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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Paperback – January 21, 1994

4.4 out of 5 stars 178 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A coruscatingly brilliant, endlessly thought-provoking masterpiece.”Wall Street Journal

“This is a most remarkable play. Very funny. Very brilliant. Very chilling.”New York Times

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead [is] verbally dazzling . . . the most exciting, witty intellectual treat imaginable.”—Edith Oliver, New Yorker

About the Author

Tom Stoppard's work includes" Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (Tony Award), "Jumpers", "Travesties" (Tony Award), "Night and Day", "After Margritte", "The Real Thing" (Tony Award), "Enter a Free Man", "Hapgood", "Arcadia" ("Evening Standard" Award, The Oliver Award and the Critics Award), " Indian Ink" (a stage adaptation of his own play, "In the Native State") and "The Invention of Love".

Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (January 21, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802132758
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802132758
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Stoppard is the author of such seminal works as Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Travesties, Every Good Boy Deserves a Favor, Arcadia, Jumpers, The Real Thing, and The Invention of Love.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
R&G Are Dead has much to recommend it. It is the story of two of the bit players from Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. If you haven't read or seen Hamlet, the book will probably not be of much interest, but, in a nutshell, R&G are Hamlet's school chums who are called to Denmark by Hamlet's uncle, the King of Denmark, given the task of cheering him up and, when this fails, and the King realizes that Hamlet is a threat to his life, are given the task of sending Hamlet to his death. Hamlet turns the tables on this plot and has R&G killed instead.
R&G, although bit players, are actually in a surprising number of scenes (most of which are cut out from stage and film productions of Hamlet) and this play, interweaving these scenes with others, produces a rich picture of these two characters, entirely missing from Shakespeare's epic play.
The most obviously interesting part of this work is its attempt to explain why these characters die. When you learn at the end of Hamlet that R&G have died, you are left with a nagging sensation that something is wrong. This play fleshes this out. All of Shakespeare's tragedies are, by definition, bloody (as the Players in this work make evidently clear) but R&G's deaths are not demanded by the plot or by the passions of any of the characters.
We do not dwell on R&G's deaths in Hamlet because more important and tragic events consume us. This book makes us focus on the gratuitousness of R&G's deaths. In addition, it makes their deaths as tragic as those of the main characters in Hamlet by putting them the center of the story. Of course, we do not get any real answers as to why these characters die. Other than by changing the story of Hamlet, there can be no answer to this question.
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Format: Paperback
A previous reviewer condemned this book as being derivative, poorly written, and -- most scandalous of all -- unfunny. This play, however, takes a certain kind of outlook to enjoy. It would be nice if everyone could get the same benefits from the play as everyone else. That's not going to happen, however. One thing we CAN depend on is that the point remains the same. This is the only existentialist play apart from _Waiting For Godot_ that even has pretensions of wit. Since it's a known fact that people learn more when they're laughing, it makes it easier to convey the play's inner message of whether we are free as individuals, whether we are capable of making our own decisions apart from our society, and whether that freedom even matters once a decision has been made by (for?) us. Worth reading, but not everyone will be equally entertained.
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Format: Paperback
In this play Tom Stoppard has pulled two minor characters from Hamlet and given us a glimpse of what may lay behind the mundane exteriors of everyday life and more importantly the limits of possibility of meaning contained in the world of literature. What is important about this is that Stoppard is showing us that the lives of common people and minor characters can also make for some great literature too.

Philosophically, I would tend to say that this play is securely grounded in the genre that has been called the Theater of the Absurd, which in turn owes much to the thinking of Albert Camus. Having said this, I have to say that this play has some definite similarities with the works of Beckett, especially Godot, but also that of Harold Pinter's, "The Birthday Party", especially in terms of dialogue, plot direction, and character development. So if you like the work of these playwrights you would certainly enjoy this, which would also be of great interest to Shakespeare students/fans as well as anyone interested in the ideas of existentialist thought.

Despite these similarities R&G and at the same time because of them, this work seems at times to be conscious of breaking new ground and testing the limits of absurdity and interaction with the audience. The symbolism, for example, seems to be much more important to the action and meaning of this play than it is in other works of this genre. Whereas, Godot seems to stress the repetitiveness of dialogue, R&G is suggestive of just the opposite--the seemingly endless play of meaning implicit in each uttered word. This comes out through the characters lack of confidence in what they struggle to say, and the way that their views seem to change with each situation, which illustrates the uncertainty of meaning and life.
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Format: Paperback
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unnecessary characters. Everything they do in the play could have been done by already existing characters. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not individual characters in this play. There is no Rosencrantz; there is no Guildenstern. There is only Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Shakespeare put them in to resemble the outside world, not to establish actual characters to add to the depth of the play. Tom Stoppard wrote "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" in order to give the duo their own separate personalities. He, just as Shakespeare did, has them resemble our own world. R&G are modern men in a very modern play. Stoppard contradicts Shakespeare by justifying Hamlet's death just as Shakespeare had Hamlet justify R&G's deaths, "He is a man, he is mortal, death comes to us all, etcetera, and consequently he would have died anyway, sooner or later . . . he's just one man among many" (Stoppard 110). Shakespeare uses the same words only to justify the murderous actions of Hamlet, "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!" (3.4.32). Through Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Stoppard tells of the reality of death how "death is . . . not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being" (Stoppard 108). Whereas Shakespeare creates a fantasy about death, as Hamlet says, "To die, to sleep-to sleep, perchance to dream" (6.3.64-65). In direct opposition with Hamlet's "to be or not to be", Stoppard writes, "Rosencrantz: Where's it going to end? Guildenstern: That's the question" (Stoppard 44). The beauty in this writing is found in its existentialistic views, whether or not Stoppard intended his play to portray life in that manner. If you enjoy "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", you will love "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett. ~ anthea
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