Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

The downside of reading a play, rather than watching it, is that it takes a few re-reads to fully understand the story. For someone who finds it extremely difficult to re-read anything, you can understand how I feel as if I have not comprehended the nuance of the few plays I have read.

I’m looking at you Hamlet.

Having finally read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – followed these two bit players through there confusion and bitty philosophy – I’ve realised it’s time for change. I need to re-read both this and Hamlet.

‘Hamlet told from the worm’s-eye view of two minor characters, bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, reality and illusion mix, and where fate leads heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.’ GoodReads.

By the time I reached Act Two the plot fell into place, I had found my baring. It’s a rather witty tale. A play worthy of quoting and reading aloud, which I did, much to the confusion of my family.

Player: The old man thinks he’s in love with his daughter.
Ros (appalled): Good God! We’re out of our depth here.
Player: No, no, no — he hasn’t got a daughter– the old man thinks he’s in love with his daughter.

Oh, the hilarity of semantics.

Ros: We might as well be dead, Do you think death could possibly a boat?
Guil: 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.
Ros: I’ve frequently not been on boats.

Taking two minor characters and setting the story around them is brilliance. Tom Stoppard is a creative genius. Reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead both makes me want to destroy any of my awful ‘creative’ work while simultaneously want to create something brilliant. I feels so confused.

This isn’t much of a review really, more a ‘read this play!’ Then go watch it, then watch Hamlet, then re-read both.

I’ve always appreciated Shakespeare, but it’s taken Stoppard to get me to like him.

Now I’m off to write a version of Persuasion from the point of view of Anne Elliot’s bonnet.


Have you read this play? Do you enjoy Shakespeare?


13 thoughts on “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

  1. I read this during my student days ages ago and had thoroughly enjoyed it. A brilliant parody. Seen the play too. After all these years, I still remember the line that starts with: “On the other hand the toe…” 🙂


  2. I read this in my last year of high school and had to thank my English teacher at the time for such a wonderful read! I remember literally laughing through a lot of it.


  3. I often find I have to re-read plays a few times before I feel comfortable with them. I remember really liking this play, but I think it’s definitely time for a re-read soon. The idea is just brilliant. The movie is also very good, if you want to see it in performance. 🙂


  4. I absolutely adore reading Shakespearean plays – it’s the best way to understand them. I have to admit this is one of my favorites, along with Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing. 🙂 I’ve always wanted to write a modern-day adaptation of Anthony and Cleopatra. Best of luck with your version of Persuasion.


  5. If you can, you should watch the Hamlet with David Tennant. He’s so good. Hamlet’s my least favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies (though I haven’t read or seen King Lear), but David Tennant makes it worthwhile. It’s got an excellent Ophelia as well, which is nice to see.

    Is this your first Tom Stoppard? Are you going to read more stuff by him? He is THE BEST, and of his stuff, Arcadia is the best. It’s got so much wordplay and so much heart. I saw it when they revived it on Broadway a few years ago (twice because it was awesome), and it just — blah. I don’t even have the words for how good it was.


    1. It is my first Stoppard! Although, I’ve known of him for years I’ve never read any of his plays. I’ll have to read Arcadia next.

      I shall make a note to watch Hamlet 🙂


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