I just read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tome Stoppard for the first time this week, for one of my English classes this quarter. It’s a fantastic play, and I just thought I’d share some thoughts/quotes from it for my blog post today.
If you haven’t read/seen the play, I would highly recommend it, or you could just see the movie staring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman as the titular characters.
It takes place during the events of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and follows these two minor characters from the play. The play deals with the idea of Fate vs Free Will, and whether or not these two characters can escape their fate as it is written in Hamlet. They are thrust through the actions of the play without completely understanding all that is going on, and question why it is so.
I’ve read it, and have continually picked it up again and again to re-read certain parts of it. It seems to really be affecting me. One memorable and funny scene is where the two characters are playing questions (where they only speak in questions), which then proceeds into Guildenstern role playing Hamlet while Rosencrantz role plays “himself” asking “Hamlet” questions to “glean what afflicts him” which gets them no where. But is simultaneously important thematically and just funny.
Anyway, this is the quote that I’ve been focusing on since I first read it on Tuesday, I just want to share it. It takes place at the end of the play, where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find out that the message they carry tells the King of England to kill them. Meanwhile, the Player (the leader of troupe of actors, they put on the play for the court in Hamlet, if you’re familiar with it) just shrugs it off, which sends Guildenstern into this fit:
“Your experience!– Actors!” (at this point, he pulls a dagger from the Players belt and holds it to his neck) “I’m talking about death– and you’ve never experienced that. And you cannot act it. You die a thousand casual deaths– with none of that intensity which squeezes out life… and no blood runs cold anywhere. Because even as you die you know that you will come back in a different hat. But no one gets up after death— there is no applause– there is only silence and some second-hand clothes, and that’s– death–” (Now, he stabs the Player)
“If we have a destiny, then so had he– and if this is ours, then that was his– and if there are no explanations for us, then let there be none for him–“
That’s all I’ve got.