Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Posted August 18, 2019 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard


Published by Grove Press on April 11, 2017
Genres: Humor, Plays, Retellings
Length: 128 pages Source: ThriftBooks

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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.

It’s been a really long time – almost a decade – since I’ve tried to decipher the hidden meanings behind a play.  But I’m going to try!  I’m pretty sure that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is about … death.  I suppose that shouldn’t be a revelation, since it’s in the title, but man I struggled with this one?

Honestly, this play just made me feel stupid.  I feel like there must have been some exciting and deep conversation to be had about this play.  Maybe it’s the sort of thing that’s a bit lost in translation?  Maybe it’s better with group discussion and guidance?  I know plays come across better when they have been seen and not read, but I actually had more trouble figuring out (what I thought) the point of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was than any other play that comes to mind.  But, like I said, it’s be a while?

Also, I don’t suppose it helped this used copy had copies notes on the backside of the front cover about modernism in theatre and the world of the play.

Okay, outside of the confusion about the characters (who were constantly trying to remember who was who and what was happening) I enjoyed the concept of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.  I think it’s so cool that Stoppard took two minor characters out of Hamlet in order to explore the story more.  It’s almost like fan fiction – as a reader, I know there’s been many times where I wanted to know more about a minor character, or else the story abandoned a storyline I really enjoyed and I wish I had gotten to learn more.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is great for that.  Especially if you’re a fan of Hamlet!  It’s always cool to get more.

A lot of this play focused on philosophical conversation.  There was talk about the meaning of death, the way other characters mourned, and the knowledge of mortality.  The speeches were interesting to me.  The idle, repetitive conversation was not.  Again, this is something I think would probably come across better in the stage performance as opposed to just reading the lines.

I can see where this could be a good play, and I can see where it would be amusing in person.  I don’t think this is the best one to translate to simply reading the play however.  If you like Shakespeare, meaningful dialogue, and a smidge of comedy, I do recommend taking in a performance!

The Breakdown
Personal Enjoyment
Overall: three-stars

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead will be donated.

Some plays read really well, with witty dialogue and intriguing plot points that don’t rely on any physical comedy.  Between needing o know Hamlet pretty well and feeling like this would be so much better in person, I don’t think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead would be a play I’d revisit in book-format.


Have you ever wanted to see what happened to the minor characters in a book?  I have this issue all the time.  I think this is where a lot of retellings come from – a desire to visit the world, expand on characters, or have the story end differently.  Tell me what characters you want to see more of in the comments!

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2 responses to “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

  1. The opening bit to this review made me laugh, not gonna lie. And by laugh I mean I might have almost spit my water out onto my keyboard. Which happens far more than I care to admit BUT HEY. Back to your review! That title is eye catching and the premise sounds pretty interesting. I’m pretty curious now. I am going to have to look into it! Great review, as always.

    • Amber

      HAH! Well you’re welcome for that, I guess? XD

      The play was super interesting but I think I would have much rather have seen it then read it. 🙂 I feel like it’s a name I’ve seen pop up here and there with small theatre companies, so I’ll probably drag my husband to a show next time I see it around.

      The title IS super eye-catching, though.