Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
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Tom Stoppard was catapulted into the front ranks of modem playwrights overnight when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead opened in London in 1967. Its subsequent run in New York brought it the same enthusiastic acclaim, and the play has since been performed numerous times in the major theatrical centers of the world. It has won top honors for play and playwright in a poll of London Theater critics, and in its printed form it was chosen one of the “Notable Books of 1967” by the American Library Association.
be reminded of it. GUIL : We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered. Ros approaches him brightly, holding a coin between finger and thumb. He covers it with his other hand, draws his fists apart and holds them for GUIL. GUIL considers them. Indicates the left hand, ROS opens it to show it empty. ROS : No. Repeat process, GUIL indicates left hand
about-turn and walks off in the opposite direction. ROS and GUIL, with their heads low, do not notice. No one comes on. ROS and GUIL squint upwards and find that they are bowing to nothing. CLAUDIUS enters behind them. At first words they leap up and do a double-take. CLAUDIUS : How now? What hath befallen? ROS : Where the body is bestowed, my lord, we cannot get from him. CLAUDIUS : But where is he? ROS (fractional hesitation): Without, my lord; guarded to know your pleasure. CLAUDIUS
over; we move idly towards eternity, without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation. ROS: Be happy—if you’re not even happy what’s so good about surviving? (He picks himself up.) We’ll be all right. I suppose we just go on. GUIL: GO where? ROS : To England. GUIL : England! That’s a dead end. I never believed in it anyway. ROS : All we’ve got to do is make our report and that’ll be that Surely. GUIL: I don’t believe it—a shore, a harbour, say—and we get off and we stop someone and
begin to understand. Who are all these people, what’s it got to do with me? You turn up out of the blue with some cock and bull story—— ROS (with letter): We have a letter—— GUIL (snatches it, opens it): A letter—yes—that’s true. That’s something . . . a letter . . . (Reads.) “As England is Denmark’s faithful tributary . . . as love between them like the palm might flourish, etcetera . . . that on the knowing of this contents, without delay of any kind, should those bearers, Rosencrantz and
GUIL : I could see I had. ROS : How should I begin? GUIL : Address me. They stand and face each other, posing. ROS : My honoured Lord! GUIL : My dear Rosencrantz! Pause. ROS : Am I pretending to be you, then? GUIL : Certainly not. If you like. Shall we continue? ROS : Question and answer. GUIL : Right. ROS : Right. My honoured lord! GUIL : My dear fellow! ROS : How are you? GUIL : Afflicted! ROS : Really? In what way? GUIL : Transformed. ROS : Inside or out? GUIL : Both. ROS :