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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  85,317 ratings  ·  2,155 reviews
Hamlet told from the worm's-eye view of two minor characters, bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, reality and illusion mix, and where fate leads heroes to a tragic but inevitable end. ...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published January 21st 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1966)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  85,317 ratings  ·  2,155 reviews

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Jonathan Terrington

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

Peasant 2: Really dead?

Peasant 1: Really dead.

Peasant 2: Really?

Peasant 1: Really, really.

Peasant 2: Really, really, really?

Peasant 1: Really, really, really.

Peasant 2: Really, really, really, really?

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

Peasant 2: Pretty dead indeed.

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

Peasant 2: Fe
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a classic existentialist work by playwright Tom Stoppard which focuses on an absurdist dialog between the two minor characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Thanks to my extraordinary high school AP English teacher, I was introduced to this wonderful and funny play and it gave me more insight into the incredible complexity of the original as well as opened my eyes to modern perspectives about it. A must. ...more
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing

I first read this play either at school or at university - at any event, so long ago that I can no longer remember when - and it made me a fan of Tom Stoppard's work. Since that time I've seen productions of a number of his plays, including Arcadia (one of all time favourite pieces of theatre), Travesties and Rock 'n' Roll. However, until last night I'd not seen a production of this play, which kickstarted Stoppard's career as a playwright when it was staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1
Jul 04, 2014 rated it liked it
First performed in 1966, Stoppard's short metatheatrical tragicomedy takes place on the margins of Shakespeare's most famous work: the story tracks the titular pair of friends as circumstances beyond their control land them in increasingly absurd scenarios, until their sudden and inexplicable deaths terminate the action of the play. Interruption and repetition characterize the dialogue, while confusion rules the scenes. The narrative's evasiveness makes for a disorienting but stimulating viewing ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”

I have seen this play, Tom Stoppard’s first major play, I think three times over the years and twice on the same day as Hamlet, with actors playing their parts in both plays. Since I had just heard a production of Hamlet on audiotape, I decided to reread this play, which is a kind of comic/existentialist/abs
ROSENCRANTZ: Here we go again.

GUILDENSTERN: But I thought we were...?



ROSENCRANTZ: No such luck.

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

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



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

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

TRUMP: You'r
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, though especially lovers of Shakespeare. Or snark. That works as well.
Brilliant. It's fitting to choose the British designation for how wonderful I think this play is, I believe. This play manages to be absolutely stand on its own hilarious, as well as a thoughtful meditation on many issues at the same time. It pushes neither on the viewer/reader on its own, nor predominantly. The satire is executed near flawlessly, and the comedic sensitivity (even in the saddest moments of the farce) could not be more on target. I very much usually wish to have some criticism to ...more
Liz Janet
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
An absurdest play with two idiot main characters and one of the most profound quotes of all time “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Each of us is the star of our own life. You may be a bit part in someone else’s narrative, but in your own mind, yours is the story that matters. Or you may struggle to find meaning in your own life, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this play by Tom Stoppard.

Last night I attended a live broadcast of the National Theatre production, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Josh McGuire. The set was very simple and the dialog was copious and delivered rapidly. I couldn’t help but admire how well they kne
Jul 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoyed Hamlet
I watched this movie years ago and thought it was hilarious so I thought I'd check out the play that inspired the film. It's the ramblings of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern while Hamlet goes unnoticed, or at least misunderstood, by them in the background. In far over their heads, both in thematic prose and plot progression, what makes this play so hilarious is the irony. One of the few times irony can truly be claimed: the reader is aware of a humor lost on the characters when we have the foreknow ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, plays, favorites
Karmic retribution for false friends...Hamlet: "Thou hast killed me in thine heart...and now in my true heart let thy execution take place; to false friendship - a dungeon that neither you nor I shall be condemned to...let thy execution be my final act of friendship." (So sorry Bill!) ...more
Steven Godin
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have to say, right off the bat, that Stoppards's Arcadia is simply the best play I have read to date.
But this isn't far behind. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is an exceptionally good piece of writing - a youthful prank bursting with theatrical mischief and literary flair. Stoppard's philosophizing playfulness here is clearly indebted to the music hall absurdism of Beckett's Waiting for Godot, a play I much admire also. His writing is just so crystal clear and pristine, and it's lost no
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Laura, Wanda et al

Description: Hamlet told from the worm's-eye view of two minor characters, bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, reality and illusion mix, and where fate leads heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.

A revisit via youtube:

Youtube is handy but in this case I crave the DVD to play on the eight foot screen.

Riku Sayuj
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Probably the profoundest of all modern plays that I have read... pondering if I can manage to write a review that will do it justice.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really looooved this play the first time around and I am quite bummed out that it didn't work out upon my reread. I absolutely adored the first act, which I thought was awfully cleverly written and had some amazing one-liners and (gay!) banter that would have made Oscar Wilde envious, but the rest of the play seemed lazily plotted-through and ultimately fell flat. The hilarious dynamic between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that was set up in the first act, didn't quite make its way into the sec ...more
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultured
After many a viewing of Tom Stoppard’s film adaption of his play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” (many… many… viewings… I mean, c’mon… Tim Roth and Gary Oldman circa 1990? uh… yeah!) I thought that it might make a nice, light, summer read. Right. I should have just picked up the new James Patterson.

I’m not complaining… no way no how. This play is awesome. Ros and Guil, Guil and Ros… they are two parts of one big bumbling(?), bewitching oaf. I just want to hug them and ruffle their hair
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
My brain is a bad actor.

I know it's a bad actor because I read this play and the performance it gave totally fell flat. It messed up all the punchlines. Often it had to go back to read parts that it misread. It even got bored during the middle part and totally phoned in the performance of the first half of the third act. It totally ruined this play for me with its terrible one-note performance. Stupid, stupid brain.

Luckily for me, Tom Stoppard directed a moving pictures version of his play, star
Paul E. Morph
This has been my favourite play since I first studied it for English Lit 'A' Level waaaaayyy back in 1993. I've returned to it again and again over the years and it still blows me away every time. This is as close to written perfection as I've ever read. I absolutely love every line.


I've just got back from watching this performed by Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig. What a fantastic production! They really did it justice.
David Sarkies
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modernist
The Certainty of Death
26 July 2011

I liked the film of this play so much that when I was wondering through a secondhand bookshop and saw a copy on the shelf I snatched it up immediately. One of the reasons was because I wanted to actually read the play upon which the film was based (and remembering that the playwright also made the film), and it does seem to be quite faithful. However, unlike the film, the action of Hamlet, around which this play is based, has been pushed further into the backgr
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was another charming variation on a Shakespearean theme, a dissonant song cycle extending out from familiar material. One rife with pauses and silence. Beckett in Elsinore.

I did not think this the genius to which many have ascribed.
Then again, I am old.

I did find the humor deft and the existential exploration of the verb to act most effective, a playful weaving of definitions underscored by a plaintive glance at the heavens, waiting for stage directions. George Bernard Shaw was an Irishm
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like wordplay/puns, philosophy or theatre buffs.
"We do onstage the things that are suppose to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else."

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead can be seen as Stoppard's answer to the question what are the minor characters of the play Hamlet doing while the tragic prince is agonizing and plotting? Stoppard's simple answer is "nothing".

R and G spend there time playing word games, musing on the nature of death and fate, and try--desperately and futilely--t
Oct 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-degree
background characters.

you don't think about them much.
(unless you're a harry potter fan i guess)

but they're seething.

they have their own stories.
they have their own explorations, philosophies, existential breaks.
all this goes unnoticed.

but worse! but more importantly! ----
because who cares about the thoughts of a background character, come on come the fuck on come ON ----
they have their own perspective on the real story

and it is not what you expect.
and you have no idea.
no idea.
May 30, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead......then why write a 93 page play about them? I get it, it was the 60's people were high and found most things intellectually amusing, witty and necessarily redundant in an avante-garde sort of way. But seriously why? I found the play dragged and it didnt make me laugh.

My advice only read this book if you are a hipster as it is much easier to roll a copy of this up and cram into the back pocket of your skinny jeans than a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces.
Autumn Christian
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
“Actors! The mechanics of cheap melodrama! That isn't death! You scream and choke and sink to your knees but it doesn't bring death 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.”

I didn't know anything about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead going in (Except having read Hamlet several times, and having the excellent recommendation from a friend) so what I believe this book is about and what it's intention may be
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a genius play of the behind the scenes of Shakespeare's play Hamlet. The plot follows two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildensertn, as they engage with the main characters of the play. From the first page to the last, Stoppard offers us new perspective to one of the most read plays in the world. What I enjoyed the most is the sophisticated dialogue and the subtle humour that permeates throughout the play. While Stoppard remains true to the original, he adds a new dimension to other ...more
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I never feel fully qualified to review books of this caliber with any hope to encompass everything they stand for. But Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is approachable and easy and terribly difficult to spell, as far as a book can be classified as approachable. And I feel like saying a few words on it won't result in a lynch mob.

When we are taught to look at a known scene with fresh eyes / from a fresh perspective in Creative Writing classes, it's commonplace to immediately leap to inanimate objects
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
The best way to go about this book is by going blind. The surprise that arrives in terms of characters introduced in the second act is enough to put bring out the giggle fest.

Narrated by two characters from the play Hamlet, the story isn't much of a story but the existential crisis the two of them (and some!) face. They spend time playing games: tossing coin to word games and watching a "performance" to being part of a "performance". The two "Ros" and "Guil" explore the themes Shakespeare himse
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This re-read could not have come at a better time deep in the midst of existential crisis #522. This is the clever tragicomic meta-play of two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet. They are summoned, they bumble about, they play questions, they are entirely confounded by the hubbub surrounding the "much transformed" Prince of Denmark, and then they are sent to their feeble deaths as demanded by the grand scheme of the play. While the dialogue and physical antics of Rosencrantz, Guildenster ...more
Having read the play I am now totally enchanted by Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead.

Rosecrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead follows two minor characters from "Hamlet" as all the action from that play sweeps around them. It is absurd, funny, sad and poignant by turns.

Sir Tom Stoppard is quite possibly the greatest playwright of the 20th Century.

I can't wait to watch the filmed version that I got from the library.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-en, 2011, plays
Excellent. I cannot believe I gave up watching the film a while ago (especially since it featured one of my two favourite Tims in the world). I suspect watching a live performance would indeed be a 5 star experience.
I loved Stoppard's wit so much, I could quote him endlessly. And of course, discuss existentialism over a bottle of dry red.
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright. Born Tomáš Straussler. See ...more

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