Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The famously passive protagonist of Shakespeare's play, Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark, son to Gertrude, and nephew to Claudius who goes half-mad after his father dies and his mother marries Claudius. Fearful of Hamlet's menacing mad speeches, Claudius sends Hamlet to be killed in England in the care of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. En route, Hamlet stealthily reads and rewrites Claudius' order, resulting in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's execution. As in Shakespeare's play, Stoppard's Hamlet eludes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's every attempt to gather information on him and tricks them into being executed. Yet in Stoppard's play, Hamlet is a secondary character with a fragmented presence as he wanders on and offstage. Still, though rarely onstage, Hamlet frequently features in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's dialogue as the two remain haunted and worried about their relationship to Hamlet throughout the play.

Hamlet Quotes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead quotes below are all either spoken by Hamlet or refer to Hamlet. 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:
Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead published in 1967.
Act 2 Quotes

Hamlet is not himself, outside or in.

Related Characters: Rosencrantz (speaker), Hamlet
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3 Quotes

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: we may seize the moment, toss it around while the moments pass…but we are brought round full circle to face again the single immutable fact—that we, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, bearing a letter from one king to another, are taking Hamlet to England.

Related Characters: Guildenstern (speaker), Rosencrantz, Hamlet
Related Symbols: The Boat
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

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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…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.

Related Characters: Guildenstern (speaker), Rosencrantz, Hamlet
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Hamlet Character Timeline in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The timeline below shows where the character Hamlet appears in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Individual Identity Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
...from exterior to interior. An alarmed Ophelia runs on stage followed by a piteously disheveled Hamlet. They're mute. He scrutinizes her face, then sighs. They exit. Claudius and Gertrude enter and... (full context)
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Hamlet crosses the stage reading and exits. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern practice being in character by addressing... (full context)
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The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
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Guildenstern tells Rosencrantz to go see if Hamlet's there. Rosencrantz peeks offstage where he reports seeing Hamlet talking. He wonders if they should... (full context)
Act 2
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Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet's conversation continues from the previous scene, though what they're saying is at first indecipherable. The... (full context)
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Polonius enters and calls out to them. Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that Polonius is a baby, and then walks upstage with Rosencrantz.... (full context)
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...and hawing between them. Guildenstern suggests that they "made some headway" but Rosencrantz says that Hamlet "made us look ridiculous." They assess their interaction with the prince in terms of the... (full context)
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
Remembering Hamlet's comments about the wind's direction, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to figure out which way is... (full context)
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Polonius enters and exits with Hamlet and the Tragedians. Hamlet makes arrangements with the Player for a performance of The Murder... (full context)
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The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
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Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the Player next try to pinpoint the cause of Hamlet's state, a conversation that proves equally futile: "The old man thinks he's in love with... (full context)
Individual Identity Theme Icon
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...upstage to take Rosencrantz's place with Claudius while Gertrude asks Rosencrantz about their progress with Hamlet. Guildenstern joins in too. Rosencrantz, obviously lying, tells Gertrude that Hamlet asked few questions and... (full context)
Free Will Theme Icon
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...to and fro, makes to leave stage himself. He loses confidence. Looking offstage, he notices Hamlet's coming and runs back downstage to tell Guildenstern. Guildenstern laments ever getting Hamlet "into conversation."... (full context)
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Ophelia enters with a prayerbook. Hamlet greets her and they exit talking. Guildenstern sarcastically congratulates Rosencrantz on intercepting them, then orders... (full context)
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Ophelia enters wailing and followed by a hysterically shouting Hamlet. Then addressing her and the Tragedians as well (and looking pointedly at the Player-Queen and... (full context)
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
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...her feet. The Tragedians leap back and incline their heads. Claudius speaks actual lines from Hamlet, musing on Hamlet's psychological state. He's not in love, Claudius thinks, and not mad, but... (full context)
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...marriage to his mother, turns crazy and murderous. They act out a stylized version of Hamlet's "Closet Scene" (in which Hamlet confronts Gertrude and murders Polonius). Here, the Player-King stands in... (full context)
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...can protest, Claudius calls Guildenstern's name from offstage. Claudius and Gertrude enter. Claudius explains that Hamlet has killed Polonius in madness and asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to go find Hamlet and... (full context)
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Confused again, Rosencrantz shouts for Hamlet, who comes on stage. They ask about the corpse, which Hamlet says he's compounded. When... (full context)
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...what?" Guildenstern asks. Rosencrantz breezily dismisses everything, claiming not to care, then catches sight of Hamlet offstage. Guildenstern exclaims he knew it wasn't over and that they will be taking Hamlet... (full context)
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Hamlet enters with a soldier who explains that the troops coming through are sent against Poland... (full context)
Act 3
Death Theme Icon
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The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
...off to the assumption that they've sailed north. Upstage, out of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's sight, Hamlet lights a lantern that brightens the stage enough to see. Light reveals "three large man-sized... (full context)
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The Theater Theme Icon
...to move, speak, extemporize" but not "cut loose" – they are still, as ordered, taking Hamlet to England. (full context)
Rosencrantz notices Hamlet upstage sleeping. "It's all right for him [to sleep]" Rosencrantz notes. "He's got us now,"... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
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...role-play, Guildenstern presents the letter and as Rosencrantz reads it aloud they realize it orders Hamlet's beheading. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern separate onstage, stand in silence, then remark on the weather. After... (full context)
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Guildenstern long-windedly justifies letting Hamlet be killed – he would, being mortal, have died anyway, and is just "one man... (full context)
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Morning rises on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with Hamlet behind them reading on a deck chair beneath the umbrella. Rosencrantz announces he's "assuming nothing"... (full context)
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The Player asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern if they've spoken with Hamlet. They reply: "it's possible" but "pointless." Guildenstern explains that they are without restrictions and can... (full context)
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Rosencrantz describes Hamlet's condition: "A compulsion towards philosophical introspection…It does not mean he is mad. It does not... (full context)
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...everyone on stage runs around frantically shouting with swords out in a great hullabaloo. Eventually, Hamlet, the Player, and Rosencrantz with Guildenstern jump into the three barrels on stage to hide.... (full context)
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"Immediately" the entire stage lights up and reveals the corpses of Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and Hamlet sprawled in court as in the last scene of Hamlet. The corpses are in the... (full context)