Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The Boat Symbol Icon
The boat symbolizes the trajectory of human life and the fundamentally limited and futile nature of human action. As a boat's passengers are able to move at will within the contained space of the vessel but are ultimately swept up in the greater movement of the boat's motion, so too are a human individual's actions and developments dwarfed by the unstoppable progress of his life towards death. Though Act Three's setting on a boat is in line with Shakespeare's original play, the set also resonates with symbolic significance as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hurdle helplessly towards their own deaths. As Guildenstern reflects, describing his and Rosencrantz' situation on board, "We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movement is contained within a larger one that carries us along as inexorably as the wind and current…"

The Boat Quotes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Boat. 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 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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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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No, no, no…Death is…not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not being. You can't not-be on a boat.

Related Characters: Guildenstern (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Boat
Page Number: 108
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.

We've travelled too far, and our momentum has taken over; we move idly towards eternity, without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation.

Related Characters: Guildenstern (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Boat
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

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

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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The Boat Symbol Timeline in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Boat appears in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3
Death Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
...Guildenstern's. Sounds of sailors rise and it becomes clear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are on a boat. They reflect that it is "dark for day" but write it off to the assumption... (full context)
Free Will Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
..."In where?" Rosencrantz asks. "Out here," Guildenstern explains. They reflect on how much they like boats and Guildenstern is pleased that, on a boat, one needn't "worry about which way to... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
The Theater Theme Icon
...saying they might as well be dead. He asks Guildenstern if death might be a boat. No, Guildenstern replies, "Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not-be on a boat."... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
Individual Identity Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
The World's Absurdity Theme Icon
"Where we went wrong," Guildenstern says quietly, "was getting on a boat. We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movement is contained within... (full context)