?
Directions: Read this guide before you read the play to alert you to the focus of your attention as a means of understanding
the author's ideas or questions he poses. Recipe Take one famous tragedy. Shake well. Scoop off the main characters who float to the top. Set aside. Pick out the two smallest characters remaining. Blow these up with hot air. Let them float through your play as the heroes. Toss main characters in lightly and in small amounts. Serves all who enjoy laughing while they think. This recipe describes what Tom Stoppard, author of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, did to create his intriguing play. As the Player explains, they "do on stage things that are supposed to happen off," while all of the significant actions in Hamlet occur offstage or in brief pantomime upstage (which is the rear of the stage). Notice how this parallels Magritte's idea of showing the other side of things. The play can also be described as a mathematical formula: Hamlet+ Waiting for Godot = Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead . You will find both obvious and subtle bits and scenes from Hamlet and both obvious and less obvious borrowing from Waiting for Godot, the most significant of which is the pair of characters who are always on stage, always confused and uncertain. Poor Hamlet is no more than a walk-on in the play. As you read, watch for his appearances and determine from what scene in Hamlet each one comes. What very important scenes are reduced to a line or two or to a brief mime? You may think of the play as the revenge of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are frequently omitted entirely from productions of Hamlet. You may have noticed their absence in Mel Gibson's movie version which also omitted the Players. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are also missing from Laurence Olivier's classic movie version. As you read, also notice Stoppard's use of major themes and motifs. The play is dense with them. Notice these for future discussion.

.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 7 Handout 27 (page 2) Themes death identity alienation life as a game exits and entrances acting vs. reality Motifs games messenger/calling boat home wheel direction coins

Like George Bernard Shaw, Stoppard's stage directions are very important; read them carefully. By the way, Stoppard, who was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937, pronounces his name stow-pard, with both syllables equally accented.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 7 Handout 28

Hamlet by the Ounce
Directions: Now that you have read this topsy-turvy version of Hamlet, you can see the comparisons, the changes, the
manipulations, and the humor. You can also see the play is far more than a revised version. Your group will be assigned one of the following topics. Take notes which include page numbers so that you can give specific examples when you share your ideas with the class. A copy of Hamlet will be helpful for reference. 1. Stoppard's choice of scenes: Which scenes did he choose? Why? Which ones are given in some detail? Why? Which ones in brief form or mime? Why? How are these scenes used in the play? In what act is Hamlet almost non-existent? Why? Which scenes have elements that suggest lines, actions, or ideas in Hamlet? For example, what is the source for the questions in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead? for the wheel imagery? for the Player's comments about art? for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's confused identity? etc. Where is "to be or not to be" suggested? Stoppard's Hamlet humor: Where does the reader/viewer who knows Hamlet, laugh at something that would not be funny to someone else? Where does incongruity cause humor? Where does Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's inability to understand something Hamlet or other characters say cause humor? Where does Stoppard humorously mix the two plays? In what ways has Stoppard turned Hamlet into Theatre of the Absurd? Stoppard's Hamlet: Examine the Hamlet seen and heard in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. How would you characterize him? How is he seen in act 3? Why doesn't he speak? In what ways has Stoppard changed him? Why? Is he in any sense a hero? Is he absurd?

2.

3.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 7 Handout 29

Up from the Minors
Directions: You too can be a Stoppard. Think of a well-known play or novel you have read or studied. Shake it well, scoop off
the main characters, and find a minor character hiding at the bottom. Some examples: Macbeth: a witch or Lennox or Ross; Death of a Salesman: Bernard or Willy; Pride and Prejudice: Lydia; The Scarlet Letter. Pearl; Lord of the Flies: Percival or Roger. Choose a scene from that work. Put your character downstage center figuratively, and retell the scene with him or her as the main character. No matter what the form of the original, you may write either in play or story form. Be sure to include major characters in a minor way. Be true to the original plot, but your character can go beyond the plot, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do. If you can, be witty.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 8 Handout 30

Where Is the Protagonist?
Directions: Discuss the questions in paragraph 1. In your group, discuss the opinion questions. Support your answers.
In Hamlet we have no doubt as to who the protagonist and tragic hero is. But what about in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead? Who is the hero? Is there a hero? Can a nonentity be, a protagonist? Is there an antagonist working against a protagonist? If so, who is he? If not, can you have a protagonist without an antagonist? Some people say Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the protagonists since they are at stage center and never leave. Others claim the Player is the protagonist since he is a philosopher and seems to know where he, and everyone else, is going. Others say the play is heroless, that Stoppard is defining the modern world as a place where heroes do not exist. 1. What is your position? Be able to defend it.

2.

Who is the antagonist? (It need not be a person.) Defend your answer.

3.

Does the protagonist come to self-knowledge in the end? If so, when?

4.

Is Stoppard showing a world in which heroes do not—or c a n n o t live? Why or why not?

5.

If you were to consider Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as the protagonists, what do they have in common with tragic heroes? How do they differ? In what sense are they anti-heroes?

6.

In act 3, when they read the letter from the King, they have a chance to act, to do something heroic, but they choose to do nothing. One critic says they have chosen to be cowards. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

7.

Do you identify with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at any point? Do you agree with critics who call them Everyman? Why or why not?

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 8 Handout 31

Telling the Difference
Directions: Answer the questions and be prepared to discuss them in class.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have a serious identity problem: they don't know who they are. And no one else can tell them apart either, although they do not look alike. Has Stoppard created identical characters or are they distinguishable? 1. Who seems more intelligent?

2.

Who is concerned about hurting someone else?

3.

Who is more worried about death?

4.

Who gets confused when one pretends to be Hamlet?

5.

Who is "only good in support"?

6.

Who has a dominant personality, according to the other?

7.

What conclusions can you draw about each character from the answers? Characterize each briefly. Are their differences significant in terms of the play?

8.

What character traits do they have in common? Are these traits significant?

9.

What scene in Hamlet suggested to Stoppard that the two were difficult to tell apart?

10. A coin is used frequently in the play. In what way can it symbolize Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

11. What is Stoppard's purpose in having characters who are almost identical?

. Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 8
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Handout 32

Identity Problems
Directions: Read the following introduction about the theme of identity. With your group, research and discuss the questions.
In the existential world, identity is a major problem. In today's world people are constantly searching for an identity. "Who am I?" remains a key question. Stoppard has chosen identity as a major theme in his play. Two men who don't know which name to answer to certainly have a problem. Hamlet opens with a problem of identity. Neither guard recognizes the other, perhaps because it is dark: BERNARD: Who 's There? F c i s c o : Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself. (1.1) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would be baffled. Who should they say is there? Would they give the right names? Could they "unfold" (disclose) themselves? 1. Throughout the play, from their first attempt to introduce themselves to the players, to their disappearance at the end, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unsure about their identity ("Is that you?" "Yes." "How do you know?" [97]). Find as many examples as you can of their confusion. Determine Stoppard's purpose in having their identities confused.

2. How do Rosencrantz 's stories about Saul/Paul, a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, and the Chinese philosopher tie into the identity problem?

3. On p. 122, after Guildenstern reads the letter condemning them to death, Guildenstern asks, "But why? Was it all for this? Who are we that so much should converge on our little deaths? Who are we?" the Player answers. "You are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. That's enough." Explain what this interchange means. Is there any significance in the switch from "Who am I?" to "Who are we?" If so, what is it?

4. Think about the Player and his troop in terms of identity. Do the Tragedians have identities? If so, what are they? Who is the Player? When are they "on"?

5. The existentialists, among others, believe modern man has lost his identity. Do you believe this play proves their thesis? Prove your answer.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 8 Handout 33

Where Am I?
Directions: As individual homework, think through and answer the following problem questions.
Hamlet gave Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a strong hint about his pretended madness, but they did not pick it up: "I am but mad north-northwest: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw" (2.2). However, Stoppard picked up his direction motif, which is part of the identity question, from this line. 1. Find the many references to (1) directions, or (2) direction, starting with Gull's early complaint: "We are entitled to some direction" (20) and including their attempts to determine what direction they came from or are going towards.

2.

Several references to directions occur. The men are following directions throughout. They were "sent for." A messenger appeared, called their names, and they came. They don't know why they were called. But they know they had no choice at any time. How does this tie into identity?

3.

They long to go home but have lost their sense of direction . They aren't even sure where the sun is. They often intend to leave ("Should we go?" "Where?" "Anywhere") but they go nowhere. How does this loss of direction tie into identity?

4.

Must a person have an identity before he can make choices? Why or why not?

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 8 Handout 34

Who Am I?
Directions: Read and discuss the examples below before writing your group skit.
In a recent Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, Calvin admires shirts and logos or product names on them. He tells Hobbes, "It says to the world, `My identity is so wrapped up in what I buy that I paid the company to advertise its products!'" and explains, "Endorsing products is the American way to express individuality" (August 27, 1992). Three teenaged girls shop at the mall for something to show their individuality. All buy the same T-shirt. Our identities are our individuality. You can undoubtedly think of many ways in which you, your friends, or your national leaders have lost their identities without realizing it or are totally confused as to who they are. Do they show their uniqueness by dressing like everybody else? by listening to the same CD's? or by styling their hair in the latest mode? Do they think for themselves? Do they have ideas? Do they parrot others' ideas? Do they dare to eat a peach? In groups, write comic skits (one per, group) that illustrate common identity problems. Have at least three characters in your skit. Once you have created a first draft, work on the dialogue to make the lines witty. Use wordplay such as Stoppard uses (puns, twisted clichés, word switches, etc.). Practice the skits and perform them for the class.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 9 Handout 35

As the Worlds Turn
Directions: Read the following analysis carefully before writing your paper.
A recent play and movie, Noises Off, takes place behind stage while a play is supposedly being performed on the "good" side of the set. The audience sees the back side of the set, unpainted, propped up with boards. Actors who are charming onstage are obnoxious, confused, or nasty off-stage. In a way the play and movie illustrate the Player's comment that the actors "do onstage the things that are supposed to happen off." Off-stage would be the "real world" as opposed to the artificial world being acted out on the good side of the set. Think about a painting of Magritte's, The Treachery of Images, which shows a pipe but says beneath it, "This is not a pipe." Of course it isn't. It is a painting of a pipe. Which is real? Stoppard has set up two worlds in his play: the world of the court, inhabited by Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, and Ophelia, and the boundaryless, directionless world of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who keep stumbling into the first world. In a play filled with questions, just as Hamlet is, an unspoken one here is, "Which is the real world?" Further confusion comes when we consider another world: that of acting. Here we have the Tragedians and their performances, invariably from Hamlet, the scenes from Hamlet that pop into or merge with the play; and the final scene, which is directly from the play. Which is the real world here? In which play are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern performing? Think about any of these worlds. Then narrow your thoughts to a specific thesis and write an insightful paper using specific examples. If you wish, your paper can answer the question, "Which is the real world?" It can discuss the Tragedian's world as a bridge between the other two. Or it can discuss any of the worlds or compare any of them.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 9 Handout 36

Are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Dead?
Directions: Refer to the scenes from which the quotes are cited when you are discussing the key statements and questions.
Rosencrantz: Am I dead? Guildernstern: Yes or no? Rosencrantz: Is there a choice? (43) Early in the play, during the question game, Rosencrantzasks his question. Of course there is no answer given. The title says that they are dead. Does this mean throughout the play? If so, how do you explain it? All through the play they discuss death, either briefly or at length. Here are some key statements that are made:       Rosencrantz, worried about being dead in a box, says, "Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where's it going to end?" (71). Guildenstern says, "Death followed by eternity—the worst of both worlds" (72) . Guildenstern says death is merely "a man failing to reappear" (84). Guildenstern defines death as "the ultimate negative" (108). The Player tells them, "Most things end in death" and describes death as commonplace (123). Just before they disappear, Guildenstern says death is "the absence of presence" (124).

Their on-stage "deaths" agree with Gull's definitions. Does this mean his definitions are correct? Does Hamlet die when he disappears into the barrel? Are these statements all realistic ones? Are any of them? What does Gull's comment about eternity mean? Is there a choice about death? The Tragedians specialize in dying. Since they are always in costume and always performing, can they ever actually die? You may use other comments about death found on pp. 18, 38, 39, 43, 70, 77, 79, 82, 89, 98, 110, 119, 121, 122.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 9 Handout 37

Exits and Entrances
Directions: With your group, discuss the two themes presented for analysis in this handout.
"Every exit [is] an entrance somewhere else," says the Player as he explains what the Tragedians do (28). "Death is an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced," says Guildenstern after the Spies die "rather well" (84). Acting and death, the two major themes of the play, are often intertwined; the Tragedians act death in many different ways and show that an acted death is far more dramatic—and believeablet han a real one. Unlike the Spies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not die rather well. They just fail to reappear. This failure is part of Guildernstern‘s earlier definition of death—"Now you see him, now you don't" (84). Guildernstern‘s last words before his disappearance are, "Now you see me, now you—" (126). He does not agree with the Player about an entrance following the exit. That, he says, occurs only in acted deaths, when the Player returns wearing a different hat. In real death, he says, "no one gets up" (123). Think about these parallels: acting and death, exits and entrances. Consider these things also:         No one believed the real death of the actor on stage, described by the Player on 84. The Player is always "on" and always in costume and character. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern never leave stage until they die (are they "on"?). Their only exit is a momentary leap in a barrel. The Tragedians perform Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's deaths. At the end of act 2, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don't know if they want to come back—or even if they want to go. (They go.) The Player does get up after being supposedly killed by Guildernstern. The bodies of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not on stage in the final scene. When the Player gets up after being stabbed, he says, "For a moment you thought I'd—cheated" (124).

What is Stoppard saying here about death? about acting and death? about exits and entrances? about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's deaths?

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 9 Handout 38

On Stage
Directions: Answer the questions below:
"All the world's a stage and each must play his part," said Shakespeare, as paraphrased by a modern songwriter. Our play has three sets of actors: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the Tragedians, and the court. The Player calls Rosencrantz and Guildenstern "fellow artists" and later gives them the oxymoronic advice to "act natural" (66). Unfortunately they do not know what play they are in or what their roles are. The court is on stage in several ways: in Hamlet, all are acting (madness, love, concern, etc.); their counterparts are acting out scenes from their future lives; they are participating (acting? directing?) in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's nameless play. In effect, two plays are occurring simultaneously: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's and Hamlet. 1. Of the three groups, which seems more aware of reality? Why?

2.

The Player talks at length about the audience's desire for blood, love, and rhetoric. If we are part of the audience, what is he saying about us?

3.

In act 2, the Player describes the actual death on stage that was not convincing. The audience did not believe it. He says, "Audiences know what to expect, and that is what they are prepared to believe in" (84). In act 3, when Guildenstern stabs him and he dies dramatically, he comes back to life, to great applause, and tells Gull, "You see, it is the kind they do believe in—it's what is expected" (123). What does this show about acting and reality?

4.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are passive characters throughout. Even their situation is stated in the passive voice: "We were sent for." They move around and talk, but they do not act; they make feeble attempts but fail. In what sense is the Player active instead of passive?

5.

Explain the Player's comment on p. 115: "Life is a gamble, at terrible odds—if it was a bet you wouldn't take it."

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 9 Handout 39

The Game of Life
Directions: Here are questions for you to consider.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are alienated in many ways from the world and the world around them. There is no spot for them to fit in. They express their frustration several times: Guildernstern: What did you expect? Rosencrantz: Something . . . someone . . . nothing (69). And near the end Guildenstern asks, "What's it all about?" (121) when he pretends to be the King j u s t before learning of his own fate. Rosencrantz, just before he dies, asks, "What was it all about?" (125). After the coin comes up heads 90-odd times, Guildenstern says, "We are now within un—, sub—, or supernatural forces" (17). They are participating in the game of life, but they have no board, no dice, no markers, and no rules. They play several games themselves during the play: questions, which hand has the coin, the year of one's birth. As they finish the question game Rosencrantzasks, "What's the game" and Guildenstern asks, "What are the rules?" (44). 1. A key element of the question game is that there can be no answers. Apply that to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's situation. What themes or motifs come up in the course of the game?

2.

They play another game of sorts, questions and answers, when they practice talking to Hamlet. What happens when they play this game with Hamlet?

3.

Is it possible for a coin to always come up heads? What does this occurrence suggest about their universe?

What is the purpose of the coin-in-hand game and the year-of-birth game?

4.

How do the games show alienation?

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 9 Handout 40

Verbal Tennis
Directions: You too can play the question game! In the movie it is played on a badminton court and becomes verbal tennis,
which is shorter than verbal badminton. Divide the class into two groups. Review the rules: the other side gets a point if you give a statement, a non-sequitur, a rhetorical statement or question, or a repeated question. Three points equals a game. Choose a representative from each team to come to the front with their metaphorical rackets and face his/her opponent. Imagine a net. The person who serves chooses the opening topic (with team help, if desired). Service and returns must be short and quick. A neutral referee, such as your teacher, can be used to catch fouls if the players miss them. Each team can have a scorekeeper.

When a game is won, send up two more players. Sample Exchange A: B: A: B: A: B: A: B: A: B: Will we win the game tomorrow? What game? The one with Central. Foul—statement. Aren't you playing? Playing what? How can you ask? Foul—rhetorical question. One-one. Are you getting bored? With what? Did you go to the school-board meeting last night? Foul—non-sequitur. Two-one. Are we getting anywhere with this?

A: Were we going anywhere with it? etc.

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Lesson 10 Motifs and Movies
Objectives
    To become aware of the verbal motifs in the play and visual motifs in the movie To observe Stoppard's use of words To show the difference created by a change of medium To compare the play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead to Waiting for Godot

Notes to the Teacher
The play is a virtual banquet of images, motifs, allusions, puns, and wordplay. (This lesson is limited to four motifs, some wordplay, the movie version, and one comparison exercise.) In addition may be included such points as choice, chance, indecision, coming and going, syllogisms, and the coins and, of course, parallels to Waiting for Godot. Handouts 41 and 42 may be combined into one lesson. The movie, which lasts 117 minutes, is available on video. It needs to be considered a valid art form since its writer and director is the play's author. It includes far more scenes from Hamlet (with vast changes in the stage directions) and often moves at a confusing pace. What may trouble some students is the presenting of a non-literal, absurd play in a literal way—something like doing a movie of Our Town with real houses and staircases and soda fountains and cemeteries. As a writing assignment, students may choose one or two of the motifs and show how it or they contribute to a theme.

Procedure
1 . Distribute Handout 41. Ask students to read the page. Discuss the questions as a class.

Suggested Responses:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

A boat, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is small, insignificant when at sea, isolated. One is stuck on a boat; has no choice. It is going full circle, not away from their problems; under the control of an invisible current and wind. Although he knows they are being con-trolled, he feels, in the first speech, a sense of freedom. In the last speech, he realizes the control is total and inexorable; they have no freedom. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern We are all like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—lost, merely existing, out of control.

2. Distribute Handout 42. Divide the class into search groups to find the uses of the motifs. Determine, as a class, the answers to the questions.

Suggested Responses:

Wheel: (stage directions) pp. 17, 72, 82, 88, 123; (other) 60, 108, 110, 116 Time: pp. 16, 17, 19, 72, 76 Home: pp. 16, 37, 38, 43, 44, 120 1. Wheel: Rosencrantz, in Hamlet (3.3), de-scribes the King as a wheel to whose spokes "10,000 lesser things" are attached. All fall when the King dies. In stage directions in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, wheeling is done throughout the play by Rosencrantz, the Player, and especially Guildenstern It shows the wheeler's desperation and reinforces the idea of their going in circles. In act 2, Guildenstern mentions wheels set in motion and realizes that he and Rosencrantz are condemned to be caught under those wheels. In act 3,wheel is mentioned several times, perhaps be-cause they are on a boat. Guildenstern sees himself and Rosencrantz as merely "wheels within wheels"—the big wheels being perhaps the ones that Rosencrantz wants to put a spoke in. He is not bothered by the wheels that are turning. But here the little guys die, so no one else falls when their little wheels fall to turn. 2. Time: suspended during the coin-tossing, Time is something even the Tragedians don't have much of. Rosencrantz says, "There's only one direction, and time is its only measure." The statement is the essence of the time motif. time may seem suspended, as are the laws of probability, but even in their absurd world, their lives are limited by time, and their only direction, despite their constant confusion, is towards death. 3. Home: They remember the fact of home but nothing about it. They want to go home but have no idea where it is. During the question game Guildenstern asks, "What home?" They are from nowhere and belong no-where. They cannot go home; their thoughts must point in another direction—towards death. 3. Distribute Handout 43. If an audiocassette of Abbot and Costello's "Who's on First? „ is available, play it for the class. Discuss the elements that make it funny. Make sure students see the humor in the handout's quoted lines. The search for codas and clichés can be done as homework, followed by discussion.
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Suggested Responses:
1.

2.

Coda page numbers: 39, 45, 93,102,114. All are variants of "Give us this day our daily bread. " The phrase "all I ask" is present in all, although ask changes to seek and presume; give changes to call. They ask for consistency, immortality, a change of ground, their common due, and plausibility. They want given to them their daily mask, week, round, cue, and tune. The players give them their tune, lack of identity their mask, meaninglessness their week, fate their round, and life their cue. They get a change of ground but nothing else. They seek the unfindable through-out; their search brings them to their end. Cliche page numbers: 38, 74, 120. On p. 38, they maul several clichés: "high and dry, " "over my dead body, " "out of my depth," "heading to a stop. '' Their confusion starts with home and ends with death. Rosencrantz mixes two clichés in one sentence on p. 74: "Never look a gift horse in the mouth" and "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes. " On p. 120, Guildenstern finally achieves "high and dry. " The twisting perhaps shows their confusion or the failure of language.

4.

Distribute Handout 44. The stars of the movie are Richard Dreyfuss (as the Player), Gary Oldham and Tim Roth. Guildenstern wears a gold earring; Rosencrantz has dark hair that dangles.

Suggested Responses:
1. 2.

Marty more Hamlet scenes are used. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are hanged. There are no barrels on the boat to jump into. Locales are added: bath- house, courtyard, painted room, etc.; puppets and oriental actors are added; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern peek into several Hamlet scenes, etc. Possible meanings: a. b. c. d. e. Wind blowing: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are buffeted about by others, have no control Sheets of paper: lives are scripted Stairs: their meaningless, repetitive lives Echoes: lack of reality Dog howling: approach of death

4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Some are dropping the ball and the feather; the apple dropping on Ros' head; Hamlet clucking to the chicken and belching; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern falling down the trap door and chasing the players through halls; Rosencrantzon boat donning earplugs and mask for bed More prominent than in the play; he does vulgar or ridiculous things such as belching, playing with a cup and ball, clucking to hens, cutting the chandelier. The movie probably has more than double the amount of time used for Hamlet scenes. Answers on effect will vary. They don't disappear. They are ready to hang. The Player has his hand on the rope. Reactions will depend on reactions to a literal version of the play. Masks suggest that people are not who they seem to be. Puppets suggest that the characters are mere puppets being controlled by some invisible puppeteer. After a while they are easy to distinguish. Rosencrantz is noticeably dense.

5. Distribute Handout 45. If students have studied both plays, they can work in groups—perhaps two categories per group—and discuss as a class, or students can choose one of the categories as the basis of a comparison paper.

Suggested Responses:
1. Two main characters are inseparable and, in effect, lost. In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead they are similar. In Waiting for Godot they are complementary. 2. Vladimir and Estragon play Pozzo and Lucky. Pozzo performs. Everyone acts in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead . 3. Both plays contain several games, including word games. 4. Vladimir and Estragon actually go o„ f f stage briefly, unlike Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but for both their lives are meaningless comings and goings—nowhere. 5. Vladimir and Estragon know who they are. They don't know who anyone else is. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern recognize others but don't know their own names. Neither pair has any identifiable character. 6. Both are outside the real world. 7. Vladimir and Estragon cling to Godot; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern just hang on and hope. 8. Both do them; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do more of them and much funnier ones. 9. Important in both; illogical in both 10. Pauses are used in both but more often in Waiting for Godot; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have no silences. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is fairly heavy in content much lighter than Waiting for Godot, though, according to many critics but it is lighter in spirit. It moves faster; characters talk more, move more, and pause less. Waiting for Godot relies on silences to slow it down. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern has more characters. Both are actually or in effect all-male plays.
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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 10 Handout 41

We're in the Same Boat, Brother
Directions: Read the following in preparation for discussion of the question.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—not to mention their friends Hamlet and the Tragedians—end up on a boat. Many lines mention or discuss boats: a. Guildernstern: I'm very fond of boats myself. I like the way they're—contained. You don't have to worry about which way to go or whether to go at all. . . . One is free on a boat. For a time. Relatively. . . . Free to move, speak, extemporize, and yet. We have not been cut loose. Our truancy is defined by one fixed star, and our drift represents merely a slight change of angle to it . . . but we are brought round full circle . . . (100-101). b. c. Rosencrantz: For those in peril on the sea . . . (42). Rosencrantz: Do you think death could possibly be a boat? Guildernstern: No, no, no . . . Death is . . . not, . . . Not being. You can't not-be on a boat. Rosencrantz: I've frequently not-been on boats. Guildernstern: No, no, no—what've you've been is not on boats (108). d. Guildernstern: (hearing music) Out of the void, finally, a sound; while on a boat (admittedly) outside the action (admittedly) the perfect and absolute silence of the wet lazy slap of water against water and the rolling creak of timber—breaks; giving rise at once to the speculation . . . that something is about to happen (112). e. PLAYER: Aha! All in the same boat, then! (114).

f. Guildernstern: Where we went wrong was getting on a boat. We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movement is contained within a larger one that carries us along as inexorably as the wind and current... . The boat goes far beyond just being a boat. The boat motif picks up some themes and ideas discussed earlier. Why is a boat an effective motif? How does the boat suggest their fate? How does Gull's first speech differ from his last? Whom does Ros' first statement ironically include?

1. 2. 3. 4.

5.

What universal meaning does the Player's comment have?

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 10 Handout 42

Motifs
Directions: Search for the uses of the motifs used in the play. Stoppard intertwines a number of motifs in his work. Let us
look at three to see what he accomplishes with them: Wheel, Time, and Home. 1. Wheel, an image borrowed from Hamlet, is used five times in stage directions and four times in dialogue. Find the words and determine their purpose.

2.

Along with Direction he uses Time at least five times in stage directions. Find the instances, determine their purpose, and connect them with Direction.

3.

Home occurs on six pages. Find the uses and their contexts and determine their purpose.

4.

With what themes do these motifs connect?

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 10 Handout 43

More Words, Words, Words
Directions: Read the following explanation and find the codas and clichés used in the play.
PLAYER: . . . you understand, we are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style. Stoppard certainly is not tied down in his language. He uses witty wordplay throughout the play. For example: Rosencrantz: Guildernstern: Guildernstern: Rosencrantz: Guildernstern: Stark raving sane (68). He's a retentive King, a royal retainer (41). Unless we're off course. Of course (99). England? That's a dead end (121).

The rapid-fire exchanges between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and sometimes the Player) may remind you of Abbott and Costello's famous comic routine "who's on First?" Stoppard also plays with language when he has his characters dressed in Elizabethan costumes but speaking in very modern English. Stoppard also plays with language with his codas and his twisted clichés. 1. A coda, in music, takes you to the finish. It is also the end of a literary piece that ties all the themes together. Stoppard's five codas are all rhymed couplets, occasionally separated by another line, containing some identical and similar phrases. The first occurs on p. 39. Find all five codas, examine them, compare them, and determine their purpose.

2. Both poets and comics twist clichés for different purposes. Twice (pp. 86 and 114) Stoppard uses a cliché untwisted and makes it funny by making it literal, but several other times he changes a word within the cliché. There are three twisted clichés in the play, the first (a series of them) on p. 38. Find the others, determine if they are serious or funny or both, and determine their purpose..

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Godot/Rosencrantz Lesson 10 Handout 44

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead: The Movie
Directions: Use these notes and questions as a guide in viewing the movie.
About twenty-five years after writing the play, Stoppard wrote and directed a movie version. He purposefully made changes in words and actions: deletions, alterations, and additions. Whereas the stage version relies mainly on words and their manipulation, the movie relies more on visual images. As you watch the movie, think about these questions: 1. 2. What obvious changes are in the script? Notice these motifs and decide on their meanings: the wind blowing, sheets of paper (often blowing, sometimes folded), stairs, echoes, a dog howling.

3.

The bare stage becomes a realistic, detailed set. They are in a real castle and on a real boat. What effect does this realism have on a play? Can an absurd play be performed in a literal way?

4.

One visual joke that is added shows one of our heroes creating and eating a Dagwood-style hamburger, straight from the 20th century. What other jokes (mainly visual) do you find?

5.

How predominant is Hamlet in the movie? How is he shown? Compared to the play, what portion of the movie consists of scenes from Hamlet? How does this affect the movie?

6.

How is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's disappearance scene changed? Does this change the play? Does it make the Player guilty of their deaths?

7.

Instead of simple, on-the-spot mime shows, the movie has a dumb show with skulls, a drowning, and the sound of swords; a mime with masks, an oriental dumb show and a puppet show; all performing scenes from Hamlet. At the end the mime is replaced by shots of the described actions actually happening. What is the effect of these changes? What might the use of masks and puppets suggest?

8.

How difficult is it to tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern apart in the movie?

9.

What is the most effective change Stoppard made? the least?

10. Which version do you prefer? Why?

Godot/Rosencrantz
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Lesson 10 Handout 45

Comparison of Plays
Directions: Consider in what ways Beckett's and Stoppard's plays are similar. Since Stoppard obviously and openly used
Waiting for Godot as a starting point for his play, many comparisons can be made. What comparisons do you see? Add to this list, if you can. 1. Characters

2. Acting 3. Games 4. Coming and going 5. Identity 6. Alienation 7. Hope 8. Music-hall routines 9. Time 10. Pauses

1.

What differences in style do you notice

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Godot/Rosencrantz Supplementary Materials

1. 2.

Write a defense of Vladimir and Estragon as Everyman.

Composition Topics: Waiting for Godot

All of the characters wear bowlers like Charlie Chaplin's or Magritte's men. Discuss the use of hats in the play. Include when they are removed and put back on.

3.

Pozzo says Vladimir and Estragon were "made in God's image!" Consider Lucky's portrait of God and other comments about God in the play. Describe man as the image of the play's God.

4. 5.

The characters are constantly falling or almost falling. Discuss the motif of falling in the play. One critic says that Vladimir and Estragon have a better choice than wailing for Godot—suicide. Is this a better choice for them? Discuss.

6.

The Messenger is a very minor character who enters twice haltingly and leaves both times running. Examine his appearances, his timing, and his dialogue. How is he used in the play? What is his significance?

7. 8.

Discuss Pozzo as the epitome of modern man obsessed with power and encumbered by possessions. Henry David Thoreau says, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Discuss the play as an illustration of this statement.

9.

Thoreau says, "What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate." Discuss Pozzo as an illustration of this statement.

10. Become a critic! Write your interpretation of Lucky's wild speech (which is all one sentence!). 11. Discuss the implications of the Cain/Abel motif in the play. 12. The play is about waiting. What is the importance of their waiting? How does Beckett emphasize it? 13. The main characters are constantly confused about where they are and when they were there before. Discuss this confusion about time and place and its significance. 14. Estragon frequently falls asleep in the middle of discussions. What does this tendency show about him? 15. In his speech about the gravedigger, Vladimir says, "At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, 'He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on.- Interpret this passage. 16. Examine and discuss the relationship between Pozzo and Lucky. 17. Will Godot ever come? Why or why not? 18. Discuss the tree as a symbol. If you wish, include the moon.

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19. Pozzo and Lucky are going "on" when they leave. Vladimir and Estragon continue on. Where is "on"? What point is Beckett making? Godot/Rosencrantz Supplementary Materials Reread the section about the two thieves. Consider it in terms of salvation, grace, chance, and arbitrariness as shown in the play. Discuss. 20. Discuss the play in terms of its theme of the mysteriousness of existence. 21. Look at Vladimir's song about a dog at the beginning of act 2. Connect it with any themes of the play. 22. Why is the play set at twilight? 23. When the boy tells him he thinks Godot's beard is white, Vladimir responds, "Christ have mercy on us." Explain. 24. Explain what Beckett is doing with the food in the play: the chicken bones, the carrots, turnips, and radishes. 25. Listen to two of Simon and Garfunkel's songs, "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" and "Dangling Conversation." What comparisons can you make between their words and the play? 26. Discuss Vladimir and Estragon as players in the nonsense game of life. 27. What binds Vladimir and Estragon? 28. Why would this play be appealing and clear to a group of convicts? Discuss. 29. Tad Friend, in The New Republic, writes in defense of the middlebrow. He claims highbrow is removed from ordinary life, grand in manner, abstruse, full of boredom and depression. He says, "The question `Who farted?' is patently lowbrow—except when Estragon poses it in Godot. Then it's highbrow."' Explain. 30. Beckett, unlike authors of novels, cannot use narrators or his own voice to affect the audience's response to the play. What techniques does he use to guide their responses (some examples: setting, comparable characters)? 31. Write a final scene for the play in which Godot comes to them. It can be funny, serious, or both.
'Tad Friend, "In Praise of Middlebrow," The New Republic (March 2, 1992): 25.

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Composition Topics: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
1. 2. 3. Choose one character; write a character sketch that clearly distinguishes him from the other. (Use Rosencrantz or Guildenstern only.) Prove that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are victims instead of perpetrators of their fate. In 1968 in We, Tom Prideaux wrote, "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead proves to be an apt expression of our dilemmas and doubts. . . . Uncertainty is a sign not necessarily of a weak and wavering mind but often of a venturous mind prying out truths not simple to assess."2 Discuss. Discuss the use of significance of the codas. Why is the wheel imagery appropriate for this play? If the arrival of the messenger is equivalent to their birth, what is the meaning and purpose of their life, which is shown in its entirety? Identity is the key to this play. What is Stoppard saying about the world through this theme? On p. 94, Guildenstern speaks of the autumnal day, using various colors to describe it. Interpret this passage. Find specific lines or actions that show Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's indecisiveness. Explain what this trait shows.

4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

10. Contrast the Player's comments about death with Gull's. 11. Choose one of the games and show how it contributes to the meaning of the play. 12. "We were sent for," says Rosencrantz several times. What is the importance of this line? 13. Characterize Hamlet as shown in this play. 14. Compare Gull's comments about death to those of the real Hamlet. 15. In Hamlet, Hamlet, the amateur actor, advises the professional players that the purpose of playing is, "to hold, as `twere, the mirror up to nature. ...» (3.3). In what sense do the Tragedians in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead follow this advice? 16. Acting is a theme in both Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. How do its meaning and purpose vary in the two plays? 17. Prove that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are figuratively dead from the beginning of the play. 18. Discuss the Player's statement that every exit is an entrance somewhere else, as a theme of the play. 19. Examine the Player's comments about the plays his group performs and their other exhibition. What point is Stoppard making about today's world?

Tom Prideaux, Life (February 9, 1968): 76.

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Godot/Rosencrantz Supplementary Materials 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. In what sense are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern trapped in their situation? What is the purpose and effect of having Rosencrantz and Guildenstern identified by the Player as actors? Examine Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's reaction when they discover they are taking Hamlet to England to be killed. Discuss and explain their reaction. In the movie, Stoppard has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hanged instead of disappearing. Defend or attack this change. The tossed coin introduces the idea of fate. Show how fate operates in the course of the play. Discuss the theme of alienation in the play. Discuss this statement by C.W.E. Bigsby about Shakespeare's view of man: "Man . . . is a minor character in a drama which he cannot understand, dependent for recognition on people who do not even control their fate and forces which may not even exist."3 Prove or disprove: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern fail because they are cowards. Discuss: "It is only when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern step fully into the Hamlet play and resume their roles without resistance that they realize their [reason for existence] is those roles."4 At the end of the play, after the Player dies and comes back to life with applause, he speaks to Guildenstern about the audience? "You see, it is the kind they do believe in—it's what is expected." The movie script changes they to you. What is the significance of this change? Unlike Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the players know that, in effect, they exist only in a script. When Guildenstern asks the Player who decides who dies, the Player replies, "Decides? It is written." Consider this as a philosophical statement and discuss the play in terms of it. How does the sustained allusion to Hamlet enhance the play? Prove that the Player has no identity. Prove or disprove that the Player is the protagonist. Discuss the symbolism of the blowing paper in the movie. Write a review of the movie.

30.

31. 32. 33. 34. 35.

36. Write a first-person poem, using Rosencrantz or Guildenstern as the speaker. Narrow it to one specific idea. Be true to the play and to his character. 3Qtd. in Tom Stoppard, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 1986), 75.
'June M. Schueter, "Moon and Birdboat, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern," in Tom Stoppard, Ibid., 83.

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Comparative Composition Topics
1. Compare the use of messengers in the plays.

2. In what sense does Waiting for Godot use the wheel imagery of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead? 3. How does each show life as a game with no rules? 4. How do the two pairs of men differ? 5. Compare Lucky and Albert. 6. How do the plays differ in their treatments of direction, identity, and/or alienation? 7. Both plays show that Time has no beginning, middle, or end. Prove this. 8. Both plays deal with the meaningless of life. Show how they are alike and different.

9. Read these lines from Philip Schultz's poem "My Guardian Angel Stein." Show how they apply to both plays: "Life is a comedy salted with despair. All humans are disappointed./Laugh yourself to sleep each night & with luck, pluck & credit cards /you'll beat them at their own game. "5 10. 11. Discuss both as Absurdist plays. Explain the lack of women in both plays.

12.

Write a short play or story entitled "Pozzo and the Player." Include dialogue. They can meet on one of Pozzo's journeys before he was blind or after. Write a feminist version of either play.

13.

from "My Guardian Angel Stein," Copyright 1982 by Philip Schultz, from Deep within the Ravine by Philip Schultz. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

5Excerpt

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Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition Literary Analysis
In a cohesive and lively essay, explain the significance of the title of Tom Stoppard‘s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. If you feel the need to include the play‘s existential overtones, please do so; however, you may also concentrate on more general and yet equally important themes that permeate the play. As always, include telling bits of dialogue, support all generalizations with specific details, and allude to some relevant aspect of T. S. Eliot‘s ―The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.‖ ADVANCED EXEMPLAR FOR AN UNTIMED WRITING A Pair of Ragged Claws on the Floors of Silent Seas In a world of illusions, where everyone practices theatrics and must ―prepare a face to meet the faces that [one] meet[s]‖ (―Prufrock‖ 28), it seems difficult to define oneself with an individual existence. This difficulty is especially true for the main characters in both Tom Stoppard‘s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and T. S. Eliot‘s ―The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.‖ These characters are merely minute parts of the universe with no particular role in it. Their inconsequentiality results from the lack of acknowledgement for their existence, which they consistently question but fail to answer. Thus, the title Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead suggests to the readers that without realizing the ideas of existentialism, the acceptance of the self and the freedom of choice, life is empty and purposeless. Then, one is, in the words of Willy Loman, ―sometimes better off dead than alive.‖ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are, indeed, dead because they lack the two paramount abilities in the existentialist‘s view: the aptitude to see themselves as individuals and the realization that they do have the free will to be decisive. Hence, they are nothing more than ―a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas‖ (―Prufrock‖ 73-74). In the original play Hamlet, King Claudius and Queen Gertrude confuse the two, who themselves cannot differentiate between each other. Although they do have a few different characteristics, they are, for the most part, interchangeable. Thus, they always appear as a pair, to compensate for the lack of individual personality. It is ironic that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not realize that they are dead, by their own definition. Neither of them has an individual ―self‖; yet Guildenstern (or was it Rosencrantz?) states that ―Death is not anything. . .it‘s the absence of presence‖ (124). Also, in Act II, Guildenstern describes the death of a Tragedian as ―just a man failing to reappear, that‘s all, now you see him, now you don‘t, that‘s the only thing that‘s real‖ (84). This line echoes later in the play when Guildenstern says the same about himself, ―now you see me, now you—‖(and disappears) (126). His disappearance in ―reality‖ is parallel to the death of the actor. Because his presence is so trivial, his physical death is symbolized by a mere vanishing. To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the only reality and certainty are death. Although they do not know ―what it was all about? When it all began,‖ Guildenstern does assert that ―the only beginning is birth and the only end is death—if you can‘t count on that, what can you count on?‖ (39). Since they only focus on the ultimate destination, death, rather than the journey there, their sense of life becomes so vague and their belief in their existence so weak that they require other existences to define who they are. The more intellectual of the two comments, ―there may be something in the letter to keep us going a bit, (and if not) then that‘s it—we‘re finished‖ (105). Thus, they are living entirely dependant on what surrounds them. If they are not under the commands of others, or have a purpose determined by some object or other, they cannot exist. In their reliance on the letter to the King of England, they are not living as individuals, nor are they making choices that will emancipate them

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from the world of interdependence and illusions. They, as the Play states, ‗ransomed [their] dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened‖ (63). Another aspect of existentialism is that the universe has no pre-existing order; hence, there is no logic. In the scene where the two characters are struggling with the idea that the results of the coin toss do not follow the laws of probability, we see them struggling with a belief of existentialism. If what Stoppard is suggesting is that we should abide by the beliefs of existentialism, then in a world without any particular order, we would have the freedom of choices. Since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not taking advantage of their ability to make choices, they are dead. Also, as an existentialist, one comes into existence only through one‘s actions. As seen in the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are merely discussing who they are, but never doing anything to define themselves because they are always ―deferential, glad to be of use‖ (―Profrock‖115). Since nothing is predestined, nor follows any order, this responsibility is left to the individual to decide his own fate, which this pair obviously fails to do. Tom Stoppard, in the midst of the humor, warns us of the dangers of living a life that is indecisive and solely destination-oriented. Through Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, Stoppard suggests that ―Death is the ultimate negative‖ (108), but the how and why of getting there are what distinguish us from being dead. As for the pair, they themselves cannot differentiate between being alive and dead. Thus, it seems to make little difference whether they are alive or dead. Life, then, is defined as the consciousness of being alive, and death is the lack of that consciousness, whether one physically exists or not. Because of their lack of these existential characteristics, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are ―At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—/Almost, at times, the Fool[s]‖ (―Prufrock‖ 119-120). Characteristics of the Advanced Exemplar         thorough and thoughtful response to a challenging question clear and intelligent statement of thesis within opening paragraph student‘s voice that engages the reader, e.g., the essay‘s title, the aside in third paragraph, ―or was it Rosencrantz?‖ well chosen supporting quotations that are carefully embedded within the exposition. (Note final sentence in fourth paragraph.) variety of well crafted sentences, e.g., appropriate use of subordination, expert handling of complex sentences rich vocabulary intelligently used, e.g., ―inconsequentiality,‖ ―existentialism‖ successful use of quotations from ―The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,‖ albeit the final statement is not so strong as the others mastery of mechanics, e.g., correct use of colon, semi-colon, quotation marks, use of present tense, citation forms

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PROFICIENT EXEMPLAR For An UNTIMED WRITING
The Living Dead In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard creates an empty world of confusion in the eyes of the title characters. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find themselves in a world that they cannot understand. As a result, they do not realize their purpose or their place in the entire social scheme. In many instances, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern lack a sense of identity, reinforcing the idea that their trivial presence makes them seem as though they are already dead. Their indecisiveness and bumbling nature only add to their ―worthlessness,‖ never making a decision without talking in circles or establishing a purpose for themselves in the world. Ultimately, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead when they lived because their existence was meaningless. They depended on others to define their lives and so their individual will had no power in altering their fateful destiny. From Act I, it is obvious that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern live in a strange world, struggling with low self-esteem. They are unaware of time as they idly lounge and play coin-flipping games. Their extraordinarily ordinary existence is evident from the stage directions, describing the duo as ―two Elizabethans passing the time in a place without visible character.‖ (11) This blankness in time is also characterized by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern‘s inability to help themselves. They have no memory and cannot adjust themselves to their present situation, emphasizing their dilemma with their self-identity. After rambling about beards and toenails, Guildenstern suddenly asks, ―Do you remember the first thing that happened today?‖ (19) When Rosencrantz replies that a messenger sent for them, he seemed doubtful of his own explanation for the reason for their travels. By the time they meet the player, Rosencrantz is pathetically unable to correctly distinguish himself from Guildenstern. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern‘s foolishness is also evident in their verbal games where the only rules are not to break the questioning. These questions simply pass the time and are pointless; the questions are never answered as more questions are asked to keep the game going. Also, there is a sense of desperation in their humor. Their roundabout way of taking, their insecurity about their identity and memories, their constant questioning, and their confusion about what they are doing add up to the notion that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are already dead. They are inactive in the sense that they don‘t want to change their world where every aspect of their life is formulated and calculated. This is evident after Rosencrantz and Guildenstern witness Hamlet dragging the dead body of Polonius and are reporting back to Claudius. Rosencrantz comments, ―I don‘t pretend to have understood. Frankly, I‘m not very interested. If they won‘t tell us, that‘s their affair.‖ (92) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern obey and are loyal to the king, but outside of their own sphere, they are indifferent to the rest of the world. They do not want to know what is going on because then, they might have to participate in the real world. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern soon strike again as pirates attack their ship and Hamlet escapes. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern discover that Claudius‘ letter has been switched by Hamlet. The letter that should have brought them favor now orders their deaths. As they contemplate their situation, the action switches to Denmark where an ambassador brings the news that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern might have had an opportunity to alter their fate by changing the direction of the boat; instead, they contemplate why they would be so important to kill. Soon thereafter, Guildenstern claims that the Player doesn‘t know death in a heated discussion. However, the Player King convinces Guildenstern that he is dead. In the world in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern live, there doesn‘t seem to be a distinct line drawn between life and death. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern seem to disappear at the end of the play and their deaths become insignificant as the lives they lived.
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In a world where people have the freedom to make decisions and be productive, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are lost. Their attitude of ―No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; am an attendant lord. . .no doubt an easy tool, deferential, glad to be of use; politic cautious, and meticulous; full of high sentence. . .at times, the Fool,‖ hinders any hope for them to change, sharing similar qualities to J. Alfred Prufrock. In both ―The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‖ and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the main characters are already dead to all intents and purposes. Their lives were trivial; they viewed themselves as inconsequential and the characters had ridiculous and laughable traits. Tragically, it feels as though Rosencrantz and Guildenstern vanish at the end of the play and their deaths sound as insignificant as they lives they lived because they were already dead.

Characteristics of the Proficient Exemplar
 a valid response to the assigned question, although perhaps too dependent on chronological summary of plot (particularly evident in penultimate paragraph); also, the allusion to Eliot‘s ―The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‖ in the final paragraph is confusing and seems a bit of an afterthought.       successful use of specific elements of plot to support generalizations, e.g., ―play coin-flipping games,‖ ―rambling about beards and toenails‖ good vocabulary, e.g., ―extraordinarily ordinary existence,‖ which sometimes lapses into weaker phrases, e.g., ―struggling with low self-esteem‖ sentence variety and good sentence constructions, e.g., parallelism found in fourth sentence in third paragraph transitions evident between paragraphs inconsistency with verb tense, moving at times from the desired present tense to the past tense incomplete mastery of conventions, e.g., incorrect punctuation of citations, absence of the slash to indicate the end of a line of poetry
AP Literature Exemplars prepared by M. Colvario

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Godot/Rosencrantz Supplementary Materials

Bibliography
Stoppard Billington, Michael. Stoppard the Playwright. New York: Heineman, 1988. Bloom, Harold, ed. and intro. Tom Stoppard. (Modern Critical Views Series). New York: Chelsea House, 1986. Delany, Paul. Tom Stoppard: The Moral Vision of the Major Plays. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990. Hartz, John III. Tom Stoppard: A Casebook. (Casebook on Modem Dramatists—Garland Reference Library of the Humanities). Garland Publishing Co., 1988. Jenkins, Anthony. Critical Essays of Tom Stoppard. (Critical Essays on British Literature Series). Boston: G.K. Hall, 1990. Kelly, Katherine E. Tom Stoppard and the Craft of Comedy: Medium and Genre at Play. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990.

Rusinko, Susan. Tom Stoppard. (Twayne's English Authors Series: 419). Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986. Magritte Breton, Andre. Magritte. Institute for the Arts, 1964. Gablik, Suzi. Magritte. (World of Art Series). Thames Hudson, 1984. Hammacher, A.M. Magritte. (Masters of Art Series). New York: Abrams, 1986. Hughes, Robert. "The Poker-Faced Enchanter," Time (September 21, 1992): 62-63. Magritte 1992. New York: to Neues Publishing Co., 1991. (an illustrated appointment calendar book) Plagers, P. "The Absolut Magritte," Newsweek (July 6, 1992): 50-51. Sylvester, David. Magritte: The Silence of the World. New York: Harry Abrams, Inc. Publishing, 1992. Smithsonian Magazine (September 1992) : 49-57. Torczyner, Harry. Magritte: The True Art of Painting. New York: Abrams, 1985.

Beckett Astro, Alan. Understanding Samuel Beckett. (Understanding Modern European and Latin American Literature Series). Ben-Zvi, Linda. Samuel Beckett. (Twayne English Authors Series. #423). Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986. Bloom, Harold, ed. Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. (Modern Critical Interpretation Series). New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Busi, Frederick. The Transformations of Godot. Louisville: The University Press of Kentucky, 1980. Esslin, Martin, ed. Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965. Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. New York: Anchor Books, 1961.
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Fletcher, John and Beryl S.A Student's Guide to the Plays of SamuelBeckett. NewYork: Faber and Faber, 1990. Fletcher, John. Samuel Beckett's Art. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967. Graver, Laurence. Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot. (Landmarks of World Literature Series). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Webb, Eugene. The Plays of Samuel Beckett. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1974. Philosophy Barnes, Wesley, The Philosophy and Literature of Existentialism. NewYork: Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1968.

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Complete Text

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Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
A Play by Tom Stoppard eVersion 0.5 ACT ONE TWO ELIZABETHANS passing the time in a place without any visible character. They are well dressed---hats, cloaks, sticks and all. Each of them has a large leather money bag. GUILDENSTERN'S bag is nearly empty. ROSENCRANTZ'S bag is nearly full. The reason being: they are betting on the toss of a coin, in the following manner. GUILDENSTERN (hereafter "GUIL") takes a coin out of his bag, spins it, letting it fall. ROSENCRANTZ (hereafter "ROS") studies it, announces it as "heads" (as it happens) and puts it into his own bag. Then they repeat the process. They have apparently been doing this for some time. The run of "heads" is impossible, yet ROS betrays no surprise at all--- he feels none. However, he is nice enough to feel a little embarrassed at taking so much money off his friend. Let that be his character note. GUIL is well alive to the oddity of it. He is not worried about the money, but he is worried by the implications; aware but not going to panic about it--- his character note. GUIL sits. ROS stands (he does the moving, retrieving coins). GUIL spins. ROS studies coin. ROS: Heads. He picks it up and puts it in his bag. The process is repeated. Heads. Again. Heads. Again. Heads. Again. Heads. GUIL (flipping a coin): There is an art to the building up of suspense. ROS: Heads. GUIL (flipping another): Though it can be done by luck alone. ROS: Heads. GUIL: If that's the word I'm after. ROS (raises his head at GUIL): Seventy-six-love. GUIL gets up but has nowhere to go. He spins another coin over his shoulder without looking at it, his attention being directed at his environment or lack of it. Heads.

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GUIL: A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability. (He slips a coin over his shoulder as he goes to look upstage.) ROS: Heads. GUIL, examining the confines of the stage, flips over two more coins as he does so, one by one of course. ROS announces each of them as "heads." GUIL (musing): The law of probability, it has been oddly asserted, is something to do with the proposition that if six monkeys (he has surprised himself) . . . if six monkeys were . ROS: Game? GUIL: Were they? ROS: Are you? GUIL (understanding): Game. (Flips a coin.) The law of averages, if I have got this right, means that if six monkeys were thrown up in the air for long enough they would land on their tails about as often as they would land on their ROS: Heads. (He picks up the coin.) GUIL: Which even at first glance does not strike one as a particularly rewarding speculation, in either sense, even without the monkeys. I mean you wouldn't bet on it. I mean I would, but you wouldn't.... (As he flips a coin.) ROS: Heads. GUIL: Would you? (Flips a coin.) ROS: Heads. Repeat. Heads. (He looks up at GUIL----embarrassed laugh.) Getting a bit of a bore, isn't it? GUIL (coldly): A bore? ROS: Well ... GUIL: What about the suspense? ROS (innocently): What suspense? Small pause. GUIL: It must be the law of diminishing returns.... I feel the spell about to be broken. (Energizing himself somewhat. He takes out a coin, spins it high, catches it, turns it over on to the back of his other hand, studies the coin--- and tosses it to ROS. His energy deflates and he sits.) Well, it was an even chance ... if my calculations are correct. ROS: Eighty-five in a row---beaten the record! GUIL: Don't be absurd.

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ROS: Easily! GUIL (angry): Is that it, then? Is that all? ROS: What? GUIL: A new record? Is that as far as you are prepared to go? ROS: Well . . . GUIL: No questions? Not even a pause? ROS: You spun them yourself. GUIL: Not a flicker of doubt? ROS (aggrieved, aggressive): Well, I won----didn't I? GUIL (approaches him---quieter): And if you'd lost? If they'd come down against you, eighty-five times, one after another, just like that? ROS (dumbly): Eighty-five in a row? Tails? GUIL: Yes! What would you think? ROS (doubtfully): Well .... (Jocularly.) Well, I'd have a good look at your coins for a start! GUIL (retiring): I'm relieved. At least we can still count on self-interest as a predictable factor. . . . I suppose it's the last to go. Your capacity for trust made me wonder if perhaps ... you, alone ... (He turns on him suddenly, reaches out a hand.) Touch. ROS clasps his hand. GUIL pulls him up to him. GUIL (more intensely): We have been spinning coins together since--- (He releases him almost as violently.) This is not the first time we have spun coins! ROS: Oh no---we've been spinning coins for as long as I remember. GUIL: How long is that? ROS: I forget. Mind you---eighty-five times! GUIL: Yes? ROS: It'll take some beating, I imagine. GUIL: Is that what you imagine? Is that it? No fear? ROS: Fear? GUIL (in fury----flings a coin on the ground): Fear! The crack 4 might flood your brain with light! ROS: Heads.... (He puts it in his bag.)

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GUIL sits despondently. He takes a coin, spins it, lets it fall between his feet. He looks at it, picks it up, throws it to ROS who puts it in his bag. GUIL takes another coin, spins it, catches it, turns it over to his other hand, looks at it, and throws it to ROS, who pun in his bag. GUIL takes a third coin, spins it, catches it in his right hat turns it over onto his left wrist, lobs it in the air, catches it with his left hand, raises his left leg, throws the coil? up under it, catches it and turns it over on the top of his head, where it sits. ROS comes, looks at it, puts it in his bag. ROS: I'm afraid GUIL: So am I. ROS: I'm afraid it isn't your day. GUIL: I'm afraid it is. Small pause. ROS: Eighty-nine. GUIL: it must be indicative of something, besides the redistribution of wealth. (He muses.) List of possible explanations. One: I'm willing it. Inside where nothing shows, I am the essence of a man spinning double-headed coins, and betting against himself in private atonement for an unremembered past. (He spins a coin at ROS.) ROS: Heads. GUIL: Two: time has stopped dead, and the single experience of one coin being spun once has been repeated ninety times.... (He flips a coin, looks at it, tosses it to ROS.) On the whole, doubtful. Three: divine intervention, that is to say, a good turn from above concerning him, cf. children of Israel, or retribution from above concerning me, cf. Lot's wife. Four: a spectacular vindication of the principle that each individual coin spun individually (he spins one) is as likely to come down heads as tails and therefore should cause no surprise each individual time it does. (It does. He tosses it to ROS.) ROS: I've never known anything like it! GUIL: And a syllogism: One, he has never known anything like it. Two, he has never known anything to write home about. Three, it is nothing to write home about.... Home ... What's the first thing you remember? ROS: Oh, let's see.... The first thing that comes into my head, you mean? GUIL: No---the first thing you remember. ROS: Ah. (Pause.) No, it's no good, it's gone. It was a long time ago. GUIL (patient but edged): You don't get my meaning. What is the first thing after all the things you've forgotten? ROS: Oh I see. (Pause.) I've forgotten the question. GUIL leaps up and paces.

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GUIL: Are you happy? ROS: What? GUIL: Content? At ease? ROS: I suppose so. GUIL: What are you going to do now? ROS: I don't know. What do You want to do? GUIL: I have no desires. None. (He stops pacing dead.) There was a messenger. . . that's right. We were sent for. (He wheels at ROS and raps out:) Syllogism the second: One, probability is a factor which operates within natural forces. Two, probability is not operating as a factor. Three, we are now within un-, sub- or supernatural forces. Discuss. (ROS is suitably startled. Acidly.) Not too heatedly. ROS: I'm sorry I----What's the matter with you? GUIL: The scientific approach to the examination of phenomena is a defence 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. (Small pause.) Which is all very well, except that--- (He continues with tight hysteria, under control.) We have been spinning coins together since I don't know when, and in all that time (if it is all that time) I don't suppose either of us was more than a couple of gold pieces up or down. I hope that doesn't sound surprising because its very unsurprisingness is something I am trying to keep hold of. The equanimity of your average tosser of coins depends upon a law, or rather a tendency, or let us say a probability, or at any rate a mathematically calculable chance, which ensures that he will not upset himself by losing too much nor upset his opponent by winning too often. This made for a kind of harmony and a kind of confidence. It related the fortuitous and the ordained into a reassuring union which we recognized as nature. The sun came up about as often as it went down, in the long run, and a coin showed heads about as often as it showed tails. Then a messenger arrived. We had been sent for. Nothing else happened. Ninety-two coins spun consecutively have come down heads ninety-two consecutive times ... and for the last three minutes on the wind of a windless day I have heard the sound of drums and flute.... ROS (cutting his fingernails): Another curious scientific phenomenon is the fact that the fingernails grow after death, as does the beard. GUIL: What? ROS (loud): Beard! GUIL: But you're not dead.

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ROS (irritated): I didn't say they started to grow after death! (Pause, calmer.) The fingernails also grow before birth, though not the beard. GUIL: What? ROS (shouts): Beard! What's the matter with you? (Reflectively.) The toenails, on the other hand, never grow at all. GUIL (bemused): The toenails never grow at all? ROS: Do they? It's a funny thing---I cut my fingernails all the 18 time, and every time I think to cut them, they need cutting. Now, for instance. And yet, I never, to the best of my knowledge, cut my toenails. They ought to be curled under my feet by now, but it doesn't happen. I never think about them. Perhaps I cut them absent-mindedly, when I'm thinking of something else. GUIL (tensed up by this rambling): Do you remember the first thing that happened today? ROS (promptly): I woke up, I suppose. (Triggered.) Oh---I've got it now---that man, a foreigner, he woke us up GUIL: A messenger. (He relaxes, sits.) ROS: That's it---pale sky before dawn, a man standing on his saddle to bang on the shutters---- shouts---What's all the row about?! Clear Off!----But then he called our names. You remember that----this man woke us up. GUIL: Yes. ROS: We were sent for. GUIL: Yes. ROS: That's why we're here. (He looks round, seems doubtful, then the explanation.) Travelling. GUIL: Yes. ROS (dramatically): It was urgent---a matter of extreme urgency, a royal summons, his very words: official business and no questions asked---lights in the stable- yard, saddle up and off headlong and hotfoot across the land, our guides outstripped in breakneck pursuit of our duty! Fearful lest we come too late! Small pause. GUIL: Too late for what? ROS: How do I know? We haven't got there yet. GUIL: Then what are we doing here, I ask myself. ROS: You might well ask. GUIL: We better get on.

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ROS: You might well think. GUIL: We better get on. ROS (actively): Right! (Pause.) On where? GUIL: Forward. ROS (forward to footlights): Ah. (Hesitates.) Which way do we---(He turns round.) Which way did we----? GUIL: Practically starting from scratch.... An awakening, a man standing on his saddle to bang on the shutters, our names shouted in a certain dawn, a message, a summons A new record for heads and tails. We have not been . . . picked out ... simply to be abandoned ... set loose to find our own way. . . . We are entitled to some direction.... I would have thought. ROS (alert, listening): I say---! I say GUIL: Yes? ROS: I can hear---I thought I heard---music. GUIL raises himself. GUIL: Yes? ROS: Like a band. (He looks around, laughs embarrassedly, expiating himself.) It sounded like--- --a band. Drums. GUIL: Yes. ROS (relaxes): It couldn't have been real. GUIL: "The colours red, blue and green are real. The colour yellow is a mystical experience shared by everybody" demolish. ROS (at edge of stage): It must have been thunder. Like drums ... By the end of the next speech, the band is faintly audible. GUIL: A man breaking his journey between one place and another at a third place of no name, character, population or significance, sees a unicorn cross his path and disappear. That in itself is startling, but there are precedents for mystical encounters of various kinds, or to be less extreme, a choice of persuasions to put it down to fancy; until---- God," says a second man, "I must be dreaming, I thought I saw a unicorn." At which point, a dimension is added that makes the experience as alarming as it will ever be. A third witness, you understand, adds no further dimension but only spreads it thinner, and a fourth thinner still, and the more witnesses there are the thinner it gets and the more reasonable it becomes until it is as thin as reality, the name we give to the common experience Look, look!" recites the crowd. "A horse with an arrow in its forehead! It must have been mistaken for a deer." ROS (eagerly): I knew all along it was a band. GUIL: (tiredly): He knew all along it was a band.

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ROS: Here they come! GUIL: (at the last moment before they enter----wistfully): I'm sorry it wasn't a unicorn. It would have been nice to have unicorns. The TRAGEDIANS are six in number, including a small BOY (ALFRED). Two pull and push a cart piled with props and belongings. There is also a DRUMMER, a HORN- PLAYER and a FLUTIST. The SPOKESMAN ("the PLAYER") has no instrument. He brings up the rear and is the first to notice them. PLAYER: Halt! The group turns and halts. (Joyously.) An audience! ROS and GUIL half rise. Don't move! They sink back. He regards them fondly. Perfect! A lucky thing we came along. ROS: For us? PLAYER: Let us hope so. But to meet two gentlemen on the road---we would not hope to meet them off it. ROS: No? PLAYER: Well met, in fact, and just in time. ROS: Why's that? PLAYER: Why. we grow rusty and you catch us at the very point of decadence---by this time tomorrow we might have forgotten everything we ever knew. That's a thought, isn't it? (He laughs generously.) We'd be back where we started --- improvising. ROS: Tumblers, are you? PLAYER: We can give you a tumble if that's your taste, and times being what they are.... Otherwise, for a jingle of coin we can do you a selection of gory romances, full of fine cadence and corpses, pirated from the Italian; and it doesn't take much to make a jingle---even a single coin has music in it. They all flourish and bow, raggedly. Tragedians, at your command. ROS and GUIL have got to their feet. 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. PLAYER: A pleasure. We've played to bigger, of course, but quality counts for something. I recognized you at once ROS: And who are we? PLAYER: ---as fellow artists. ROS: I thought we were gentlemen. PLAYER: For some of us it is performance, for others, patronage. They are two sides of the same coin, or, let us say, being as there are so many of us, the same side of two coins. (Bows again.) Don't clap too loudly---it's a very old world. ROS: What is your line?

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PLAYER: Tragedy, sir. Deaths and disclosures, universal and particular, denouements both unexpected and inexorable, transvestite melodrama on all levels including the suggestive. We transport you into a world of intrigue and illusion ... clowns, if you like, murderers---we can do you ghosts and battles, on the skirmish level, heroes, villains, tormented lovers---set pieces in the poetic vein; we can do you rapiers or rape or both, by all means, faithless wives and ravished virgins---flagrante delicto at a price, but that comes under realism for which there are special terms. Getting warm, am I? ROS (doubtfully): Well, I don't know.... PLAYER: It costs little to watch, and little more if you happen to get caught up in the action, if that's your taste and times being what they are. ROS: What are they? PLAYER: Indifferent. ROS: Bad? PLAYER: Wicked. Now what precisely is your pleasure? (He turns to the TRAGEDIANS.) Gentlemen, disport yourselves. The TRAGEDIANS shuffle into some kind of line. There! See anything you like? ROS (doubtful, innocent): What do they do? PLAYER: Let your imagination run riot. They are beyond surprise. ROS: And how much? PLAYER: To take part? ROS: To watch. PLAYER: Watch what? ROS: A private performance. PLAYER: How private? ROS: Well, there are only two of us. Is that enough? PLAYER: For an audience, disappointing. For voyeurs, about average.. ROS: What's the difference? PLAYER: Ten guilders. ROS (horrified): Ten guilders! PLAYER: I mean eight. ROS: Together? PLAYER: Each.

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ROS: I don't think you understand---- What are you saying? PLAYER: What am I saying---seven. ROS: Where have you been? PLAYER: Roundabout. A nest of children carries the custom of the town. Juvenile companies, they are the fashion. But they cannot match our repertoire ... we'll stoop to anything if that's your bent. He regards ROS meaningfully but ROS returns the stare blankly. ROS: They'll grow up. PLAYER (giving up): There's one born every minute. (To TRAGEDIANS:) On-ward! The TRAGEDIANS Start to resume their burdens and their Journey. GUIL stirs himself at last. GUIL: Where are you going? PLAYER: Ha-altl They halt and turn. Home, sir. GUIL: Where from? PLAYER: Home. We're travelling people. We take our chances where we find them. GUIL: It was chance, then? PLAYER: Chance? GUIL: You found us. PLAYER: Oh yes. GUIL: You were looking? PLAYER: Oh no. GUIL: Chance, then. PLAYER: Or fate. GUIL: Yours or ours? PLAYER: It could hardly be one without the other. GUIL: Fate, then. PLAYER: Oh yes. We have no control. Tonight we play to the court. Or the night after. Or to the tavern. Or not. GUIL: Perhaps I can use my influence. PLAYER: At the tavern? GUIL: At the court. I would say I have some influence.

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PLAYER: Would you say so? GUIL: I have influence yet. PLAYER: Yet what? GUIL seizes the PLAYER violently. GUIL: I have influence! The PLAYER does not resist. GUIL loosens his hold. (More calmly.) You said something---about getting caught up in the action PLAYER (gaily freeing himself): I did!----I did!----You're quicker than your friend.... (Confidingly.) Now for a handful of guilders I happen to have a private and uncut performance of The Rape of the Sabine Women---or rather woman, or rather Alfred---(Over his shoulder.) Get your skirt on, Alfred. . . BOY starts struggling into a female robe . . . and for eight you can participate. GUIL backs, PLAYER follows . . . taking either part. GUIL backs . . . . or both for ten. GUIL tries to turn away, PLAYER holds his sleeve. ... with encores GUIL smashes the PLAYER across the face. The PLAYER recoils. GUIL stands trembling. (Resigned and quiet). Get your skirt off, Alfred. ALFRED struggles out of his half-on robe. . . . GUIL (shaking with rage and fright): It could have been---it didn't have to be obscene.... It could have been---a bird out of season, dropping bright-feathered on my shoulder.... I could have been a tongueless dwarf standing by the road point the way.... I was prepared. But it's this, is it? No enigma, no dignity, nothing classical, portentous, only this ---a comic pornographer and a rabble of prostitutes. . PLAYER (acknowledging the description with a sweep of his he bowing; sadly): You should have caught us in better times. We were purists then. (Straightens up.) On-ward. The PLAYERS make to leave. ROS (his voice has changed; he has caught on): Excuse me!

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PLAYER: Ha-alt! They halt. A-al-l-fred! ALFRED resumes the struggle. The PLAYER comes forward ROS: You're not-ah-exclusively players, then? PLAYER: We're inclusively players, sir. ROS: So you give---exhibitions? PLAYER: Performances, Sir. ROS: Yes, of course. There's more money in that, is there? PLAYER: There's more trade, Sir. ROS: Times being what they are. PLAYER: Yes. ROS: Indifferent. PLAYER: Completely. ROS: You know I'd no idea PLAYER: No--ROS: I mean, I've heard of---but I've never actually PLAYER: No. ROS: I mean, what exactly do you do? PLAYER: We keep to our usual stuff, more or less, only inside out. We do on stage the things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else. ROS (nervy, loud): Well, I'm not really the type of man who--no, but don't hurry off---sit down and tell us about some of the things people ask you to do The PLAYER turns away. PLAYER: On-ward! ROS: Just a minute! They turn and look at him without expression. Well, all right---I wouldn't mind seeing---just an idea of the kind of---(Bravely.) What will you do for that? (And tosses a single coin on the ground between them.) The PLAYER spits at the coin, from where he stands. The TRAGEDIANS demur, trying to get at the coin. He kicks and cuffs them back. On!

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ALFRED is still half in and out of his robe. The PLAYER cuffs him. (TO ALFRED:) What are you playing at? ROS is shamed into fury. ROS: Filth! Disgusting---I'll report you to the authorities---perverts! I know your game all right, it's all filth! The PLAYERS are about to leave. GUIL has remained detached. GUIL (casually): Do you like a bet? The TRAGEDIANS turn and look interested. The PLAYER comes forward. PLAYER: What kind of bet did you have in mind? GUIL walks half the distance towards the PLAYER, Stomps his boot over the coin. GUIL: Double or quits. PLAYER: Well ... heads. GUIL raises his foot. The PLAYER bends. The TRAGEDIAN crowd round. Relief and congratulations. The PLAYER picks up the coin. GUIL throws him a second coin. GUIL: Again? Some of the TRAGEDIANS are for it, others against. GUIL: Evens. The PLAYER nods and tosses the coin. GUIL: Heads. It is. He picks it up. Again. GUIL spins coin. PLAYER: Heads. It is. PLAYER picks up coin. He has two coins again. He spins one. GUIL: Heads. It is. GUIL picks it up. Then tosses it immediately. PLAYER (fractional hesitation): Tails. But it's heads. GUIL picks it up. PLAYER tosses down his last coin by way of paying up, and turns away. GUIL doesn't pick it up; he puts his foot on it. GUIL: Heads. PLAYER: No! Pause. The TRAGEDIANS are against this.

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(Apologetically.) They don't like the odds. GUIL (lifts his foot, squats, picks up the coin still squatting, looks up): You were right---heads. (Spins it, slaps his hand on it, on the floor.) Heads I win. PLAYER: No. GUIL (uncovers coin): Right again. (Repeat.) Heads I win. PLAYER: No. GUIL (uncovers coin): And right again. (Repeat.) Heads I win. PLAYER: No! He turns away, the TRAGEDIANS with him. comes close. GUIL stands up, GUIL: Would you believe it? (Stands back, relaxes smiles.) Bet me the year of my birth doubled is an odd number. PLAYER: Your birth---! GUIL: If you don't trust me don't bet with me. PLAYER: Would you trust me? GUIL: Bet me then. PLAYER: My birth? GUIL: Odd numbers you win. PLAYER: You're on! The TRAGEDIANS have come forward, wide awake. GUIL: Good. Year of your birth. Double it. Even numbers I win, odd numbers I lose. Silence. An awful sigh as the TRAGEDIANS realize that any number doubled is even. Then a terrible row as they object. Then a terrible silence. PLAYER: We have no money. GUIL turns to him. GUIL: Ah. Then what have you got? The PLAYER silently brings ALFRED forward. GUIL regards ALFRED sadly. Was it for this? PLAYER: It's the best we've got. GUIL (looking up and around): Then the times are bad indeed. The PLAYER starts to speak, protestation, but GUIL turns on him viciously.

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The very air stinks. The PLAYER moves back. GUIL moves down to the footlights and turns. Come here, Alfred. ALFRED moves down and stands, frightened and small. (Gently.) Do you lose often? ALFRED: Yes, Sir. GUIL: Then what could you have left to lose? ALFRED: Nothing, sir. Pause. GUIL regards him. GUIL: Do you like being . . . an actor? ALFRED: No, sir. GUIL looks around, at the audience. GUIL: You and I, Alfred---we could create a dramatic precedent here. And ALFRED, who has been near tears, starts to sniffle. Come, come, Alfred, this is no way to fill the theatres of Europe. The PLAYER has moved down, GUIL cuts him oft again. (Viciously.) Do you know any good plays? to remonstrate with ALFRED. PLAYER: Plays? ROS (Coming forward, faltering Shyly): Exhibitions. . . . GUIL: I thought you said you were actors. PLAYER (dawning): Oh. Oh well, we are. We are. But there hasn't been much call GUIL: You lost. Well then --- one of the Greeks, perhaps? You're familiar with the tragedies of antiquity, are you? The great homicidal classics? Matri, patri, fratri, sorrori, uxori and it goes without saying ROS: Saucy--- --Suicidal-hm? Maidens aspiring to godheads ROS: And vice versa GUIL: Your kind of thing, is it? PLAYER: Well, no, I can't say it is, really. We're more of the blood, love and rhetoric school.

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GUIL: Well, I'll leave the choice to you, if there is anything to choose between them. PLAYER: They're hardly divisible, sir----well, I can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and I can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and I can do you all three concurrent or consecutive, but I can't do you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory---they' all blood, you see. GUIL: Is that what people want? PLAYER: It's what we do. (Small pause. He turns away.) GUIL touches ALFRED On the shoulder. GUIL: (wry, gentle): Thank you; we'll let you know. The PLAYER has moved upstage. ALFRED follows. PLAYER (to TRAGEDIANS): Thirty-eight! ROS (moving across, fascinated and hopeful): Position? PLAYER: Sir? ROS: One of your---- tableaux? PLAYER: No, sir. ROS: Oh. PLAYER (to the TRAGEDIANS now departing with their cart, air taking various props off it): Entrances there and there (indicating upstage). The PLAYER has not moved his position for his last four lines. He does not move now. GUIL waits. GUIL: Well ... aren't you going to change into your costume? PLAYER: I never change out of it, sir. GUIL: Always in character. PLAYER: That's it. Pause. GUIL: Aren't you going to-come on? PLAYER: I am on. GUIL: But if you are on, you Can't Come On. Can you? PLAYER: I start on. GUIL: But it hasn't started. Go on. Well look out for you. PLAYER: I'll give you a wave.

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He does not move. His immobility is now pointed, and getting awkward. Pause. ROS walks tip to him till they are face to face. ROS: Excuse me. Pause. The PLAYER lifts his downstage foot. It was covering GUIL'S Coin. ROS puts his foot on the coin. Smiles. Thank you. The PLAYER turns and goes. ROS has bent for the coin. GUIL (Moving out): Come On. ROS: I say---that was lucky. GUIL (turning): What? ROS: it was tails. He tosses the coin to GUIL who catches It. Simultaneously a lighting change sufficient to alter the exterior mood into interior, but nothing violent. And OPHELIA runs On in some alarm, holding up her skirts---followed by HAMLET. OPHELIA has been sewing and she holds the garment. They are both mute. HAMLET, with his doublet all unbraced, no hat upon his head, his stockings fouled, ungartered and down-gyved to his ankle, pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other ... and with a look so piteous, he takes her by the wrist and holds her hard, then he goes to the length of his arm, and with his other hand over his brow, falls to such perusal of her face as he would draw it.... At last, with a little shaking of his arm, and thrice his head waving up and down, he raises a sigh so piteous and profound that it does seem to shatter all his bulk and end his being. That done he lets her go, and with his head over his shoulder turned, he goes out backwards without taking his eyes off her ... she runs off in the opposite direction. ROS and GUIL have frozen. GUIL unfreezes first. He jumps at ROS. GUIL: Come on! But a flourish---enter CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE, attended. CLAUDIUS: Welcome, dear Rosencrantz ... (he raises a hand at GUIL while ROS bows---GUIL bows late and hurriedly) ... and Guildenstern. He raises a hand at ROS while GUIL bows to him---ROS is still straightening up from his previous bow and halfway up he bows down again. With his head down, he twists to look at GUIL, who is on the way up. Moreover that we did much long to see you, The need we have to use you did provoke Our hasty Sith nor th'exterior nor the inward man Resembles that it was. What it should be, More than his father's death, that thus hath put him, So much from th'understanding of himself, I cannot dream of. I entreat you both That, being of so young days brought up with him And sith so neighboured to his youth and haviour That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court Some little time, so by your companies To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather So much as from occasion you may glean, Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus, That opened lies within our remedy. GERTRUDE: Good (fractional suspense) gentlemen. They both bow. He hath much talked of you, And sure I am, two men there is not living To whom he more adheres. If it will please you To show us so much gentry and goodwill As to

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expand your time with us awhile For the supply and profit of our hope, Your visitation shall receive such thanks As fits a king's remembrance. ROS: Both your majesties Might, by the sovereign power you have of us, Put your dread pleasures more into command Than to entreaty. GUIL: But we both obey, And here give up ourselves in the full bent To lay our service freely at your feet, To be commanded. CLAUDIUS: Thanks, Rosencrantz (turning to ROS Who is Caught unprepared, while GUIL bows) and gentle Guildenstern (turning to GUIL who is bent double). GERTRUDE (correcting): Thanks Guildenstern. (turning to ROS, who bows as GUIL checks upward movement to bow to both bent double, squinting at each other) . . . and gentle Rosencrantz (turning to GUIL, both straightening Up---GUIL checks again and bows again). And I beseech you instantly to visit My too much changed son. Go, some of you, And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is. TWO ATTENDANTS exit backwards, indicating that ROS and GUIL should follow. GUIL: Heaven make our presence Pleasant and helpful to him. GERTRUDE: Ay, amen' and our practices ROS and GUIL move towards a downstage wing. Before they get there, POLONIUS enters. They stop and bow to him. He nods and hurries upstage to CLAUDIUS. They turn to look at him. POLONIUS: The ambassadors from Norway, my good lord, are joyfully returned. CLAUDIUS: Thou still hast been the father of good news. POLONIUS: Have I, my lord? Assure you, my good liege, I hold my duty as I hold my soul, Both to my God and to my gracious King; And I do think, or else this brain of mine Hunts not the trail of policy so sure As it hath used to do, that I have found The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.... Exeunt----leaving ROS and GUIL. ROS: I want to go home. GUIL: Don't let them confuse you. ROS: I'm out of my stop here--- We'll soon be home and high--dry and home---- I'll---- It's all over my depth--- -I'll hie you home and ROS: ---Out of my head---- GUIL: --dry you high and---ROS (cracking, high): --Over MY step over my head bodyguard tell you it's all stopping to a death, it's boding to a depth, stepping to a head, it's all heading to a dead stop--GUIL: (the nursemaid): There! ... and we'll soon be home and dry ... and high and dry .... (Rapidly.) 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"---

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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 -- -I Is that ways 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. GUIL: You did, the trouble is, each of them is ... plausible, 38 without being instinctive. All your life you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the comer of your eye, and when something nudges it into outline it is like. being ambushed by a grotesque. A man standing in his saddle in the half- lit half-alive dawn banged on the shutters and called two names. He was just a hat and a cloak levitating in the grey plume of his own breath, but when he called we came. That much is certain---we came. ROS: Well I can tell you I'm sick to death of it. I don't cam one way or another, so why don't you make up your mind. GUIL: We can't afford anything quite so arbitrary. Nor did we come all this way for a christening. All that---preceded us. But we are comparatively fortunate; we might have been left to sift the whole field of human nomenclature, like two blind men looting a bazaar for their own portraits.... At least we are presented with alternatives. ROS: Well as from now GUIL: ---But not choice. ROS: You made me look ridiculous in there. GUIL: I looked just as ridiculous as you did. ROS: (an anguished cry): Consistency is all I ask! GUIL: (low, wry rhetoric): Give us this day our daily mask. ROS: (a dying fall): I want to go home. (Moves.) Which way did we come in? I've lost my sense of direction. GUIL: The only beginning is birth and the only end is death----if you can't count on that, what can you count on? They connect again. ROS: We don't owe anything to anyone.

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GUIL: We've been caught up. Your smallest action sets off another somewhere else, and is set off by it. Keep an eye open, an ear cocked. Tread warily, follow instructions. We'll be all right. ROS: For how long? GUIL: Till events have played themselves out. There's a logic at work---it's all done for you, don't worry. Enjoy it. Relax. To be taken in hand and led, like being a child again, even without the innocence, a child---it's like being given a prize, an extra slice of childhood when you least expect it, as a prize for being good, or compensation for never having had one.... Do I contradict myself? ROS: I can't remember.... What have we got to go on? GUIL: We have been briefed. Hamlet's transformation. What do you recollect? ROS: Well, he's changed, hasn't he? The exterior and inward man fails to resemble GUIL: Draw him on to pleasures---glean what afflicts him. ROS: Something more than his father's death GUIL: He's always talking about us----there aren't two people living whom he dotes on more than us. ROS: We cheer him up---find out what's the matter GUIL: Exactly, it's a matter of asking the right questions and giving away as little as we can. It's a game. ROS: And then we can go? GUIL: And receive such thanks as fits a king's remembrance. ROS: I like the sound of that. What do you think he means by remembrance? GUIL: He doesn't forget his friends. ROS: Would you care to estimate? GUIL: Difficult to say, really---some kings tend to be amnesiac, others I suppose---the opposite, whatever that is.... ROS: Yes----but--Elephantine ... ? ROS: Not how long---how much? GUIL: Retentive---he's a very retentive king, a royal retainer. . ROS: What are you playing at? GUIL: Words, words. They're all we have to go on. Pause. ROS: Shouldn't we be doing something----constructive?

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GUIL: What did you have in mind? ... A short, blunt human pyramid ... ? Ros: We could go. GUIL: Where? ROS: After him. GUIL: Why? They've got us placed now----if we start moving around, we'll all be chasing each other all night. Hiatus. ROS (at footlights): How very intriguing! (Turns.) I feel like a spectator---an appalling business. The only thing that makes it bearable is the irrational belief that somebody interesting will come on in a minute.... GUIL: See anyone? ROS: No. You? GUIL: No. (At footlights.) What a fine persecution----to be kept intrigued without ever quite being enlightened.... (Pause.) We've had no practice. ROS: We could Play at questions. GUIL: What good would that do? ROS: Practice! GUIL: Statement! one-love. ROS: Cheating! GUIL: How? ROS: I hadn't started yet. GUIL: Statement. Two-love ROS: Are you counting that? GUIL: What? ROS: Are you counting that? GUIL: Foul! No repetitions Three-love First game to. . . ROS: I'm not going to play if you're going to be like that. GUIL: Whose serve? ROS: Hah? GUIL: Foul! No grunts. Love-one.

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ROS: Whose go? GUIL: Why? ROS: Why not? GUIL: What for? ROS. Foul! No synonyms! One-all. GUIL: What in God's name is going on? ROS: Foul! No rhetoric. Two-one. GUIL: What does it all add up to? ROS: Can't you guess? GUIL: Were You addressing me? ROS: Is there anyone else? GUIL: Who? ROS How Would I know? GUIL: Why do you ask? ROS: Are you serious? GUIL: Was that rhetoric? ROS: No. GUIL: Statement! Two-all. Game point. ROS: What's the matter with you today? GUIL: When? ROS: What? GUIL: Are you deaf? ROS: Am I dead? GUIL: Yes or no ROS: Is there a choice? GUIL: Is there a God? ROS: Foul! No non sequiturs, GUIL: (seriously): What's your name? ROS: What's yours?

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GUIL: I asked you first. ROS: Statement. One-love. GUIL: What's your name when you're at home? ROS: What's yours? GUIL: When I'm at home? ROS: Is it different at home? GUIL: What home? ROS: Haven't you got one? GUIL: Why do you ask? ROS: What are you driving at? GUIL (with emphasis): What's your name?! ROS: Repetition. Two-love. Match point to me. GUIL (seizing him violently): WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? ROS: Rhetoric! Game and match! (Pause.) Where's it going to end? GUIL: That's the question. ROS: It's all questions. GUIL: Do you think it matters? ROS: Doesn't it matter to you? GUIL: Why should it matter? ROS: What does it matter why? GUIL (teasing gently): Doesn't it matter why it matters? ROS (rounding on him): What's the matter with you? Pause. GUIL: It doesn't matter. ROS (voice in the wilderness): ... What's the game? GUIL: What are the rules? Enter HAMLET behind, crossing the stage, reading a book----as he is about to disappear GUIL notices him. GUIL (sharply): Rosencrantz!

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ROS (jumps): What! HAMLET goes. Triumph dawns on them, they smile. GUIL: There! How was that? ROS: Clever! GUIL: Natural? ROS: Instinctive. GUIL: Got it in your head? ROS: I take my hat off to you. GUIL: Shake hands. They do. ROS: Now I'll try you---GUIL---! GUIL: ---Not yet---catch me unawares. ROS: Right. They separate. Pause. Aside to GUIL. Ready? GUIL (explodes): Don't be stupid. ROS: Sorry. Pause. GUIL (snaps): Guildenstern! ROS (jumps): What? He is immediately crestfallen, GUIL is disgusted. GUIL: Consistency is all I ask! ROS (quietly): Immortality is all I seek. . . GUIL (dying fall): Give us this day our daily week.... Beat. ROS: Who was that? GUIL: Didn't you know him? ROS: He didn't know me.

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GUIL: He didn't see you. ROS: I didn't see him. GUIL: We shall see. I hardly knew him, he's changed. ROS: You could see that? GUIL: Transformed. ROS: How do you know? GUIL: Inside and out. ROS: I see. GUIL: He's not himself. ROS: He's changed. GUIL: I could see that. Beat. Glean what afflicts him. ROS: Me? GUIL: Him. ROS: How? GUIL: Question and answer. Old ways are the best ways. ROS: He's afflicted. GUIL: You question, I'll answer. ROS: He's not himself, you know. GUIL: I'm him, you see. Beat. ROS: Who am I then? GUIL: You're yourself. ROS: And he's you? GUIL: Not a bit of it. ROS: Are you afflicted? GUIL: That's the idea. Are you ready? ROS: Let's go back a bit.

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GUIL: I'm afflicted. ROS: I see. GUIL: Glean what afflicts me. ROS: Right. GUIL: Question and answer. ROS: How should I begin? GUIL: Address me. ROS: My dear Guildenstern! GUIL: (quietly): You've forgotten---haven't you? ROS: My dear Rosencrantz! GUIL: (great control): I don't think you quite understand. we are attempting is a hypothesis in which I answer him, while you ask me questions. ROS: Ah! Ready? GUIL: You know what to do? ROS: What? GUIL: Are you stupid? ROS: Pardon? GUIL: Are you deaf? ROS: Did you speak? GUIL (admonishing): Not now--- ROS: Statement. GUIL (shouts): Not now! (Pause.) If I had any doubts, or rather hopes, they are dispelled. What could we possibly have in common except our situation? (They separate and sit.) Perhaps he'll come back this way. ROS: Should we go? GUIL: Why? Pause. ROS (starts up. Snaps fingers): Oh! You mean-you pretend to be him, and I ask you questions! GUIL (dry): Very good.

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ROS: You had me confused. GUIL: I could see I had. ROS: How should I begin? GUIL: Address me. They stand and face each other, posing. ROS: My honoured Lord! GUIL: My dear Rosencrantz! Pause. ROS: Am I pretending to be you, then? GUIL: Certainly not. If you like. Shall we continue? ROS: Question and answer. GUIL: Right. ROS: Right. My honoured lord! GUIL: My dear fellow! ROS: How are you? GUIL: Afflicted! ROS: Really? In what way? GUIL: Transformed. ROS: Inside or out? GUIL: Both. ROS: I see. (Pause.) Not much new there. GUIL: Go into details. Delve. Probe the background, establish the situation. ROS: So---so your uncle is the king of Denmark?! GUIL: And my father before him. ROS: His father before him? GUIL: No, my father before him. ROS: But surely--GUIL: You might well ask. ROS: Let me get it straight. Your father was king. You were his only son. Your father dies. You are of age. Your uncle becomes king.

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GUIL: Yes. ROS: Unorthodox. GUIL: Undid me. ROS: Undeniable. Where were you? GUIL: In Germany. ROS: Usurpation, then. GUIL: He slipped in. ROS: Which reminds me. GUIL: Well, it would. ROS: I don't want to be personal. GUIL: It's common knowledge. ROS: Your mother's marriage. GUIL: He slipped in. Beat. ROS (lugubriously): His body was still warm. GUIL: So was hers. ROS: Extraordinary. GUIL: Indecent. ROS: Hasty. GUIL: Suspicious. ROS: It makes you think. GUIL: Don't think I haven't thought of it. ROS: And with her husband's brother. GUIL: They were close. ROS: She went to him GUIL: Too close---ROS: for comfort. GUIL: It looks bad. ROS: It adds up.

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GUIL: Incest to adultery. ROS: Would you go so far? GUIL: Never. ROS: To sum up: your father, whom you love, dies, you are his heir, you come back to find that hardly was the corpse cold before his young brother popped onto his throne and into his sheets, thereby offending both legal and natural practice. Now why exactly are you behaving in this extraordinary manner? GUIL: I can't imagine! (Pause.) But all that is well known, common property. Yet he sent for us. And we did come. ROS: (alert, ear cocked): I say! I heard music GUIL: We're here. ROS: Like a band----I thought I heard a band. GUIL: Rosencrantz . . . ROS: (absently, still listening): What? Pause, short. GUIL: (gently wry): Guildenstern. ROS (irritated by the repetition): What? GUIL: Don't you discriminate at all? ROS (turning dumbly): Wha'? Pause. GUIL: Go and see if he's there. ROS: Who? GUIL: There. ROS goes to an upstage wing, looks, returns, formally making his report. ROS: Yes. GUIL: What is he doing? ROS repeats movement. ROS: Talking. GUIL: To himself? ROS Starts to move. GUIL Cuts in impatiently. Is he alone? ROS: No. GUIL: Then he's not talking to himself, is he?

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ROS: Not by himself.... Coming this way, I think. (Shiftily.) Should we go? GUIL: Why? We're marked now. HAMLET enters, backwards, talking, followed by POLONIUS, Upstage. ROS and GUIL occupy the two do looking upstage. corners HAMLET: for you yourself, sir, should be as old as I am if like a crab you could go backward. POLONIUS (aside): Though this be madness, yet there is method in it. Will you walk out of the air, my lord? HAMLET: Into my grave. POLONIUS: Indeed, that's out of the air. HAMLET Crosses to upstage exit, POLONIUS asiding unintelligibly until my lord, I will take my leave of you. HAMLET: You cannot take from me anything that I will more willingly part withal--except my life, except my life, except my life.... POLONIUS (crossing downstage): Fare you well, my lord. (To ROS: ) You go to seek Lord Hamlet? There he is. ROS (to POLONIUS): God save you sir. POLONIUS goes. GUIL (Calls Upstage to HAMLET): My honoured lord! ROS: My most dear lord! HAMLET centred upstage, turns to them. HAMLET: My excellent good friends! How dost thou Guildenstern? (Coming downstage with an arm raised to ROS, GUIL meanwhile bowing to no greeting. HAMLET corrects himself. Still to ROS:) Ah Rosencrantz! They laugh good-naturedly at the mistake. They all meet misstate, turn upstage to walk, HAMLET in the middle, arm over each shoulder. HAMLET: Good lads how do you both? BLACKOUT ACT TWO HAMLET, ROS and GUIL talking, the continuation of the previous scene. Their conversation, on the move, is indecipherable at first. The first intelligible line is HAMLET'S, coming at the end of a short speech---see Shakespeare Act 11, scene ii. HAMLET: S'blood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out. A flourish from the TRAGEDIANS' band.

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GUIL: There are the players. HAMLET: Gentlemen, you am welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, come then. (He takes their hands.) The appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony. Let me comply with you in this garb, lest my extent to the players (which I tell you must show fairly outwards) should more appear like entertainment than yours. You am welcome. (About to leave.) But my uncle---father and aunt-mother am deceived. GUIL: In what, my dear lord? HAMLET: I am but mad north north-west; when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw. POLONIUS enters as GUIL turns away. POLONIUS: Well be with you gentlemen. HAMLET (to ROS): Mark you, Guildenstern. (uncertainly to GUIL) and you too; at each ear a hearer. That great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling clouts.... (He takes ROS upstage with him, talking together.) POLONIUS: My Lord! I have news to tell you. HAMLET (releasing ROS and mimicking): My lord, I have news to tell you.... When Roscius was an actor in Rome ... ROS comes downstage to rejoin GUIL. POLONIUS (as he follows HAMLET out): The actors are come hither my lord. HAMLET: Buzz, buzz. Exeunt HAMLET and POLONIUS. ROS and GUIL ponder. Each reluctant to speak first. GUIL: Hm? ROS: Yes? GUIL: What? ROS: I thought you . . GUIL: No. ROS: Ah. Pause. GUIL: I think we can say we made some headway. ROS: You think so? GUIL: I think we can say that. ROS: I think we can say he made us look ridiculous. GUIL: We played it close to the chest of course.

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ROS (derisively): "Question and answer. Old ways are the best ways"! He was scoring off us all down the line. GUIL: He caught us on the wrong foot once or twice, perhaps, but I thought we gained some ground. ROS (simply): He murdered us. GUIL: He might have had the edge. ROS (roused): Twenty-seven-three, and you think he might have had the edge?! He murdered us. GUIL: What about our evasions? ROS: Oh, our evasions were lovely. "Were you sent for?" he says. "My lord, we were sent for. . . ." I didn't know when to put myself. GUIL: He had six rhetoricals ROS: It was question and answer, all right. Twenty-seven questions he got out in ten minutes, and answered three. I was waiting for you to delve. "When is he going to start delving?" I asked myself. GUIL: And two repetitions. ROS: Hardly a leading question between us. GUIL: We got his symptoms, didn't we? ROS: Half of what he said meant something else, and the other half didn't mean anything at all. GUIL: Thwarted ambition---a sense of grievance, that's my diagnosis. ROS: Six rhetorical and two repetition, leaving nineteen, of which we answered fifteen. And what did we get in return? He's depressed! ... Denmark's a prison and he'd rather live in a nutshell; some shadow-play about the nature of ambition, which never got down to cases, and finally one direct question which might have led somewhere, and led in fact to his illuminating, claim to tell a hawk from a handsaw. Pause. GUIL: When the wind is southerly. ROS: And the weather's clear. GUIL: And when it isn't he can't. ROS: He's at the mercy of the elements. (Licks his finger and holds it up-facing audience.) Is that southerly? They stare at audience. GUIL: It doesn't look southerly. What made you think so?

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ROS: I didn't say I think so. It could be northerly for all I know. GUIL: I wouldn't have thought so. ROS: Well, if you're going to be dogmatic. GUIL: Wait a minute---we came from roughly south according to a rough map. ROS: I see. Well, which way did we come in? (GUIL looks round vaguely.) Roughly. GUIL (clears his throat): In the morning the sun would be easterly. I think we can assume that. ROS: That it's morning? GUIL: If it is, and the sun is over there (his right as he faces the audience) for instance, that (front) would be northerly. On the other hand, if it is not morning and the sun is over there (his left) ... that ... (lamely) would still be northerly. (Picking up.) To put it another way, if we came from down there (front) and it is morning, the sun would be up there (his left), and if it is actually over there (his right) and it's still morning, we must have come from up there (behind him), and if that is southerly (his left) and the sun is really over there (front), then it's the afternoon. However, if none of these is the case ROS: Why don't you go and have a look? GUIL: Pragmatism?!---is that all you have to offer? You seem to have no conception of where we stand! You won't find the answer written down for you in the bowl of a compass, I can tell you that. (Pause.) Besides, you can never tell this far north---it's probably dark out there. ROS: I merely suggest that the position of the sun, if it is out, would give you a rough idea of the time; alternatively clock, if it is going, would give you a rough idea of the position of the sun. I forget which you're trying to establish. GUIL: I'm trying to establish the direction of the wind. ROS: There isn't any wind. Draught, yes. GUIL: In that case, the origin. Trace it to its source and it might give us a rough idea of the way we came in---which might give us a rough idea of south, for further reference. ROS: It's coming up through the floor. (He studies the floor.) That can't be south, can it? GUIL: That's not a direction. Lick your toe and wave it around a bit. ROS considers the distance of his foot. ROS: No, I think you'd have to lick it for me. Pause. GUIL: I'm prepared to let the whole matter drop.

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ROS: Or I could lick yours, of course. GUIL: No thank you. ROS: I'll even wave it around for you. GUIL (down ROS'S throat): What in God's name is the matter with you? ROS: Just being friendly. GUIL: (retiring): Somebody might come in. It's what were counting on, after all. Ultimately. Good pause. ROS: Perhaps they've all trampled each other to death in the rush.... Give them a shout. Something provocative. Intrigue them. GUIL: Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which we are ... condemned. Each move is dictated by the previous one---that is the meaning of order. If we start being arbitrary it'll just be a shambles: at least, let us hope so. Because if we happened, just happened to discover, or even suspect, that our spontaneity was part of their order, we'd know that we were lost. (He sits.) 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. A good pause. ROS leaps up and bellows at the audience. ROS: Fire! GUIL jumps UP. GUIL: Where? ROS: It's all right---I'm demonstrating the misuse of free speech. To prove that it exists. (He regards the audience, that is the direction, with contempt---and other directions, then front again.) Not a move. They should burn to death in their shoes. (He takes out one of his coins. Spins it. Catches it. Looks at it. Replaces it.) GUIL: What was it? ROS: What? GUIL: Heads or tails? ROS: Oh. I didn't look. GUIL: Yes you did. ROS: Oh, did I? (He takes out a coin, studies it.) Quite right---it rings a bell. GUIL: What's the last thing you remember? ROS: I don't wish to be reminded of it.

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GUIL: 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. ROS approaches him brightly, holding a coin between finger and thumb. He covers it with his other hand, draws his fists apart and holds them for GUIL. GUIL considers them. Indicate the left hand, ROS opens it to show it empty. ROS: No. Repeat process. GUIL indicates left hand again. ROS shows it empty. Double bluff! Repeat process---GUIL taps one hand, then the other hand, quickly. ROS inadvertently shows that both are empty. ROS laughs as GUIL turns upstage. ROS stops laughing, looks around his feet, pats his clothes, puzzled. POLONIUS breaks that up by entering upstage followed by the TRAGEDIANS and HAMLET. POLONIUS (entering): Come sirs. HAMLET: Follow him, friends. We'll hear a play tomorrow. (Aside to the PLAYER, who is the last of the TRAGEDIANS) Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play The Murder of Gonzago? PLAYER: Ay, my lord. HAMLET: We'll ha't tomorrow night. You could for a need study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines which I would set down and insert in't, could you not? PLAYER: Ay, my lord. HAMLET: Very well. Follow that lord, and look you mock him not. The PLAYER crossing downstage, notes ROS and GUIL. Stops. HAMLET crossing downstage addresses them without pause. HAMLET: My good friends, I'll leave you till tonight. You are welcome to Elsinore. ROS: Good, my lord. HAMLET goes. GUIL: So you've caught up. PLAYER (coldly): Not yet, sir. GUIL: Now mind your tongue, or we'll have it out and throw the rest of you away, like a nightingale at a Roman feast. ROS: Took the very words out of my mouth. GUIL: You'd be lost for words. ROS: You'd be tongue-tied. GUIL: Like a mute in a monologue. ROS: Like a nightingale at a Roman feast.

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GUIL: Your diction will go to pieces. ROS: Your lines will be cut. GUIL: To dumbshows. ROS: And dramatic pauses. GUIL: You'll never find your tongue. ROS: Lick your lips. GUIL: Taste your tears. ROS: Your breakfast. GUIL: You won't know the difference. ROS: There won't be any. GUIL: We'll take the very words out of your mouth. ROS: So you've caught on. GUIL: So you've caught up. PLAYER (tops): Not yet! (Bitterly.) You left us. GUIL: Ah! I'd forgotten---you performed a dramatic spectacle on the way. Yes, I'm sorry we had to miss it. PLAYER (bursts out): We can't look each other in the face! (Pau more in control.) You don't understand the humiliation of --to be tricked out of the single assumption which makes of it existence viable---that somebody is watching.... The plot was two corpses gone before we caught sight of ourselves, stripped naked in the middle of nowhere and pouring ourselves down a bottomless well. ROS: Is that thirty-eight? PLAYER (lost): There we were---demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow protestations of faith hurled after empty promises of vengeance --- and every gesture, every pose, vanishing into the thin unpopulated air We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened. (He rounds on them.) Don't you see?! We're actors----we're the opposite of people! (They recoil nonplussed, his voice calms.) Think, in your head, now, think of the most ... private ... secret ... intimate thing you have ever done secure in the knowledge of its privacy.... (He gives them---and the audience----a good pause. ROS takes on a shifty look.) Are you thinking of it? (He strikes with his voice and his head.) Well, I saw you do it! ROS leaps up, dissembling madly. ROS: You never! It's a lie! (He catches himself with a giggle in a vacuum and sits down again.)

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PLAYER: We're actors.... We pledged our identities, secure in the conventions of our trade, that someone would be watching. And then, gradually, no one was. We were caught, high and dry. It was not until the murderer's long soliloquy that we were able to look around; frozen as we were in profile, our eyes searched you out, first confidently, then hesitantly, then desperately as each patch of turf, each log, every exposed corner in every direction proved uninhabited, and all the while the murderous King addressed the horizon with his dreary interminable guilt. . . . Our heads began to move, wary as lizards, the corpse of unsullied Rosalinda peeped through his fingers, and the King faltered. Even then, habit and a stubborn trust that our audience spied upon us from behind the nearest bush, forced our bodies to blunder on long after they had emptied of meaning, until like runaway carts they dragged to a halt. No one came forward. No one shouted at us. The silence was unbreakable, it imposed itself upon us; it was obscene. We took off our crowns and swords and cloth of gold and moved silent on the road to Elsinore. Silence. Then GUIL claps solo with slow measured irony. GUIL: Brilliantly re-created---if these eyes could weep! ... Rather strong on metaphor, mind you. No criticism---only a matter of taste. And so here you are--with a vengeance. That's a figure of speech ... isn't it? Well let's say we've made up for it, for you may have no doubt whom to thank for your performance at the court ROS: We are counting on you to take him out of himself. You are the pleasures which we draw him on to---(he escapes a fractional giggle but recovers immediately) and by that I don't mean your usual filth; you can't treat royalty like people with normal perverted desires. They know nothing of that and you know nothing of them, to your mutual survival. So give him a good clean show suitable for all the family, or you can rest assured you'll be playing the tavern tonight. GUIL: Or the night after. ROS: Or not. PLAYER: We already have an entry here. And always have had GUIL: You've played for him before? PLAYER: Yes, sir. ROS: And what's his bent? PLAYER: Classical. ROS: Saucy! GUIL: What will you play? PLAYER: The Murder of Gonzago. GUIL: Full of fine cadence and corpses. PLAYER: Pirated from the Italian....

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ROS: What is it about? PLAYER: It's about a King and Queen. . GUIL: Escapism! What else? PLAYER: Blood GUIL: Love and rhetoric. PLAYER: Yes. (Going.) GUIL: Where are you going? PLAYER: I can come and go as I please. GUIL: You're evidently a man who knows his way around. PLAYER: I've been here before. GUIL: We're still finding our feet. PLAYER: I should concentrate on not losing your heads. GUIL: Do you speak from knowledge? PLAYER: Precedent. GUIL: You've been here before. PLAYER: And I know which way the wind is blowing. GUIL: Operating on two levels, are we?! How clever! I expect it comes naturally to you, being in the business so to speak. The PLAYER's grave face does not change. He makes to move off again. GUIL for the second time cuts him off. The truth is, we value your company, for want of any other. We have been left so much to our own devices after a while one welcomes the uncertainty of being left to other people's. PLAYER: Uncertainty is the normal state. You're nobody special. He makes to leave again. GUIL loses his cool. GUIL: But for God's sake what are we supposed to do?! PLAYER: Relax. Respond. That's what people do. You can't go through life questioning your situation at every turn. GUIL: But we don't know what's going on, or what to do with ourselves. We don't know how to act. PLAYER: Act natural. You know why you're here at least. GUIL: We only know what we're told, and that's little enough. And for all we know it isn't even true.

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PLAYER: For all anyone knows, nothing is. 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? ROS: Hamlet is not himself, outside or in. We have to glean what afflicts him. GUIL: He doesn't give much away. PLAYER: Who does, nowadays? GUIL: He's---melancholy. PLAYER: Melancholy? ROS: Mad. PLAYER: How is he mad? ROS: Ah. (To GUIL:) How is he mad? GUIL: More morose than mad, perhaps. PLAYER: Melancholy. GUIL: Moody. ROS: He has moods. PLAYER: Of moroseness? GUIL: Madness. And yet. ROS: Quite. GUIL: For instance. ROS: He talks to himself, which might be madness. GUIL: If he didn't talk sense, which he does. ROS: Which suggests the opposite. PLAYER: Of what? Small pause. GUIL: I think I have it. A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself. ROS: Or just as mad. GUIL: Or just as mad. ROS: And he does both. GUIL: So there you are. ROS: Stark raving sane. Pause. PLAYER: Why?

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GUIL: Ah. (TO ROS:) Why? ROS: Exactly. GUIL: Exactly what? ROS: Exactly why. GUIL: Exactly why what? ROS: What? GUIL: Why? ROS: Why what, exactly? GUIL: Why is he mad?! ROS: I don't know! Beat. PLAYER: The old man thinks he's in love with his daughter. ROS (appalled): Good God! We're out of our depth here. PLAYER: No, no, no---he hasn't got a daughter---the old man thinks he's in love with his daughter. ROS: The old man is? PLAYER: Hamlet, in love with the old man's daughter, the old man thinks. ROS: Ha! It's beginning to make sense! Unrequited passion! The PLAYER moves. GUIL: (Fascist.) Nobody leaves this room! (Pause, lamely.) Without a very good reason. PLAYER: Why not? GUIL: All this strolling about is getting too arbitrary by half---I'm rapidly losing my grip. From now on reason will prevail. PLAYER: I have lines to learn. GUIL: Pass! The PLAYER passes into one of the wings. ROS cups his hands and shouts into the opposite one. ROS: Next! But no one comes. GUIL: What did you expect?

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ROS: Something ... someone ... nothing. They sit facing front. Are you hungry? GUIL: No, are you? ROS (thinks): No. You remember that coin? GUIL: No. GUIL: What coin? ROS: I don't remember exactly. Pause. GUIL: Oh, that coin ... clever. ROS: I can't remember how I did it. GUIL: It probably comes natural to you. ROS: Yes, I've got a show-stopper there. GUIL: Do it again. Slight pause. ROS: We can't afford it. GUIL: Yes, one must think of the future. ROS: It's the normal thing. GUIL: To have one. One is, after all, having it all the time now ... and now ... and now. . ROS: It could go on for ever. Well, not for ever, I suppose. (Pause.) Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with a lid on it? GUIL: No. ROS: Nor do I, really.... It's silly to be depressed by it. I mean one thinks of it like being alive in a box, one keeps forgetting to take into account the fact that one is dead ... which should make all the difference ... shouldn't it? I mean, you'd never know you were in a box, would you? It would be just like being asleep in a box. Not that I'd like to sleep in a box, mind you, not without any air- --you'd wake up dead, for a start, and then where would you be? Apart from inside a box. That's the bit I don't like, frankly. That's why I don't think of it.. GUIL stirs restlessly, pulling his cloak round him. Because you'd be helpless, wouldn't you? Stuffed in a box like that, I mean you'd be in there for ever. Even taking into account the fact that you're dead, it isn't a pleasant thought. Especially if you're dead, really ... ask yourself, if I asked you straight off---I'm going to stuff you in this box now, would you rather be alive or dead? Naturally, you'd prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You'd have a chance at least. You could

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lie there thinking well, at least I'm not dead! In a minute someone's going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out. (Banging the floor with his fists.) "Hey you, whatsyername! Come out of there GUIL (jumps up savagely): You don't have to flog it to death! Pause. ROS: I wouldn't think about it, if I were you. You'd only get depressed. (Pause.) Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where's it going to end? (Pause, then brightly.) Two early Christians chanced to meet in Heaven. "Saul of Tarsus yet!" cried one. "What are you doing here?!" . . . "Tarsus-Schmarsus," replied the other, "I'm Paul already." (He stands up restlessly and flaps his arms.) They don't care. We count for nothing. We could remain silent tin we're green in the face, they wouldn't come. GUIL: Blue, red. ROS: A Christian, a Moslem and a Jew chanced to meet in a closed carriage "Silverstein!" cried the Jew. "Who's your friend?" . . . "His name's Abdullah," replied the Moslem, "but he's no friend of mine since he became a convert." (He leaps up again, stamps his foot and shouts into the wings.) All right, we know you're in there! Come out talking! (Pause.) We have no control. None at all ... (He paces.) Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don't go on for ever. It must have been shattering---stamped into one's memory. And yet I can't remember it. It never occurred to me at all. What does one make of that? We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling with the knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there's only one direction, and time is its only measure. (He reflects, getting more desperate and rapid.) A Hindu, a Buddhist and a lion-tamer chanced to meet, in a circus on the Indo-Chinese border. (He breaks out.) They're taking us for granted! Well, I won't stand for it! In future, notice will be taken. (He wheels again to face into the wings.) Keep out, then! I forbid anyone to enter! (No one comes. Breathing heavily.) That's better.... Immediately, behind him a grand procession enters, principally CLAUDIUS, GERTRUDE, POLONIUS and OPHELIA. CLAUDIUS takes ROS's elbow as he passes and is immediately deep in conversation: the context is Shakespeare Act 111, scene i. GUIL still faces front as CLAUDIUS, ROS, etc., pass upstage and turn. GUIL: Death followed by eternity the worst of both worlds. He turns upstage in time to take over the conversation with CLAUDIUS. GERTRUDE and ROS head downstage. GERTRUDE: Did he receive you well? ROS: Most like a gentleman. GUIL (returning in time to take it up): But with much forcing of his disposition. ROS (a flat lie and he knows it and shows it, perhaps catching GUIL's eye): Niggard of question, but of our demands most free in his reply. It is a terrible thought.

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GERTRUDE: Did you assay him to any pastime? ROS: Madam, it so fell out that certain players We o'erraught on the way: of these we told him And there did seem in him a kind of joy To hear of it. They are here about the court, And, as I think, they have already order This night to play before him. POLONIUS: 'Tis most true And he beseeched me to entreat your Majesties To hear and see the matter. CLAUDIUS: With all my heart, and it doth content me To hear him so inclined. Good gentlemen, give him a further edge And drive his purpose into these delights. ROS: We shall, my lord. CLAUDIUS (leading out procession): Sweet Gertrude, leave us, too, For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, That he, as t'were by accident, may here Affront Ophelia... Exeunt CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE. ROS (peevish): Never a moment's peace! In and out, on and they're coming at us from all sides. GUIL: You're never satisfied. ROS: Catching us on the trot.... Why can't we go by them? GUIL: What's the difference? ROS: I'm going. ROS pulls his cloak round him. GUIL ignores him. Without confidence ROS heads upstage. He looks out and comes back quickly. He's coming. GUIL: What's he doing? ROS: Nothing. GUIL: He must be doing something. ROS: Walking. GUIL: On his hands? ROS: No, on his feet. GUIL: Stark naked? ROS: Fully dressed. GUIL: Selling toffee apples? ROS: Not that I noticed. GUIL: You could be wrong? ROS: I don't think so.

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Pause. GUIL: I can't for the life of me see how we're going to get into conversation. HAMLET enters upstage, and pauses, weighing up the pros and cons of making his quietus. ROS and GUIL watch him. ROS: Nevertheless, I suppose one might say that this was a chance.... One might well . . . accost him.... Yes, it definitely looks like a chance to me .... Something on the lines of a direct informal approach ... man to man ... straight from the shoulder.... Now look here, what's it all about . . . sort of thing. Yes. Yes, this looks like one to be grabbed with both hands, I should say ... if I were asked. ... No point in looking at a gift horse till you see the whites of its eyes, etcetera. (He has moved towards HAMLET) ROS: Excuse me. but his nerve fails. He returns.) We're overawed, that's our trouble. When it comes to the point we succumb to their personality.... OPHELIA enters, with prayerbook, a religious procession of one. HAMLET: Nymph, in thy orisons; be all my sins remembered. At his voice she has stopped for him, he catches her up. OPHELIA: Good my lord, how does your honour for this many day? HAMLET: I humbly thank you---well, well, well. They disappear talking into the wing. ROS: It's like living in a public park! GUIL: Very impressive. Yes, I thought your direct informal approach was going to stop this thing dead in its tracks there. If I might make a suggestion---shut up and sit down Stop being perverse. ROS (near tears): I'm not going to stand for it! A FEMALE FIGURE, ostensibly the QUEEN, enters. ROS march up behind her, puts his hands over her eyes and says with a desperate frivolity. ROS: Guess who?! PLAYER (having appeared in a downstage corner): Alfred! ROS lets go, spins around. He has been holding ALFRED, in his robe and blond wig. PLAYER is in the downstage corner still. ROS comes down to that exit. The PLAYER does not budge He and ROS stand toe to toe. The PLAYER lifts his downstage foot. ROS bends to put his hand on the floor. The PLAYER lowers his foot. ROS screams and leaps away. PLAYER (gravely): I beg your pardon. GUIL (to ROS): What did he do? PLAYER: I put my foot down. ROS: My hand was on the floor! GUIL: You put your hand under his foot?

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ROS: I GUIL: What for? ROS: I thought--- (Grabs GUIL.) Don't leave me! He makes a break for an exit. A TRAGEDIAN dressed as a KING enters. ROS recoils, breaks for the opposite wing. Two cloaked TRAGEDIANS enter. ROS tries again but another TRAGEDIAN enters, and ROS retires to misstate. The PLAYER claps his hands matter-of-factly. PLAYER: Right! We haven't got much time. GUIL: What are you doing? PLAYER: Dress rehearsal. Now if you two wouldn't mind just moving back ... there ... good.... (TO TRAGEDIANS) Everyone ready? And for goodness' sake, remember what we're doing. (TO ROS and GUIL:) We always use the same costumes more or less, and they forget what they are supposed to be in you see.... Stop picking your nose, Alfred. When Queens have to they do it by a cerebral process passed down in the blood.... Good. Silence! Off we go! PLAYER-KING: Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart PLAYER jumps UP angrily. PLAYER: No, no, no! Dumbshow first, your confounded majesty! (To ROS and GUIL:) They're a bit out of practice, but they always pick up wonderfully for the deaths---it brings out the poetry in them. GUIL: How nice. PLAYER: There's nothing more unconvincing than an unconvincing death. GUIL: I'm sure. PLAYER claps his hands. PLAYER: Act One-moves now. The mime. Soft music from a recorder. PLAYER-KING and PLAYER-QUEEN embrace. She kneels and makes a show protestation to him. He takes her up, declining his head upon her neck. He lies down. She, seeing him asleep, leaves him. GUIL: What is the Dumbshow for? PLAYER: Well, it's a device, really---it makes the action that follows more or less comprehensible; you understand, are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style. The mime (continued) ---enter another. He takes off the SLEEPER's crown, kisses it. He has brought in a small bottle of liquid. He pours the poison in the SLEEPER's ear, and lei him. The SLEEPER convulses heroically, dying. ROS: Who was that?

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PLAYER: The King's brother and uncle to the Prince. GUIL: Not exactly fraternal PLAYER: Not exactly avuncular, as time goes on. The QUEEN returns, makes passionate action, finding the KING dead. The POISONER comes in again, attended by others (the two in cloaks). The POISONER seems to console with her. The dead body is carried away. The POISONER woos the QUEEN with gifts. She seems harsh awhile but in the end accepts his love. End of mime, at which point, the wait of a woman in torment and OPHELIA appears, wailing, closely followed by HAMLET in a hysterical state, shouting at her, circling her, both misstate. HAMLET: Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath made me mad! She falls on her knees weeping. I say we will have no more marriage! (His voice drops to include the TRAGEDIANS, who have frozen.) Those that are married already (he leans close to the PLAYER-QUEEN and POISONER, speaking with quiet edge) all but one shall live. (He smiles briefly at them without mirth, and starts to back out, his parting shot rising again.) The rest shall keep as they are. (As he leaves, OPHELIA tottering upstage, he speaks into her ear a quick clipped sentence.) To a nunnery, go. He goes out. OPHELIA falls on to her knees upstage, her sobs barely audible. A slight silence. PLAYER-KING: Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart CLAUDIUS enters with POLONIUS and goes over to OPHELIA and lifts her to her feet. The TRAGEDIANS jump back with heads inclined. CLAUDIUS: Love? His affections do not that way tend, Or what he spake, though it lacked form a little, Was not like madness. There's something In his soul o'er which his melancholy sits on Brood, and I do doubt the hatch and the Disclose will be some danger; which for to Prevent I have in quick determination thus set It down: he shall with speed to England Which carries the three of them--CLAUDIUS, POLONIUS, OPHELIA---out of sight. The PLAYER moves, clapping his hands for attention. PLAYER: Gentlemen! (They look at him.) It doesn't seem to be coming. We are not getting it at all. (To GUIL:) What did think? GUIL: What was I supposed to think? PLAYER (to TRAGEDIANS): You're not getting across! ROS had gone halfway up to OPHELIA; he returns. ROS: That didn't look like love to me. GUIL: Starting from scratch again ... PLAYER (to TRAGEDIANS): It was a mess. ROS (to GUIL): It going to be chaos on the night

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GUIL: Keep back---we're spectators. PLAYER: Act Two! Positions! GUIL: Wasn't that the end? PLAYER: Do you call that an ending?---with practically everyone on his feet? My goodness no--- over your dead body. GUIL: How am I supposed to take that? PLAYER: Lying down. (He laughs briefly and in a second has never laughed in his life.) There's a design at work in all art surely you know that? Events must play themselves out aesthetic, moral and logical conclusion. GUIL: And what' that, in this case? PLAYER: It never varies---we aim at the point where everyone who is marked for death dies. GUIL: Marked? PLAYER: Between "just desserts' and "tragic irony" we are given quite a lot of scope for our particular talent. Generally speaking, things have gone about as far as they can possibly go when things have got about as bad as they reasonably get. (He switches on a smile.) GUIL: Who decides? PLAYER (switching off his smile): Decides? It is written. He turns away. GUIL grabs him and spins him back violently. (Unflustered.) Now if you're going to be subtle, we'll miss each other in the dark. I'm referring to oral tradition. So to speak. GUIL releases him. 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. (Calling.) Positions! The TRAGEDIANS have taken up positions for the continuation Of the mime: which in this case means a love scene, sexual and passionate, between the QUEEN and the POISONER-KING. PLAYER: Go! The lovers begin. The PLAYER contributes a breathless commentary for ROS and GUIL. Having murdered his brother and wooed the widow---the poisoner mounts the throne! Here we see him and his queen give rein to their unbridled passion! She little knowing that the man she holds in her arms----! ROS: Oh, I say---here---really! You can't do that!

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PLAYER: Why not? ROS: Well, really---I mean, people want to be entertained---they don't come expecting sordid and gratuitous filth. PLAYER: You're wrong---they do! Murder, seduction and incest ---what do you want---jokes? ROS: I want a good story, with a beginning, middle and end. PLAYER (to GUIL): And you? GUIL: I'd prefer art to mirror life, if it's all the same to you. PLAYER: It's all the same to me, sir. (To the grappling LOVERS) All right, no need to indulge yourselves. (They get up. To GUIL:) I come on in a minute. Lucretius, nephew to the king! (Turns his attention to the TRAGEDIANS) Next! They disport themselves to accommodate the next piece mime, which consists of the PLAYER himself exhibiting a excitable anguish (choreographed, stylized) leading to an impassioned scene with the QUEEN (cf. "The Closet Scene," Shakespeare Act III, scene iv) and a very stylized reconstruction of a POLONIUS figure being stabbed behind the arras (the murdered KING to stand in for POLONIUS) while the PLAYER himself continues his breathless commentary for the benefit of ROS and GUIL. PLAYER: Lucretius, nephew to the king ... usurped by his uncle and shattered by his mother's incestuous marriage loses . . his reason ... throwing the court into turmoil and disarray as he alternates between bitter melancholy and unrestricted lunacy ... staggering from the suicidal (a pose) to the homicidal (here he kills "POLONIUS") ... he at last confronts his mother and in a scene of provocative ambiguity--(a somewhat oedipal embrace) begs her to repent and recant. (He springs up, still talking.) The King---(he pushes forward the POISONER-KING) tormented by guilt---haunted by fear ---decides to despatch his nephew to England---and entrusts this undertaking to two smiling accomplices--- friends--- two spies He has swung round to bring together the POISONER-KING and the two cloaked TRAGEDIANS the latter kneel and accept a scroll from the KING. ----giving them a letter to present to the English court and so they depart---on board ship The two SPIES position themselves on either side of the PLAYER, and the three of them sway gently in unison, the motion of a boat; and then the PLAYER detaches himself. ---and they arrive One spy shades his eyes at the horizon. -and disembark---and present themselves before the English king---(He wheels round.) The English king---An exchange of headgear creates the ENGLISH KING from the remaining player--- that is, the PLAYER who played the original murdered king.

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But where is the Prince? Where indeed? The plot has thickened---a twist of fate and cunning has put into their hands a letter that seals their deaths! The two SPIES present their letter, the ENGLISH KING reads it and orders their deaths. They stand up as the PLAYER whips off their cloaks preparatory to execution. Traitors hoist by their own petard?----or victims of the gods? ---we shall never know! The whole mime has been fluid and continuous but now ROS moves forward and brings it to a pause. What brings ROS forward is the fact that under their cloaks the two SPIES are wearing coats identical to those worn by ROS and GUIL, whose coats are now covered by their cloaks. ROS approaches "his" spy doubtfully. He does not quite understand why the coats are familiar. ROS stands close, touches the coat, thoughtfully. . . . ROS: Well, if it isn't---! No, wait a minute, don't tell me---it's a long time since---where was it? Ah, this is taking me back to---when was it? I know you, don't I? I never forget a face---(he looks into the spy's face) ... not that I know yours, that is. For a moment I thought---no, I don't know you, do I? Yes, I'm afraid you're quite wrong. You must have mistaken me for someone else. GUIL meanwhile has approached the other spy, brow creased in thought. PLAYER (to GUIL): Are you familiar with this play? GUIL: No. PLAYER: A slaughterhouse---eight corpses all told. It brings out the best in us. GUIL (tense, progressively rattled during the whole mime and commentary): You!--What do you know about death? PLAYER: It's what the actors do best. They have to exploit whatever talent is given to them, and their talent is dying. They can die heroically, comically, ironically, slowly, suddenly, disgustingly, charmingly, or from a great height. My own talent is more general. I extract significance from melodrama, a significance which it does not in fact contain; but occasionally, from out of this matter, there escapes a thin beam of light that, seen at the right angle, can crack shell of mortality. ROS: Is that all they can do---die? PLAYER: No, no---they kill beautifully. In fact some of them Id even better than they die. The rest die better than they They're a team. ROS: Which ones are which? PLAYER: There's not much in it. GUIL (tear, derision): Actors! The mechanics of cheap melodrama! That isn't death! (More quietly.) You scream and choke and sink to your knees, but it doesn't bring ~ home to anyone---it doesn't catch them unawares and start the whisper in their skulls that says---"One day you are going to die." (He straightens up.) You die so many times; how can you expect them to believe in your death?

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PLAYER: On the contrary, it's the only kind they do believe. They're conditioned to it. I had an actor once who was condemned to hang for stealing a sheep--- -or a lamb, I forget which---so I got permission to have him hanged in the middle of a play---had to change the plot a bit but I thought it would be effective, you know---and you wouldn't believe it, he just wasn't convincing! It was impossible to suspend one's disbelief---and what with the audience jeering and throwing peanuts, the whole thing was a disaster!---he did nothing but cry all the time--right out of character---just stood there and cried.... Never again. In good burnout he has already turned back to the mime: the two SPIES awaiting execution at the hands of the PLAYER, who takes his dagger out of his belt. Audiences know what to expect, and that is all that they are prepared to believe in. (To the SPIES:) Show! The SPIES die at some length, rather well. The light has begun to go, and it fades as they die, and as GUIL speaks. GUIL: No, no, no ... you've got it all wrong ... you can't act death. The fact of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen ---it's not gasps and blood and falling about---that isn't what makes it death. It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all ---now you see him, now you don't, that the only thing that's real: here one minute and gone the next and never coming back---an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced, a disappearance gathering weight as it goes on, until, finally, it is heavy with death. The two SPIES lie still, barely visible. The PLAYER Comes forward and throws the SPIES' cloaks over their bodies. ROS starts to clap, slowly. BLACKOUT. A second of silence, then much noise. Shouts . "The King rises!- . . . "Give o'er the play!" and cries for "Lights lights, lightsl" When the light comes, after a few seconds, it comes a sunrise. The stage is empty save for two cloaked figures sprawl, the ground in the approximate positions last held by the dead SPIES. As the light grows, they are seen to be ROS and GUIL and to be resting quite comfortably. ROS raises himself elbows and shades his eyes as he stares into the audience. Finally: ROS: That must be cast, then. I think we can assume that GUIL: I'm assuming nothing. ROS: No, it's all right. That the sun. East. GUIL (looks up): Where? ROS: I watched it come up. GUIL: No ... it was light all the time, you see, and you a your eyes very, very slowly. If you'd been facing back there you'd be swearing that was east. ROS (standing up): You're a mass of prejudice. GUIL: I've been taken in before. ROS (looks out over the audience): Rings a bell. GUIL: They're waiting to see what were going to do.

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ROS: Good old east GUIL: As soon as we make a move they'll come pouring every side, shouting obscure instructions, confusing ridiculous remarks, messing us about from here to breakfast and getting our names wrong. ROS starts to protest but he has hardly opened his mouth before: CLAUDIUS (off stage-with urgency): Ho, Guildenstern! GUIL is still prone. Small pause. ROS AND GUIL: You're wanted.... GUIL furiously leaps to his feet as CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE enter. They are in some desperation. CLAUDIUS: Friends both, go join you with some further aid: Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain, and from his mother's closet hath he dragged him. Go seek him out; speak fair and bring the body into the chapel. I pray you haste in this. (As he and GERTRUDE are hurrying out.) Come Gertrude, well call up our wisest friends and lot them know both what we mean to do.... They've gone. ROS and GUIL remain quite still. GUIL: Well... ROS: Quite. GUIL: Well, then. ROS: Quite, quite. (Nods with spurious confidence.) Seek him out. (Pause.) Etcetera. GUIL: Quite. ROS: Well. (Small pause.) Well, that's a step in the right direction. GUIL: You didn't like him? ROS: Who? GUIL: Good God, I hope more tears are shed for us! ROS: Well, it's progress, isn't it? Something positive. Seek him out. (Looks round without moving his feet.) Where does one begin ... ? (Takes one step towards the wings and halts.) GUIL: Well, that's a step in the right direction. ROS: You think so? He could be anywhere. GUIL: All right-you go that way, I'll go this way. ROS: Right

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They walk towards opposite wings. ROS halts. No. GUIL halts. You go this way---I'll go that way. GUIL: All right. They march towards each other, cross. ROS halts. ROS: Wait a minute. GUIL halts. I think we should stick together. He might be violent. GUIL: Good point. I'll come with you. GUIL marches across to ROS. They turn to leave. ROS halts. ROS: No, Ill come with you. GUIL: Right. They turn, march across to the opposite wing. ROS halls. GUIL halts. ROS: I'll come with you, my way. GUIL: All right. They turn again and march across. ROS halts. GUIL halts. ROS: I've just thought. If we both go, he could come here. That would be stupid, wouldn't it? GUIL: All right---I'll stay, you go. ROS: Right. GUIL marches to midstage. I say. GUIL wheels and carries on marching back towards ROS, who starts marching downstage. They cross. ROS halts. I've just thought. GUIL halts. We ought to stick together; he might be violent. GUIL: Good point. GUIL marches down to join ROS. They stand still for a moment in their original positions.

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Well, at last we're getting somewhere. Pause. Of course, he might not come. ROS (airily): Oh, he'll come. GUIL: We'd have some explaining to do. ROS: He'll come. (Airily wanders upstage.) Don't worry-take my word for it- (Looks out-is appalled.) He's coming! GUIL: What's he doing? ROS: Walking. GUIL: Alone? ROS: No. GUIL: Not walking? ROS: No. GUIL: Who's with him? ROS: The old man. GUIL: Walking? ROS: No. GUIL: Ah. That's an opening if ever there was one. (And is suddenly galvanized into action.) Let him walk into the trap! ROS: What trap? GUIL: You stand there! Don't let him pass! He positions ROS with his back to one wing, facing HAMLET's entrance. GUIL positions himself next to ROS, a few feet away they are covering one side of the stage, facing the opposite side. GUIL unfastens his belt. ROS does the same. They join the two belts, and hold them taut between them. it trousers slide slowly down. HAMLET enters opposite, slowly, dragging POLONIUS's body. He enters upstage, makes a small arc and leaves by side, a few feet downstage. ROS and GUIL, holding the belts taut, stare at him in some bewilderment. HAMLET leaves, dragging the body. They relax the the belts. ROS: That was close. GUIL: There's a limit to what two people can do. They undo the belts. ROS pulls up his trousers. ROS (worriedly --he walks a few paces towards HAMLET): was dead.

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GUIL: Of course he's dead! ROS (turns to GUIL): Properly. GUIL: (angrily): Death's death, isn't it? ROS falls silent. Pause. Perhaps hell come back this way. ROS starts to take off his belt. No, no, no!-if we can't learn by experience, what else have we got? ROS desists. Pause. ROS: Give him a shout. GUIL: I thought we'd been into all that. ROS (shouts): Hamlet! GUIL: Don't be absurd. ROS (shouts): Lord Hamlet HAMLET enters. ROS is a little dismayed. What have you done, my lord, with the dead body? HAMLET: Compounded it with dust, whereto is kin. ROS: Tell us where 'tis, that we may take it thence and bear it to the chapel. HAMLET: Do not believe it. ROS: Believe what? HAMLET: That I can keep your counsel and not mine own. Besides, to be demanded of a sponge, what replication should be made by the son of a king? ROS: Take you me for a sponge, my lord? HAMLET: Ay, sir, that soaks up the King's countenance, his rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the King best service in the end. He keeps them, like an ape, in the comer of his jaw, first mouthed, to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you and, sponge, you shall be dry again. ROS: I understand you not, my lord. HAMLET: I am glad of it: a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish car. ROS: My lord, you must tell us where the body is and go with us to the King.

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HAMLET: The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body. The King is a thing GUIL: A thing, my lord-? HAMLET: Of nothing. Bring me to him. HAMLET moves resolutely towards one wing. They move with him, shepherding. Just before they reach the exit, HAMLET, apparently seeing CLAUDIUS approaching from off stage, bends low in a sweeping bow. ROS and GUIL, cued by Hamlet, also bow deeply--a sweeping ceremonial bow with their cloaks swept round them. HAMLET, however, continues the movement into an about-turn and walks off in the opposite direction. ROS and GUIL, with their heads low, do not notice. No one comes on. ROS and GUIL squint upwards and find that they are bowing to nothing. CLAUDIUS enters behind them. At first word they leap up and do a double-take. CLAUDIUS: How now? What hath befallen? ROS: Where the body is bestowed, my lord, we cannot get from him. CLAUDIUS: But where is he? ROS (fractional hesitation): Without, my lord; guarded to know your pleasure. CLAUDIUS (moves): Bring him before us. This hits ROS between the eyes but only his eyes show it. Again his hesitation is fractional. And then with great deliberation he turns to GUIL. ROS: Ho! Bring in the lord. Again there is a fractional moment In which ROS is smug, GUIL is trapped and betrayed. GUIL opens his mouth and closes it. The situation is saved. HAMLET, escorted, is marched in just as CLAUDIUS leaves. HAMLET and his ESCORT Cross the stage and go out, following CLAUDIUS. Lighting changes to Exterior. ROS (moves to go): All right, then? GUIL (does not move; thoughtfully): And yet it doesn't seem enough; to have breathed such significance. Can that be all? And why us?-anybody would have done. And we have contributed nothing. ROS: It was a trying episode while it lasted, but they've done with us now. GUIL: Done what? ROS: I don't pretend to have understood. Frankly, I'm not very interested. If they won't tell us, that's their affair. (He wanders upstage towards the exit.) For my part, I'm only glad that that's the last we've seen of him-(And he glances off stage and turns front, his face betraying the fact that ) ROS: Talking. GUIL: To himself? ROS Makes to go, GUIL Cuts him off. Is he alone? ROS: NO, he's with a soldier.

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GUIL: Then he's not talking to himself, is he? ROS: Not by himself Should we go? GUIL: Where? ROS: Anywhere. GUIL: why? ROS puts up his head listening. ROS: There it is again. (In anguish.) All I ask is a change ground! GUIL: (coda): Give us this day our daily round.... HAMLET enters behind them, talking with a soldier in arms. ROS and GUIL don't look round. ROS: They'll have us hanging about till we're dead. At least. And the weather will change. (Looks up.) The spring can't last for ever. HAMLET: Good sir, whose powers are these? SOLDIER: They are of Norway, sir. HAMLET: How purposed, sir, I pray you? SOLDIER: Against some part of Poland HAMLET: Who commands them, sir? SOLDIER: The nephew to old Norway! Fortinbras. ROS: We'll be cold. The summer won't last. GUIL: It's autumnal. ROS (examining the ground): No leaves. GUIL: Autumnal-nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day .... Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it .... Russets and tangerine shades of old gold flushing the very outside edge of the senses . . . deep shining ochres, burnt umber and parchments of baked earth- reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light. At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere, by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke. ROS (head up, listening): I got it again then. They listen-faintest sound of TRAGEDIANS' band. HAMLET: I humbly thank you, sir. SOLDIER: God by you, sir. (Exit.)

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ROS gets up quickly and goes to HAMLET. ROS: Will it please you go, my lord? HAMLET: I'll be with you straight. Go you a little before. HAMLET turns to face upstage. ROS returns down. GUIL faces front, doesn't turn. GUIL: Is he there? ROS: Yes. GUIL: What's he doing? ROS looks over his shoulder. ROS: Talking. GUIL: To himself? ROS: Yes. Pause. ROS makes to leave. ROS: He said we can go. Cross my heart. GUIL: I like to know where I am. Even if I don't know am, I like to know that. If we go there's no knowing. ROS: No knowing what? GUIL: If well ever come back. ROS: We don't want to come back. GUIL: That may very well be true, but do we want to go? ROS: Well be free. GUIL: I don't know. It's the same sky. ROS: We've come this far. He moves towards exit. GUIL follows him. And besides, anything could happen yet. They go. BLACKOUT ACT THREE Opens in pitch darkness. Soft sea sounds. After several seconds of nothing, a voice from the dark. . . GUIL: Are you there?

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ROS: Where? GUIL (bitterly): A flying start.... Pause. ROS: Is that you? GUIL: Yes. ROS: How do you know? GUIL (explosion): Oh-for-Gods-sake! ROS: We're not finished, then? GUIL: Well, we're here, aren't we? ROS: Are we? I can't see a thing. GUIL: You can still think, can't you? ROS: I think so. GUIL: You can still talk. ROS: What should I say? GUIL: Don't bother. You can feel, can't you? ROS: Ah! There's life in me yet! GUIL: What are you feeling? ROS: A leg. Yes, it feels like my leg. GUIL: How does it feel? ROS: Dead. GUIL: Dead? ROS (panic): I can't feel a thing! GUIL: Give it a pinch! (Immediately he yelps.) ROS: Sorry. GUIL: Well, that's cleared that up. Longer pause.- the sound builds a little and identifies itself---the sea. Ship timbers, wind in the rigging, and then shouts of sailors calling obscure but inescapably nautical instructions from all directions, far and near. A short list. Hard a larboard! Let go the stays! Reef down me heartiest Is that you, coxn? Hel-Ilo! Is that you? Hard a port! Easy as she goes! Keep her steady on the lee! Haul away, lads! (Snatches of sea shanty maybe.) Fly the jib! Tops'l up, me maties! When the point has been well made and more so.

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ROS: We're on a boat. (Pause.) Dark, isn't it? GUIL: Not for night. ROS: No, not for night. GUIL: Dark for day. Pause. ROS: Oh yes, it's dark for day. GUIL: We must have gone north, of course. ROS: Off course? GUIL: Land of the midnight sun, that is. ROS: Of course. Some sailor sounds. A lantern is lit upstage--in fact by HAMLET. The stage lightens disproportionately Enough to see: ROS and GUIL sitting downstage. Vague shapes of rigging, etc., behind. I think it's getting light. GUIL: Not for night. ROS: This far north. GUIL: Unless we're off course. ROS (small pause): Of course. A better light--Lantern? Moon? ... Light. Revealing, among other things, three large mansized cc on deck, upended, with lids. Spaced but in line. Behind an above--a gaudy striped umbrella, on a pole stuck into the deck, tilted so that we do not see behind it--one of those huge six-foot-diameter jobs. Still dim upstage. ROS and GUIL still facing front. ROS: Yes, it's lighter than it was. It'll be night soon. This far north. (Dolefully.) I suppose we'll have to go to sleep. (He yawns and stretches.) GUIL: Tired? ROS: No ... I don't think I'd take to it. Sleep all night, can't see a thing all day.... Those eskimos must have a quiet life. GUIL: Where? ROS: What? GUIL: I thought you- (Relapses.) I've lost all capacity for disbelief. I'm not sure that I could even rise to a little gentle scepticism. Pause. ROS: Well, shall we stretch our legs? GUIL: I don't feel like stretching my legs.

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ROS: I'll stretch them for you, if you like. GUIL: No. ROS: We could stretch each other That way we wouldn't have to go anywhere. GUIL (pause): No, somebody might come in. ROS: In where? GUIL: Out here. ROS: In out here? GUIL: On deck. ROS considers the floor slaps it. ROS: Nice bit of planking, that. GUIL: Yes, I'm very fond of boats myself. I like the way they're --contained. You don't have to worry about which way to go, or whether to go at all-the question doesn't arise, because you're on a boat, aren't you? Boats are safe areas in the game of tag ... the players will hold their positions until the music starts.... I think I'll spend most on boats. ROS: Very healthy. ROS inhales with expectation, exhales with boredom stands up and looks over the audience. GUIL: One is free on a boat. For a time. Relatively. ROS: What it like? GUIL: Rough. ROS joins him. They look out over the audience. ROS: I think I'm going to be sick. GUIL licks a finger, holds it up experimentally. GUIL: Other side, I think. ROS goes upstage: Ideally a sort of upper deck joined to the downstage lower deck by short steps. The umbrella being on the upper deck. ROS pauses by the umbrella an behind it. GUIL meanwhile has been resuming his -looking out over the audience Free to move, speak, extemporise, and yet. We have cut loose. Our truancy is defined by one fixed our drift represents merely a slight change of angle to it: we may seize the moment, toss it around while I pass, a short dash here, an exploration there, but we are brought round full circle to face again the single fact-that we, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bearing a letter from one king to another, are taking Hamlet

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By which time, ROS has returned, tiptoeing with teeth clenched for secrecy, gets to GUIL, points surreptitiously behind him-and a tight whisper. ROS: I say-he's there! GUIL (unsurprised): What's he doing? ROS: Sleeping. GUIL: Its all right for him. ROS: What is? GUIL: He can sleep. ROS: It's all right for him. GUIL: He's got us now. ROS: He can sleep. GUIL: It's all done for him. ROS: He's got us. GUIL: And weve got nothing. (A cry.) All I ask is our common due! ROS: For those in peril on the sea.... GUIL: Give us this day our daily cue. Beat, pause. Sit. Long pause. ROS (after shifting, looking around): What now? GUIL: What do you mean? ROS: Well, nothing is happening. GUIL: We're on a boat. ROS: I'm aware of that. GUIL (angrily): Then what do you expect? (Unhappily.) We act on scraps of information . . . sifting half-remembered directions that we can hardly separate from instinct. ROS puts a hand into his purse, then both hands behind his back, then holds his fists out. GUIL taps one fist. ROS opens it to show a coin. He gives it to GUIL. He puts his hand back into his purse. Then both hands behind his back, then holds his fists out. GUIL taps one. ROS opens it to show a coin. He gives it to GUIL Repeat. Repeat. GUIL getting tense. Desperate to lose. Repeat. GUIL taps a hand, changes his mind, taps the other, and ROS inadvertently reveals that he has a coin in both fists. GUIL: You had money in both hands. ROS (embarrassed): Yes.

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GUIL: Every time? ROS: Yes. GUIL: What's the point of that? ROS (pathetic): I wanted to make you happy. Beat. GUIL: How much did he give you? ROS: Who? GUIL: The King. He gave us some money. ROS: How much did he give you? GUIL: I asked you first. ROS: I got the same as you. GUIL: He wouldn't discriminate between us. ROS: How much did you get? GUIL: The Same. ROS: How do you know? GUIL: You just told me-how do you know? ROS: He wouldn't discriminate between us. GUIL: Even if he could. ROS: Which he never could. GUIL: He couldn't even be sure of mixing us up. ROS: Without mixing us up. GUIL (turning on him furiously): Why don't you say something original! No wonder the whole thing is so stagnant! You don't take me up on anything-you just repeat it in a different order. ROS: I can't think of anything original. I'm only good in support. GUIL: I'm sick of making the running. ROS (humbly): It must be your dominant personality. (Almost in tears.) Oh, what's going to become of us! And GUIL comforts him, all harshness gone. GUIL: Don't cry ... it's all right ... there ... there, I'll see we're all right. ROS: But we've got nothing to go on, we're out on our own.

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GUIL: We're on our way to England-we're taking Hamlet there. ROS: What for? GUIL: What for? Where have you been? ROS: When? (Pause.) We won't know what to do when we get there. GUIL: We take him to the King. ROS: Will he be there? GUIL: No---the king of England. ROS: He's expecting us? GUIL: No. ROS: He wont know what we're playing at. What are we going to say? GUIL: We've got a letter. You remember the letter. ROS: Do I? GUIL: Everything is explained in the letter. We count on that. ROS: Is that it, then? GUIL: What? ROS: We take Hamlet to the English king, we hand over the letter-what then? GUIL: There may be something in the letter to keep us going a bit. ROS: And if not? GUIL: Then that's it-we're finished. ROS: At a loose end? GUIL: Yes. Pause. ROS: Are there likely to be loose ends? (Pause.) Who is the English king? GUIL: That depends on when we get there. ROS: What do you think it says? GUIL: Oh ... greetings. Expressions of loyalty. Asking of favours calling in of debts. Obscure promises balanced by vague threats.... Diplomacy. Regards to the family. ROS: And about Hamlet? GUIL: Oh yes.

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ROS: And us-the full background? GUIL: I should say so. Pause. ROS: So we've got a letter which explains everything. GUIL: You've got it. ROS takes that literally. He starts to pat his pockets, etc. What's the matter? ROS: The letter. GUIL: Have you got it? ROS (rising fear): Have I? (Searches frantically.) Where would I have put it? GUIL: You can't have lost it. ROS: I must have! GUIL: That's odd-I thought he gave it to me. ROS looks at him hopefully. ROS: Perhaps he did. GUIL: But you seemed so sure it was you who hadn't got it. ROS (high): It was me who hadn't got it! GUIL: But if he gave it to me there no reason why you should have had it in the first place, in which case I don't see what all the fuss is about you not having it. ROS (pause): I admit its confusing. GUIL: This Is all getting rather undisciplined.... The boat, the night, the sense of isolation and uncertainty ... all these induce a loosening of the concentration. We must not lose control. Tighten up. Now. Either you have lost the letter or you didn't have It to lose in the first place, in which case the King never gave it to you, in which case he gave it to me, in which case I would have put it into my inside top pocket, in which case (calmly producing the letter) ... it will be ... hem. (They smile at each other.) We mustn't drop off like that again. Pause. ROS takes the letter gently from him. ROS: Now that we have found it, why were we looking for it? GUIL (thinks): We thought it was lost. ROS: Something else? GUIL: No.

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Deflation. ROS: Now we've lost the tension. GUIL: What tension? ROS: What was the last thing I said before we wandered off? GUIL: When was that? ROS (helplessly): I can't remember. GUIL (leaping up): What a shambles! We're just not getting anywhere. ROS (mournfully): Not even England. I don't believe in it anyway. GUIL: What? ROS: England. GUIL: Just a conspiracy of cartographers, you mean? ROS: I mean I don't believe it! (Calmer.) I have no image. I try to picture us arriving, a little harbour perhaps . . . roads inhabitants to point the way ... horses on the road ... riding for a day or a fortnight and then a palace and the English king. . . . That would be the logical kind of thing. . . . But my mind remains a blank. No. We're slipping off the map. GUIL: Yes. . . yes. . . . (Rallying.) But you don't believe anything till it happens. And it has all happened. Hasn't it? ROS: We drift down time, clutching at straws. But what good's a brick to a drowning man? GUIL: Don't give up, we can't be long now. ROS: We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat? GUIL: No, no, no . . - Death is . - - not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not-be on a boat. ROS: I've frequently not been on boats. GUIL: No, no, no-what you've been is not on boats. ROS: I wish I was dead. (Considers the drop.) I could jump over the side. That would put a spoke in their wheel. GUIL: Unless they're counting on it. ROS: I shall remain on board. That'll put a spoke in their wheel. (The futility of it, fury.) All right! We don't question, we don't doubt. We perform. But a line must be drawn somewhere, and I would like to put it on record that I have no confidence in England. Thank you. (Thinks about this.) And even if it's true, it'll just be another shambles. GUIL: I don't see why. ROS (furious): He won't know what we're talking about.-What are we going to say? GUIL: We say-Your majesty, we have arrived!

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ROS (kingly): And who are you? GUIL: We are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. ROS (barks): Never heard of you! GUIL: Well, we're nobody special ROS (regal and nasty): What's your game? GUIL: We've got our instructions ROS: First I've heard of it GUIL (angry): Let me finish- (Humble.) We've come from Denmark. ROS: What do you want? GUIL: Nothing-we're delivering Hamlet ROS: Who's he? GUIL (irritated): You've heard of him ROS: Oh, I've heard of him all right and I want nothing to do with it. GUIL: But ROS: You march in here without so much as a by-your-leave and expect me to take in every lunatic you try to pass off with a lot of unsubstantiated GUIL: We've got a letter ROS snatches it and tears it open. ROS (efficiently): I see ... I see ... well, this seems to support your story such as it is---it is an exact command from the king of Denmark, for several different reasons, importing Denmark's health and England's too, that on the reading of this letter, without delay, I should have Hamlet's head cut off----! GUIL snatches the letter. ROS, double-taking, snatches it back. GUIL snatches it half back. They read it together, and separate. Pause. They are well downstage looking front. ROS: The sun's going down. It will be dark soon. GUIL: Do you think so? ROS: I was just making conversation. (Pause.) We're his friends. GUIL: How do you know? ROS: From our young days brought up with him. GUIL: You've only got their word for it.

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ROS: But that's what we depend on. GUIL: Well, yes, and then again no. (Airily.) Let us keep things in proportion. Assume, if you like, that they're going to kill him. Well, he is a man, he is mortal, death comes to us all, etcetera, and consequently he would have died anyway, sooner or later. Or to look at it from the social point of view-he's just one man among many, the loss would be well within reason and convenience. 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. It might be ... very nice. Certainly it is a release from the burden of life, and, for the godly, a haven and a reward. Or to look at it another way-we are little men, we don't know the ins and outs of the matter, there are wheels within wheels, etcetera-it would be presumptuous of us to interfere with the designs of fate or even of kings. All in all, I think we'd be well advised to leave well alone. Tie up the letter-there-neatly-like that.-They won't notice the broken seal, assuming you were in character. ROS: But what's the point? GUIL: Don't apply logic. ROS: He's done nothing to us. GUIL: Or justice. ROS: It's awful. GUIL: But it could have been worse. I was beginning to think was. (And his relief comes out in a laugh.) Behind them HAMLET appears from behind the umbrella. light has been going. Slightly. HAMLET is going to the lantern. ROS: The position as I see it, then. We, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, from our young days brought up with him awakened by a man standing on his saddle, are summoned, and arrive, and are instructed to glean what afflicts him draw him on to pleasures, such as a play, which unfortunately, as it turns out, is abandoned in some confusion owing to certain nuances outside our appreciation -which, among other causes, results in, among other effects, a high, not to say, homicidal, excitement in Hamlet, whom we, in consequence, are escorting, for his own good, to England. Good. We're on top of it now. HAMLET blows out the lantern. The stage goes pitch black. The black resolves itself to moonlight, by which HAMLET approaches the sleeping ROS and GUIL. He extracts the letter and takes it behind his umbrella; the light of his lantern shines through the fabric, HAMLET emerges again with a letter, an and replaces it, and retires, blowing out his lantern. Morning comes. ROS watches it coming- from. the auditorium. Behind him gay sight. Beneath the re-tilted umbrella, reclining in a deck-chair, wrapped in a rug, reading a book, possibly smoking, sits HAMLET. ROS watches the morning come, and brighten to high noon. ROS: I'm assuming nothing. (He stands up. GUIL wakes.) The position as I see it, then. That's west unless we're off course, in which case it's night; the King gave me the same as you, the King gave you the same as me; the King never gave me the letter, the King gave you the letter, we don't know what's in the letter; we take Hamlet to the English king, it depending on when we get there who he is, and we hand over the letter, which may or may not have something in to keep us

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going, and if not, we are finished and at a loose end, if they have loose ends. We could have done worse. I don't think we missed any chances.... Not that we're getting much help. (He sits down again. They lie downprone.) If we stopped breathing we'd vanish. The muffled sound of a recorder. They sit up with disproportionate interest. GUIL: Here we go. ROS: Yes, but what? They listen to the music. GUIL (excitedly): Out of the void, finally, a sound; while on a boat (admittedly) outside the action (admittedly) the perfect and absolute silence of the wet lazy slap of water against water and the rolling creak of timber-breaks; giving rise at once to the speculation or the assumption or the hope that something is about to happen; a pipe is heard. One of the sailors has pursed his lips against a woodwind, his fingers and thumb governing, shall we say, the ventages, whereupon, giving it breath, let us say, with his mouth, it, the pipe, discourses, as the saying goes, most eloquent music. A thing like that, it could change the course of events. (Pause.) Go and see what it is. ROS: It's someone playing on a pipe. GUIL: Go and find him. ROS: And then what? GUIL: I don't know-request a tune. ROS: What for? GUIL: Quick-before we lose our momentum. ROS: Why!---something is happening. It had quite escaped my attention! No listens: Makes a stab at an exit. Listens more carefully: Changes direction. GUIL takes no notice. ROS wanders about trying to decide where the music comes from. Finally he tracks it downunwillingly--to the middle barrel. There is no getting away from it. He turns to GUIL who takes no notice. ROS, during this whole business, never quite breaks into articulate speech. His face and his hands indicate his incredulity. He stands gazing at the middle barrel. The pipe plays on within. He kicks the barrel. The pipe stops. He leaps back towards GUIL. The pipe starts up again. He approaches the barrel cautiously. He lifts the The music is louder. He slams down the lid. The music is softer. He goes back towards GUIL. But a drum starts, muffled. He freezes. He turns. Considers the left-hand barrel. The drumming goes on within, in time to the flute. He walks towards GUIL. He opens his mouth to speak. Doesn't make it. A lute is heard. He spins round at the third barrel. More instruments join in. Until it is quite inescapable that inside the three barrels, distributed, playing together a familiar tune which has been heard three times before, are the TRAGEDIANS. They play on. ROS sits beside GUIL. They stare ahead. The tune comes to an end. Pause. ROS: I thought I heard a band. (In anguish.) plausibility is all I presume! GUIL (coda): Call us this day our daily tune....

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The lid of the middle barrel flies open and the PLAYER'S head pops out. PLAYER: Ahal All in the same boat, then! (He climbs out. He goes round banging on the barrels.) Everybody out! Impossibly, the TRAGEDIANS climb out of the barrels. With their instruments, but not their cart. A few bundles. Except ALFRED. The PLAYER is cheerful. (TO ROS:) Where are we? ROS: Travelling. PLAYER: Of course, We haven't got there yet. ROS: Are we all right for England? PLAYER: You look all right to me. I don't think they're very particular in England. Al-l-fred! ALFRED emerges from the PLAYERs barrel. GUIL: What are you doing here? PLAYER: Travelling. (TO TRAGEDIANS:) Right-blend into the background! The TRAGEDIANS are in costume (from the mime): A King with crown, ALFRED as Queen, Poisoner and the two cloaked figures. They blend. (TO GUIL:) Pleased to see us? (Pause.) You've come out of it very well, so far. GUIL: And you? PLAYER: In disfavour. Our play offended the King. GUIL: Yes. PLAYER: Well, he's a second husband himself. Tactless, really. ROS: It was quite a good play nevertheless. PLAYER: We never really got going-it was getting quite interesting when they stopped It. Looks up at HAMLET That's the way to travel. . . . GUIL: What were you doing In there? PLAYER: Hiding, (indicating costumes.) We had to run for it just as we were. ROS: Stowaways. PLAYER: Naturally-we didn't get paid, owing to circumstances ever so slightly beyond our control, and all the money we had we lost betting on certainties.

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Life is a gamble, at terrible odds-if it was a bet you wouldn't take it. Did you know that any number doubled is even? ROS: Is It? PLAYER: We learn something every day, to our cost. But we troupers just go on and on. Do you know what happens to old actors? ROS: What? PLAYER: Nothing. They're still acting. Surprised, then? GUIL: What? PLAYER: Surprised to see us? GUIL: I knew it wasn't the end. PLAYER: With practically everyone on his feet. What do you make of it, so far? GUIL: We haven't got much to go on. PLAYER: You speak to him? ROS: It's possible. GUIL: But it wouldn't make any difference. ROS: But it's possible. GUIL: Pointless. ROS: It's allowed. GUIL: Allowed, yes. We are not restricted. No boundaries have been defined, no inhibitions imposed We have, for the while, secured, or blundered into, our release, for the while. Spontaneity and whim are the order of the day. Other wheels are turning but they are not our concern. We can breathe. We can relax. We can do what we like and say what we like to whomever we like an say what we like to whomever we like, without restriciton. ROS: Within limits, of course GUIL: Certainly within limits. HAMLET Comes down to footlights and regards the audience. The others watch but don't speak. HAMLET clears his throat noisily and spits into the audience. A split second later he claps his hand to his eye and wipes himself. He goes back upstage. ROS: A compulsion towards philosophical introspection is his chief characteristic, if I may put it like that. It does not mean he is mad. It does not mean he isn't. Very often, it does not mean anything at all. Which May Or may not be a kind of madness. GUIL: It really boils down to symptoms. Pregnant replies, mystic allusions, mistaken identities, arguing his father is 116 his mother, that sort of thing; intimations of suicide, forgoing of exercise, loss of mirth, hints of claustrophobia not to say delusions of imprisonment; invocations of camels,

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chameleons, capons, whales, weasels, hawks, handsaws--riddles, quibbles and evasions; amnesia, paranoia, myopia; daydreaming, hallucinations; stabbing his elders, abusing his parents, insulting his lover, and appearing hatless In public--knock-kneed droop- stockinged and sighing like a love-sick schoolboy, which at his age is coming on a bit strong. ROS: And talking to himself. ROS and GUIL move apart together. Well, where has that got US? ROS: He's the Player. GUIL: His play offended the King--ROS:--offended the King GUIL: -Who orders his arrest ROS: --orders his arrest GUIL: --so he escapes to England ROS: On the boat to which he meets GUIL: Guildenstern and Rosencrantz taking Hamlet---- ROS: -who also offended the King --GUIL: -and killed Polonius ROS: --offended the King in a variety of ways--- GUIL: --to England. (Pause.) That seems to be it. ROS jumps up. ROS: Incidents! All we get is incidents! Dear God, is it too much to expect a little sustained action? And on the word, the PIRATES attack. That is to say. Noise and shouts and rushing about. "Pirates."' Everyone visible goes frantic. HAMLET draws his sword and rushes downstage. GUIL, ROS and PLAYER draw Swords and rush upstage. Collision. HAMLET turns back up. They turn back down. Collision. By which time there is general panic right upstage. All four charge upstage with ROS, GUIL and PLAYER shouting: At last! To arms! Pirates! Up there! Down there! To my sword's length! Action! All four reach the top, see something they don't like, waver, run for their lives downstage: HAMLET, in the lead, leaps into the left barrel. PLAYER leaps into the right barrel. ROS and GUIL leap into the middle barrel. All closing the lids after them. The lights dim to nothing while the sound of fighting continues. The sound fades to nothing. The lights come up. The middle barrel (ROS's and GUIL'S) is Missing. The lid of the right-hand barrel is raised cautiously, the heads Of ROS and GUIL appear. The lid of the other barrel (HAMLET'S) is raised. The head

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of the PLAYER appears. All catch sight of each other and slam down lids. Pause. Lids raised cautiously. ROS (relief): They've gone. (He starts to climb out.) That was close. I've never thought quicker. They are all three out of barrels. GUIL is wary and nervous. ROS is light-headed. The PLAYER is phlegmatic. They note the missing barrel. ROS looks round. ROS: Where's-------? PLAYER takes off his hat in mourning. PLAYER: Once more, alone--on our own resources. GUIL (worried): What do you mean? Where is he? PLAYER: Gone. GUIL: Gone where? PLAYER: Yes, we were dead lucky there. If that's the word I'm after. ROS: (not a pick up): Dead? PLAYER: Lucky. ROS (he means): Is he dead? PLAYER: Who knows? GUIL (rattled): He's not coming back? PLAYER: Hardly. ROS: He's dead then. He's dead as far as we're concerned. PLAYER: Or we are as far as he is. (He goes and sits on the floor to one side.) Not too bad, is it? GUIL (rattled): But he can't-we're supposed to be-weve 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.... GUIL (worked up): Can't you see-the pirates left us home and high--dry and home- drome--(Furiously.) The pirates left us high and dry! PLAYER (comforting): There ... GUIL (near tears): Nothing will be resolved without him....

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PLAYER: There ... GUIL: We need Hamlet for our release! PLAYER: There! GUIL: What are we supposed to do? PLAYER: This. He turns away, lies down if he likes. ROS and GUIL apart. ROS: Saved again. GUIL: Saved for what? ROS sighs. ROS: The sun's going down. (Pause.) Itll be night soon. (Pause.) If that's west. (Pause.) Unless we've----GUIL (shouts): Shut up! I'm sick of it! Do you think conversation is going to help us now? ROS (hurt, desperately ingratiating): I-I bet you all the money I've got the year of my birth doubled is an odd number. GUIL (moan): No-o. ROS: Your birth! GUIL Smashes him down. GUIL (broken): We've travelled too far, and our momentum taken over; we move idly towards eternity without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation. ROS: Be happy-if you're not even happy whats so good about surviving? (He picks himself up.) We'll be all right. I suppose we just go on. GUIL: Go where? ROS: To England. GUIL: England! That's a dead end. I never believed in it anyway. ROS: All we've got to do is make our report and that'll be that. Surely. GUIL: I don't believe it--a shore, a harbour, say-and we get off and we stop someone and say-Where's the King?. And he says, Oh, you follow that road there and take the first left and (Furiously.) I dont believe any of it ROS: It doesn't sound very plausible. GUIL: And even if we came face to face, what do we say? ROS: We say-We've arrived!

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GUIL (kingly): And who are you? ROS: We are Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. GUIL: Which is which? ROS: Well, I'm-You're-- GUIL: What's it all about? ROS: Well, we were bringing Hamlet-but then some pirates--GUIL: I don't begin to understand. Who are all these people, what's it got to do with me? You turn up out of the blue with some cock and bull story---ROS (with letter): We have a letter GUIL (snatches it, opens it): A letter-yes-that's true. That's something . . . a letter ... (Reads.) "As England is Denmark's faithful tributary ... as love between them like the palm might flourish, etcetera ... that on the knowing of this contents, without delay of any kind, should those bearers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, put to sudden death---" He double-takes. ROS snatches the letter. GUIL snatches it back. ROS snatches it half back. They read it again and look up The PLAYER gets to his feet and walks over to his barrel and kicks it and shouts into it. PLAYER: They've gone! It's all over! One by one the PLAYERS emerge, impossibly, from the barrel, and form a casually menacing circle round ROS and GUIL, Who are still appalled and mesmerised. GUIL (quietly): Where we went wrong was getting on a boat. We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movement is contained within a larger one that carries us along as inexorably as the wind and current.... ROS: They had it in for us, didn't they? Right from the beginning. Who'd have thought that we were so important? GUIL: But why? Was it all for this? Who are we that so much should converge on our little deaths? (In anguish to the PLAYER:) Who are we? PLAYER: You are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. That's enough. GUIL: No-it is not enough. To be told so little--to such an end and still, finally, to be denied an explanation PLAYER: In our experience, most things end in death. GUIL: (fear, vengeance, scorn): Your experience!-Actorsi! He snatches a dagger from the PLAYER's belt and holds the point at the PLAYER'S throat: the PLAYER backs and GUIL advances, speaking more quietly. I'm talking about death-and you've never experienced that. And you cannot act it. You die a thousand casual deaths-with none of that intensity which squeezes out life ... and no blood runs cold anywhere. Because even as you die you know that you will come back Is a different hat. But no one gets up after death-there is

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no applause-there is only silence and some second-hand clothes and that's-death- And he pushes the blade in up to the hilt. The PLAYER stands with huge, terrible eyes, clutches at the wound as the blade withdraws: he makes small weeping sounds and falls to his knees, and then right down. While he Is dying, GUIL, nervous, high, almost hysterical, wheels on the TRAGEDIANS If we have a destiny, then so had he-and if this is ours, then that was his-and if there are no explanations for us, then let there be none for him The TRAGEDIANS watch the PLAYER die: they watch with some Interest. The PLAYER finally ties still. A short moment of silence. Then the TRAGEDIANS start to applaud with genuine admiration. The PLAYER stands up, brushing himself down. PLAYER (modestly): Oh, come, come, gentlemen-no flattery-it was merely competent The TRAGEDIANS are still congratulating him. The PLAYER approaches GUIL, who stands rooted, holding the dagger. PLAYER: What did you think? (Pause.) You see, it is the kind they do believe in- it's what is expected. He holds his hand out for the dagger. GUIL Slowly puts the point of the dagger on to the PLAYER's hand, and pushes . the blade slides back into the handle. The PLAYER smiles, reclaims the dagger. For a moment you thought I'd-cheated. ROS relieves his own tension with loud nervy laughter. ROS: Oh, very good! Very good! Took me in completely-didn't he take you in completely--(claps his hands). Encore! Encore! PLAYER (activated, arms spread, the professional): Deaths for all ages and occasions! Deaths by suspension, convulsion, consumption, incision, execution, asphyxiation and malnutrition-! Climactic carnage, by poison and by steel---! Double deaths by duel-! Show!--ALFRED, still in his Queen's costume, dies by poison: the PLAYER, with rapier, kills the "KING" and duels with a fourth TRAGEDIAN, inflicting and receiving a wound. The two remaining TRAGEDIANS, the two "SPIES" dressed in the same coats as ROS and GUIL, are stabbed, as before. And the light is fading over the deaths which take place right upstage. (Dying amid the dying-tragically, romantically.) So there's an end to that---it's commonplace: light goes with life, and in the winter of your years the dark comes early.... GUIL (tired, drained, but still an edge of impatience; over the mime): No ... no ... not for us, not like that. Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over ... Death is not anything ... death is not - . . It's the absence of presence, nothing more ... the endless time of never coming back ... a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound. . The light has gone upstage. Only GUIL and ROS are visible as ROS's clapping falters to silence. A Small pause. ROS: That's it, then, is it?

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No answer. He looks out front. The sun's going down. Or the earth's coming up, as I fashionable theory has it. Small pause. Not that it makes any difference. Pause. What was it all about? When did it begin? Pause. No answer. Couldn't we just stay put? I mean no one is going to come on and drag us off .... They'll just have to wait. We're still young ... fit ... we've got years. . . . Pause. No answer. (A cry.) We've done nothing wrong! We didn't harm anyone. Did we? GUIL: I can't remember. ROS pulls himself together. ROS: All right, then. I don't care. I've had enough. To tell truth, I'm relieved. And he disappears from View. GUIL does not notice. GUIL: Our names shouted in a certain dawn ... a message . summons ... There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said-no. But some missed it. (He looks round and sees he is alone.) Rosen-? Guil-? He gathers himself. Well, we'll know better next time. Now you see me, now you (and disappears). Immediately the whole stage is lit up, revealing, upstage, arranged in the approximate positions last held by the dead TRAGEDIANS, the tableau of court and corpses which is he last scene of Hamlet. That is: The KING, QUEEN, LAERTES and HAMLET all dead. HORATIO holds HAMLET. FORTINBRAS is there. So are two AMBASSADORS from England. AMBASSADOR: The sight is dismal; and our affairs from England come too late. The ears are senseless that should give us hearing to tell him his commandment is fulfilled, that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Where should we have our thanks? HORATIO: Not from his mouth, had it the ability of life to thank you: He never gave commandment for their death. But since, so jump upon this bloody question, you from the Polack wars, and you from England, are here arrived, give order that these bodies high on a stage be placed to the view; and let me speak to the yet unknowing world how these things came about: so shall you hear of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts, of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause, and, in this upshot, purposes mistook fallen on the inventors' heads: all this can I truly deliver. But during the above speech, the play fades out, overtaken by dark and music.

END