Hamlet

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
A pair of Hamlet’s old school friends whom Claudius summons to Elsinore in order to help determine the source of Hamlet’s madness. After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern admit to Hamlet’s suspicions that they were recruited by the king and queen to spy on him, Hamlet accuses them of being “sponge[s]” who let themselves be taken advantage of by doing Claudius’s dirty work. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are killed after Hamlet learns that Claudius is trying to have him executed, and forges a letter in Claudius’s handwriting ordering the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Quotes in Hamlet

The Hamlet quotes below are all either spoken by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or refer to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Action and Inaction Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Hamlet published in 1992.
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Related Characters: Hamlet (speaker), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Page Number: 2.2.268-270
Explanation and Analysis:
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O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Related Characters: Hamlet (speaker), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Page Number: 2.2.273-275
Explanation and Analysis:
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What a piece of work is a man, how noble in
reason, how infinite in faculties, in form, in moving
how express and admirable; in action how like
an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and
yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Related Characters: Hamlet (speaker), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Page Number: 2.2.327-332
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery… ’Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.

Related Characters: Hamlet (speaker), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Page Number: 3.2.393-402
Explanation and Analysis:
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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Character Timeline in Hamlet

The timeline below shows where the character Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appears in Hamlet. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, Scene 2
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Claudius and Gertrude warmly welcome Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of Hamlet’s childhood friends, to Elsinore. Claudius explains that in light of... (full context)
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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter and greet Hamlet. He receives them happily, seemingly excited by their presence,... (full context)
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Hamlet asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to answer him plainly, as friends, and tell him why they have returned... (full context)
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...Dramatically and sarcastically, he begins describing what the king and queen have no doubt told Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about him: that he has “lost all [his] mirth,” fallen into a depression,... (full context)
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Rosencrantz suggests that if Hamlet has lost the ability to enjoy the company of real people,... (full context)
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Hamlet wonders aloud why they’re traveling when the pay is better in the city, but Rosencrantz implies the group has fallen on hard times and slid backwards in terms of popularity... (full context)
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A trumpet sounds—the players are arriving. Hamlet exuberantly shakes the hands of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, insisting on giving them as warm a welcome as he’s about to give... (full context)
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Polonius enters and greets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet introduces Polonius to his friends as a “great baby” still in “swaddling-clouts.”... (full context)
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...Player tells Hamlet he’ll do whatever the prince asks. Polonius and the players leave, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern follow them out of the hall. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern gather in the hall of Elsinore. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell Claudius that though... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern enter. Hamlet asks if the king and queen are going to attend the... (full context)
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Trumpets sound, and Claudius enters with Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and some other members of court. Claudius greets Hamlet and asks the prince how... (full context)
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Rosencrantz informs Hamlet that the actors are ready. Gertrude asks Hamlet to sit by her during... (full context)
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...orders the players to make some music since the king didn’t care for their drama. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern reenter the hall and tell Hamlet that the king is very upset. They... (full context)
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Hamlet asks Guildenstern to take the flute from his hands and play a tune. Guildenstern insists he doesn’t... (full context)
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...he’ll be with her shortly. Polonius goes off to inform Gertrude of the news, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern follow him. Left alone, Hamlet remarks that it has become “the very witching... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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Claudius talks with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He tells them that he is so disturbed by Hamlet’s madness that he... (full context)
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After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern leave, Polonius enters and tells Claudius that Hamlet is on his way to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
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Hamlet tells Gertrude that he is bound for England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—but predicts that the message he is carrying with him is not one of... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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Gertrude, Claudius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern are gathered in the hall. Claudius asks Gertrude what’s bothering her—she asks Rosencrantz... (full context)
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Claudius calls Rosencrantz and Guildenstern back in, and orders them to go find Hamlet and bring Polonius’s body... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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After hiding Polonius’s body, Hamlet returns to the castle and runs into Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They ask him what he’s done with the body, and Hamlet replies that... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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Rosencrantz enters and tells Claudius that while Hamlet refuses to divulge where he has buried Polonius,... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
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Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern enter. Seeing the Norwegian army, Hamlet asks the captain what they’re doing there... (full context)
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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern walk ahead, but Hamlet lags behind. Alone, he states that his encounter with... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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...come for him at once. Hamlet says he has a lot to tell Horatio—especially about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are still on their way to England. Horatio hurriedly leads the sailors... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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...his journey, he felt like one, and was determined to get free. One night, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern slept, he snuck into their cabin and stole the papers they were carrying.... (full context)
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...urges Hamlet to do the deed quickly, as news of what Hamlet has done to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern will soon arrive from England. (full context)
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...the deaths of “so many princes.” The English ambassador says he’s come to announce that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead—but there is no one important left to hear the news. Horatio... (full context)