Rosencrantz & Guildenstern A CHARACTER ANALYSIS
Rosencrantz&Guildenstern Old school friends of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are commissioned to spy on Hamlet to reveal the cause of his madness by king Claudius. They are described as ‘half-men’, which refers to their dialogue, their characters and is often used as comic relief by directors where they are addressed interchangeably and cause minor confusion in the court. It is also noticeable that as the play progresses their relationship with Hamlet deteriorates wherein they continue to spy on him and he continues to know they are trying to find the source of madness. In Tom Stoppard’s, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” the characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are able to be developed and we come to understand their relationship in further depth. • Easily distracted • Slow at understanding things • Curious and inquisitive • Comical characteristics • Laid back character • Less mature • Gives the instructions • Upper hand of the relationship • Intense character • More mature
Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 254-277 EXTRACT № 01
hamlet No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended. But, in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore? rosencrantz To visit you, my lord; no other occasion. hamlet Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak. guildensternWhat should we say, my lord? hamlet Why, any thing, but to the purpose. You were sent for – and there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have sent for you. rosencrantz To what end, my lord? hamlet That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer couldcharge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for, or no? rosencrantz(To Guildenstern)What say you? hamlet (Aside)Nay, then, I have an eye of you. - If you love me, hold not off. guildenstern My lord, we were sent for. 254 255 260 265 270 275 277 Scene: The Great Hall in Elsinore Castle Context: R&G have just arrived at the castle, been formally greeted by Claudius and Gertrude and been charged to suss out what is grieves Hamlet. They have then met with Hamlet for the first time, and shared some superficial banter about R&G’s dwelling in ‘the secret parts of Fortune’. Hamlet is just starting to question their purpose. Structure. Conversation entirely in prose, indicating the informal atmosphere. Literary Techniques. Discord in the tone between the joviality and increasing tension. | Repetition of questions, rephrased. | Asides. | Quantity each character has to say – Hamlet having to work hard to extract the information. Characterisation. R&G innocent, impressionable and ‘obsequious’ pair. | Hamlet, knowing the conversation is at a stalemate, draws more + more on their increasingly strained friendship. | Irony in Hamlet promising to be ‘honest’.| Hamlet different to how they remember, and he puts them on the spot with over-friendliness. Interpretations. Hamlet/R&G the old friends, Hamlet imploring them for honesty vs. Hamlet the sorry interrogator, who does his best to put them make them break as few promises as possible.
Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 001-028 EXTRACT № 02
Scene: The Great Hall in Elsinore Castle Context:R&G report to Claudius and Gertrude about their encounter with Hamlet and how he is unwilling to speak about his madness, however expressed his excitement when hearing the news of the arrival of the players. Claudius asks them to enquire further on his ‘delights’ of the players arrival. Structure.Is very conversation based, written in prose, however in longer phrases rhythm is noticeable though it is not recognisably iambic pentameter, rather just poetic and rhythmic. claudiusAnd can you by no drift of circumstance Get from him why he puts on this confusion, Grating so harshly all his days of quiet With turbulence and dangerous lunacy? rosencrantz He does confess he feels himself distracted, But from what cause a will by no means speak. guildensternNor do we find him forward to be sounded, But with a crafty madness keeps aloof When we would bring him on to some confession Of his true state. gertrude Did he receive you well? rosencrantzMost like a gentleman. guildensternBut with much forcing of his disposition. rosencrantzNiggard of question, but of our demands Most free in his reply. gertrudeDid you assay him To any pastime? 001 005 010 015 Literary Techniques. Enjambment and caesura, careful, expressive diction, theme - Hamlet’s madness, spoken as a matter of facts
rosencrantzMadame, it so fell out that certain players We o’er-raught on the way; of these we told him, And there did seem in him a kind of joy To hear of it. They are about the court, And as I think, they have already order This night to play before him. polonius‘Tis most true, And he beseeched me to entreat your majesties To hear and see the matter. claudiusWith all my heart, and it doth much content me To hear him so inclined. Good gentlemen, give him a further edge, And drive his purpose on these delights. rosencrantzWe shall my lord. 020 025 028 Characterisation. As in almost all R&G scenes their dialogue is interchangeable and specific. They have been sent for a purpose and have carried out that purpose, not realising at the time, that they are in the midst of a story of murder and revenge, which will ultimately deliver them to a dark fate. It is evident that Claudius is simply interested in why Hamlet is mad, as he is suspicious that Hamlet is at all mad, Polonius just agrees with everyone, and Gertrude seems genuinely concerned about her sons “lunacy”. Interpretations.
Act 4, Scene 2, Lines 001-028 EXTRACT № 03
Scene: A corridor in the castle Context: This extract starts at the beginning of a scene (and goes until the end: it’s a very short scene…). Hamlet has just hidden Polonius’ body. Men are searching the castle for him, and R&G are the first to find him. Structure. Conversation entirely in prose, indicating an informal atmosphere, or perhaps one preoccupied with more pressing matters than to worry about how properly things are said. hamlet Safely stowed. gentlemen(Within) Hamlet! Lord Hamlet! hamlet But soft, what noise? Who calls on Hamlet? Oh here they come. Enterrosencrantzandguildenstern rosencrantzWhat have you done my lord with the dead body? hamlet Compounded it with dust whereto ‘tis kin. rosencrantzTell us where ‘tis, that we may take it thence and bear it to the chapel. hamlet Do not believe it. rosencrantzBelieve what? hamlet That I can keep your counsel and not mine own. Besides, to be demanded of a sponge, what replication should be made by the son of a king? rosencrantzTake you me for a sponge my lord? 001 005 010 Literary Techniques. Minimalism of stage directions. | Pace of the scene, Hamlet keeps the conversation moving and R&G have a hard time keeping up. | Disrespectful diction when referring to Polonius’ body, poetic diction when philosophising on the transience of life. | Contrast of Rosencrantz’ monosyllabic speech with Hamlet’s more flowery phrases. Characterisation. By this stage R&G are questioning whether they really know Hamlet at all. | As aforementioned, they struggle to keep pace with his rapid changes of focus. | In a crisis such as this R&G revert to the most sensible thing to do, (or what they’ve been charged with doing).
hamlet Ay sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the king best service in the end: he keeps them like an ape in the corner of his jaw, first mouthed to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry again. rosencrantzI understand you not my lord. hamlet I am glad of it, a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear. rosencrantzMy lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go with us to the king. hamlet The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. The king is a thing – guildensternA thing my lord? hamlet Of nothing. Bring me to him. Hide fox, and all after! Exeunt 015 020 025 028 Literary Techniques. Metaphor of the sponge, representing the obsequious of R&G. | Simile ‘like an ape’. | Rhyming repetition of ‘king’ and ‘thing’. Characterisation. Hamlet becomes nigh on patronising, and is obviously critical of R&G’s seeming inability to do what they themselves think is right. (Although the extent to which this is played up differs with interpretation). | Again, like the ‘fools’ Hamlet seems to think they are, R&G revert to the Claudius’ orders. | Throughout this scene Hamlet verbally forces Rosencrantz onto the back foot… | The fox could be Claudius, Polonius or Hamlet himself. “Comedy is both a theatrical device and a way in which we try and deal with our hopelessness.” ~ “The representation of madness is one of the greatest challenges a playwright may face; and it is one of the most chilling theatrical experiences a playgoer can be subjected to.”
“ The sight is dismal, And our affairs from England come too late. The ears are senseless that should give us hearing, To tell him his commandment is fulfilled, That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Where should we have our thanks? ”
Luke Thorburn & Kirstin Clements 2012