Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Jaded, domineering, loud-mouthed and long-winded, the Player is the leader of the Tragedians and frequently expounds on the view that humanity's only real understanding of death is as a melodramatic death on stage. Though Rosencrantz and especially Guildenstern resist his cynical perspectives, the Player and his troupe reappear again and again to undermine all traces of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's idealism and encourage their darkest views on the essential meaninglessness of human life.

The Player Quotes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead quotes below are all either spoken by The Player or refer to The Player. 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 1 Quotes

We have no control. Tonight we play to the court. Or the night after. Or to the tavern. Or not.

Related Characters: The Player (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2 Quotes

You don't understand the humiliation of it—to be tricked out of the single assumption which makes our existence viable—that somebody is watching

Related Characters: The Player (speaker), Rosencrantz, Guildenstern
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: The Player (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Coin
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

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Do you call that an ending?—with practically everyone on his feet? My goodness no—over your dead body.

Related Characters: The Player (speaker), Rosencrantz, Guildenstern
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

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It's what the actors do best. They have to exploit whatever talent is given to them, and their talent is dying.

Related Characters: The Player (speaker)
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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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 the shell of mortality.

Related Characters: The Player (speaker)
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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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…so I got permission to have him hanged in the middle of a play…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!

Related Characters: The Player (speaker)
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3 Quotes

Life is a gamble, at terrible odds—if it was a bet you wouldn't take it.

Related Characters: The Player (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Coin
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Player Character Timeline in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The timeline below shows where the character The Player appears in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
The Theater Theme Icon
...Guildenstern hear music and the Tragedians march in, carrying their instruments and lead by the Player, who halts his troupe assuming that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are an audience for them. "Don't... (full context)
Individual Identity Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
Guildenstern stops them and asks where they're going and how they came this way. The Player is noncommittal, attributing the meeting to "chance" "or fate" and saying they're going to perform... (full context)
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
When Guildenstern asks about the potential of "getting caught up in the action," the Player happily sends the tragedian Alfred to get dressed as a woman for an "uncut performance... (full context)
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
Rosencrantz stops them and asks what the Tragedians do. The Player responds that they "do on stage the things that are supposed to happen off. Which... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
In order to make the Player pay his bet with a play, Guildenstern asks him about what play the Tragedians might... (full context)
Act 2
Individual Identity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
The Player reveals the cause of his cold manner: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern left in the middle of... (full context)
Free Will Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
Guildenstern and Rosencrantz tell the Player they've made it up to him by booking him a performance at court and coach... (full context)
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
The Player starts to leave but Guildenstern tries first calmly, then desperately, to get him to stay... (full context)
Individual Identity Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the Player next try to pinpoint the cause of Hamlet's state, a conversation that proves equally futile:... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
More of the Tragedians enter, one dressed as a King. The Player explains they are doing a dress rehearsal and that, because they always use the same... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
The Player claps his hands for attention and tells the Tragedians they're not "getting across." He calls... (full context)
The Theater Theme Icon
The Player calls for the Tragedians to take up Act Two and the action begins. The Player-Queen... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
The dumbshow continues with the Player narrating everything for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern while now also playing Lucianus, the Player-Brother's nephew, who,... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
The Player calls the play "a slaughterhouse" and says it thus brings out the Tragedians' best. When... (full context)
Act 3
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
...tune of the Tragedians. Rosencrantz, anguished, cries out "Plausibility is all I presume!" and the Player cheerfully pops out of a barrel followed "impossibly" by the Tragedians in the costumes they... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
The Player explains to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that they had to hide in the barrels to escape... (full context)
Free Will Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
The Player asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern if they've spoken with Hamlet. They reply: "it's possible" but "pointless."... (full context)
Free Will Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
...adds, and Guildenstern repeats. They move off and converse among themselves in fragments recounting the Player's situation: offending Claudius, dodging arrest, meeting Rosencrantz and Guildenstern taking Hamlet to England, etc. Rosencrantz,... (full context)
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
...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. Lights dim,... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
...It orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's execution. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern reread it in speechless shock. The Player rises and kicks his barrel shouting into it "they've gone!" The Tragedians emerge and form... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
...who they are that their deaths should be important. "Who are we?" he asks the Player, who responds with their names. When Guildenstern protests that's not enough explanation, the Player retorts,... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
...vengeance, scorn" Guildenstern balks at the experience of "actors" and grabs a dagger from the Player's belt that he holds at the Player's throat. Guildenstern makes a speech saying he's talking... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
After the Player lies silent, the Tragedians applaud appreciatively and the Player rises. "You see," he tells Guildenstern,... (full context)