Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead Analysis

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a tragic comedy authored by 20th century playwright Tom Stoppard, tracks the exploits of two minor characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The action of the play circles in and out of the plot of Hamlet, and the fate of the two friends, death, is already decided in the Shakespeare’s previous work. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, on a mission to send Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, to the King of England to be killed, struggle with this realization as the play progresses. After their note — intended for the King of England — is intercepted by Hamlet, the plan of the two imbecile friends is reversed, and they are killed by pirates. Through metaphors of coins, direction, and boats,…show more content…
Midway through the play, the two main characters struggle to locate which direction they are heading. Thinking aloud, Guildenstern says, “If it is, and the sun is over there for instance, that would be northerly. On the other hand, if it is not morning and the sun is over there…that…would still be northerly” (58). Not only do the two friends have no idea which direction they are standing, but they do not know what time of day it is, disallowing them from using the sun as a resource. Frustrated by Rozencrantz’s lack of help, Guildenstern proclaims, “You seem to have no conception of where we stand!” (58) Although this is Guildenstern’s attack on Rosencrantz, his statement holds true for both of them. The characters’ confusion here represents their inability to control their lives. Direction represents not only where they are heading at this point in the play, but also where their life is heading. Their lack of ability to locate where they are represents their inability to control where life is taking them. At the end of the play, as they await their death, Guildenstern says, “We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movements contained within a larger one that carries us along as inexorably as the wind and current” (122). Stoppard is depicting that their fate is set, and any actions will not be able to affect what is already…show more content…
Boats, able to travel the world, represent freedom. Guildenstern expresses his fondness for boats near the end of the play: “Yes, I’m very fond of boats myself. I like the way they’re contained. You don’t have to worry about which way to go, or whether to go at all - the question doesn’t arise, because you’re on a boat, aren’t you?” (100) This boat represents free will, and Guildenstern is expressing how much he loves the ability to be free living, like a boat. But that is not the case for the two journeyers. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are trapped on a boat with a fixed location — England —- where their death awaits them. Guildenstern expresses this realization soon after, saying, “One is free on a boat. For a time. Relatively” (101). He realizes that as he may seem free, the destination of the boat — and his life — are in place and unchangeable. As he further ponders this idea, Guildenstern finally
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