Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Act II Summary
The conversation from the previous scene continues. At first it is indecipherable, but it picks up at the end of a short speech by Hamlet, which corresponds to Act II, Scene ii in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Hamlet says, "S'blood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out" (2.1).
There is a flourish from the Tragedians' band, and Guil acknowledges that they are approaching.
Hamlet welcomes Guil and Ros to Elsinore and takes their hands. He says that they must all keep the appearance of being ceremonious and fashionable. He goes on to say that his uncle and his mother are deceived.
Guil asks how, and Hamlet says that he is only mad when the wind blows "north north-west; when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw" (2.4).
Polonius enters and Guil turns away. Polonius greets them, but Hamlet continues talking to his friends and begins to walk upstage with Ros.
Polonius announces that he has news, and Hamlet mimics him, beginning "when Roscius was an actor in Rome…" (2.8). The two make to exit, and Polonius announces that the actors (the Tragedians) have arrived. Exit Hamlet and Polonius.
Ros and Guil both ponder, and then both make starts at speaking. Guil finally gets out a full sentence and says that he thinks they made some headway. Ros thinks that Hamlet made them look ridiculous.
Guil counters that they simply played it close to their chest. Ros mocks him for sticking to "question and answer" (2.22). He thinks that Hamlet beat them decisively (they're referring to their attempt to figure out what is wrong with Hamlet without his knowing what they are trying to do).
Guil acknowledges that they were caught off guard a bit, but he still thinks that they gained ground. Ros thinks Hamlet simply destroyed them. Guil admits that he may have had the edge. Ros thinks that in their game of question and answer Hamlet beat them twenty-seven to three.
Ros says that he was waiting for Guil to start "delving" (2.30).
Guil insists that at least they got his symptoms. Ros argues that half of what Hamlet said was alluding to something else, and the other half was meaningless.
Guil diagnoses Hamlet as suffering from "thwarted ambition – a sense of grievance" (2.35). Ros summarizes the whole argument, and maintains that they have obtained no new information.
They discuss Hamlet's claim about how his madness relates to the wind, and Ros concludes that Hamlet is at the mercy of the elements.
They try to determine whether or not the wind is southerly, but they disagree. Guil first attempts to remember which way they came in, and then tries to determine their direction based on the position of the sun.
As Guil speaks of the sun, he does so without actually checking it, speaking merely in hypotheticals. Ros asks why he doesn't just go take a look, and he retorts "Pragmatism?! – is that all you have to offer" (2.51)?
Ros tells him that if he were to look at the sun, it would give him an idea of the time. Alternately, if he were to look at a clock, it would give him an idea of the position of the sun. He can't remember what Guil is trying to determine.
Guil tells him that he's trying to determine the direction of the wind, but Ros says that there isn't any wind, though there is a "Draught."
Guil decides to try and determine the origin of the wind, and that will be south, but Ros thinks that it is coming up through the floor, which can't be south.
Guil tells Ros to lick his toe and wave it around, but Ros says that Guil would have to lick his toe and they bicker about who will lick whose toe.
Guil says that someone may come in, which is what they are ultimately counting on. There is a pause and Ros wonders if they have trampled each other in a herd. He tells Guil to yell something provocative in order to intrigue them.
Guil begins, "Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which we are… condemned" (2.67). He says that they cannot be arbitrary because if they start to think that their spontaneity is part of the overall order than they will be lost. He sits and speaks of a member of the T'ang Dynasty who dreamt he was a butterfly and then wondered whether or not he was a butterfly dreaming that he was a philosopher. He refers to this as "his two-fold security" (2.67).
Ros jumps and up and yells "Fire!" at the audience (2.68). Guil jumps up and asks where, but Ros reassures him that he is just demonstrating the misuse of free speech in order to prove that it exists. He regards the audience, notes that no one moves and says that they should all burn to death.
Ros then takes out a coin and spins it. Guil asks what it is, but he says he didn't check.
Guil asks what the last thing Ros remembers is, and he says that he does not want to be reminded of it.
Guil says, "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" (2.79).
Ros approaches Guil with a coin between finger and thumb. He covers it with the other hand, and draws his fists apart. Guil considers them, and then picks the left hand. It is empty.
Ros says no, and then repeats the process. Guil picks left again. It is empty.
Ros repeats and Guil taps both hands, but Ros accidentally shows that they are both empty. Ros laughs and Guil turns away.
Polonius, Tragedians and Hamlet enter the stage.
Hamlet asks the Player if he can do The Murder of Gonzago. He says that they can.
Hamlet says that they will have it the next night, but that they will have to study some lines that he will write down for them. Hamlet tells the Player to follow Polonius and not to mock him.
Hamlet says that he will leave them all until tonight, then leaves.
Guil asks if the Player has caught up, and he coldly replies that he has not yet.
Guil tells him to mind his tongue or they will throw him out "like a nightingale at a Roman feast" (2.91).
Ros and Guil engage in some wordplay about taking the words out of each other's mouths and going dumb. Guil ends by asking again if the Player has caught up.
The Player repeats that he has not yet caught up, and bitterly notes how they left them in the woods.
The Player tells them that they don't know how humiliating it was to be left: "to be tricked out of the single assumption which makes our existence viable – that somebody is watching…The plot was two corpses gone before we caught sight of ourselves, stripped naked in the middle of nowhere and pouring ourselves down a bottomless well" (2.112).
Ros asks if it is now thirty-eight times that they have lost. The Player continues to complain. He exclaims, "Don't you see?! We're actors – we're the opposite of people" (2.114). The Player tells Ros to think of the most private and intimate thing he has ever done, and then claims that he saw him do it.
Ros jumps up and shouts that he is lying. He then begins giggling and sits down again.
The Player continues his complaint. He says that they did not notice that no one was watching until the murderer's soliloquy (within the play). And "Even then, habit and a stubborn trust that our audience spied upon us from behind the nearest bush, forced our bodies to blunder on long after they had emptied of meaning, until like runaway carts they dragged to a halt" (2.116). When they accepted that no one was watching, they went silently on the road to Elsinore.
Guil claps. He gives some critical commentary on the Player's melodramatic complaint, and then suggests that he should thank Ros and Guil for getting a chance to play at court.
Ros tells the Player that they are relying on him to draw Hamlet out with his play (to help them divine the nature of his troubles), but he says that they must keep the play clean for the royalty or else they will be booted out of the tavern.
The Player tells them that he has played for Hamlet before, that he prefers classical plays, and that they will put on The Murder of Gonzago. The Player describes the play and Guil inserts the phrases that the Player earlier used to describe what his troupe does ("full of fine cadence and corpses," and "blood, love and rhetoric").
Guil asks where the Player is going, but he retorts that he can come and go as he pleases. The Player tells them not to lose their heads, and assures them that he is speaking from precedent, and that he knows which way the wind is blowing.
Guil is excited that their speech is operating on multiple levels, but is unsurprised since this is the business the Player is in (implying that actors are used to speaking on multiple levels).
The Player starts to move off, but Guil cuts him off again. Guil admits that they enjoy his company, having become so accustomed to their own uncertainty. The Player snaps that uncertainty is normal, and that Guil and Ros aren't anyone special.
He tries to leave, but Guil loses it and asks what on earth he and Ros are supposed to do.
The Player tells them to "Relax. Respond. That's what people do. You can't go through life questioning your situation at every turn" (2.150).
Guil complains that they don't know what's going on or what to do, that they don't know how to act.
The player tells them to act natural. He goes on to say that everything has to be taken on trust, "truth is only that which is taken to be true. It's the currency of living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn't make any difference so long as it is honoured. One acts on assumptions" (2.155).
The Player asks what they assume, and Ros explains that they are trying to figure out what is wrong with Hamlet. They tell him that he is mad and moody. They banter back and forth as they try to fix Hamlet's state.
Ros notes that Hamlet talks to himself, which seems like madness. Guil, however, notes that he talks sense to himself, which suggests that he is not mad.
After a pause, Guil comes up with a truism: "A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself" (2.175).
Ros notes that the man could be just as mad, and Guil agrees. Ros notes that he does both and concludes that Hamlet is "stark raving sane" (2.180).
They exchange questions, and there is some confusion. Guil asks why Hamlet is mad, and Ros says that he doesn't know.
The Player notes that the old man (Claudius) thinks that he (Hamlet) is in love with his daughter (Claudius's daughter, Ophelia).
Ros is appalled thinking the Player means that Claudius is in love with his own daughter. The Player clarifies, and Ros says that things are starting to make sense. Hamlet is suffering from unrequited passion.
Guil insists that no one can leave the room without good reason. He says that things are becoming too arbitrary and he is beginning to lose his grip.
The Player says that he has lines to learn, and Guil lets him pass off of the stage.
Ros calls "Next!" as if someone else is coming, but no one does (2.203).
Ros says that he thinks he lost his coin. Guil doesn't remember which coin. They discuss the lost coin, and Guil is impressed with how naturally Ros acts.
They decide to think of the future, and Guil says that to have a future is the normal thing. He notes how "now" keeps changing as they move into the future.
Ros notes that this could go on forever, but then reconsiders. He asks if Guil ever thinks of himself as being dead, lying in a box. Guil says that he does not.
Ros says he doesn't either. He says that it is silly to be depressed by the idea. The problem is that people think of it like being alive in a box. They forget that they would be dead, which is like being asleep in a box. He goes on: "Not that I'd like to sleep in a box, mind you, not without any air – you'd wake up dead, for a start, and then where would you be? Apart from inside a box" (2.203).
Guil is restless, but Ros continues. He thinks that, given a choice between being alive or dead in a box, people would choose to be alive because then they'd still have a chance. That way, he says, you could lie there thinking that at least you are not dead, and that any minute someone could come and let you out of the box.
Guil tells Ros to stop flogging the idea to death.
Ros tells him not to think about it. He says, "Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where's it going to end" (2.225)? He describes someone addressing Paul as Saul in heaven, and Paul insisting that he is already Paul. He concludes, "They don't care. We count for nothing. We could remain silent till we're green in the face, they wouldn't come" (2.225).
Guil begins to list colors. Ros's monologue continues. He describes a Christian, a Moslem, and a Jew meeting. He then asks, "Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don't go on for ever. It must have been shattering – stamped into one's memory. And yet I can't remember it" (2.227). He goes on, "for all the compasses in the world, there's only one direction, and time is its only measure" (2.227). He starts to become desperate and forbids anyone to enter the stage.
Immediately the action is interrupted by "Hamlet" Act II, Scene i. Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, and Ophelia come onto the stage, and Claudius snags Ros's arm.
Guil is still thinking of Ros's speech. He says, "Death followed by eternity…the worst of both worlds" (2.228).
Gertrude asks how their meeting with Hamlet went, and they tell her it went well. Gertrude asks if they assigned Hamlet to any pastime (to cheer him up, presumably), and Ros mentions the Players who will play in the court that night. He thinks they cheered Hamlet up.
Polonius confirms Ros's statement. Claudius is happy, but asks them to work harder to find out his purpose through the delight provided by the players.
Ros says that they will, and Claudius tells Gertrude to leave as well. He says that they have called for Hamlet so that he will run into Ophelia, and it will seem like an accident. Exit Claudius and Gertrude.
Ros notes that they never get a moment's peace (in spite of their long break waiting for people to come before). Ros says that he is going. Guil ignores him. He starts to head upstage, but stops and comes back.
Guil notes that someone (Hamlet) is coming. Guil asks what he is doing, and proposes some silly suggestions. Guil says that he has no idea how they are going to get engaged in a conversation.
Hamlet enters, and Ros and Guil watch him.
Ros says that this is a good chance, and begins to move toward Hamlet, but becomes nervous and returns, saying that the trouble is that they are overawed and that they succumb to the personality of others.
Ophelia enters with a prayer book.
Hamlet tells Ophelia that it is through her that his sins will be remembered. She asks how he is doing, and he says well. They disappear into the wing.
Ros exclaims that it is like living in a park (with all the people passing through).
Guil mocks him for failing to approach Hamlet, and commands that he shut up and sit down.
Ros is on the verge of tears, and says that he will not stand for this treatment.
A female figure that the audience is supposed to think is Queen Gertrude enters. Ros goes up and covers her eyes and says, "Guess who?!" (2.264)
The Player appears, calling for Alfred. It turns out Ros was covering Alfred's eyes. The Player approaches Ros. He lifts his foot, and Ros bends to put his hand on the floor (perhaps recalling picking up the coin from the Player's foot earlier). The Player lowers his foot, and Ros screams.
The three of them argue about why Ros put his hand on the floor. Ros asks Guil not to leave him, and starts for the exit. One of the Tragedians, dressed as the King, enters. Ros heads for the opposite side of the stage, but two more Tragedians enter and Ros settles for midstage.
The Player claps his hands and says that they don't have much time.
Guil asks the Player what he is doing.
The Player says that they are doing a dress rehearsal, and asks them to get out of the way. He reminds the players what play they are in (they get confused because they always wear the same costumes) and tells Alfred to stop picking his nose. He says that Queens can clear their noses "by a cerebral process passed down in the blood" (2.282).
The Tragedian-King begins his lines, but the Player angrily tells him that they will do the dumbshow first. He tells Ros and Guil that the troupe is a bit out of practice, but they always do a great job with the deaths. Guil says that is nice.
The Player says "There's nothing more unconvincing than an unconvincing death" (2.286). Guil agrees. The Player claps his hands, and tells them to start again.
It is a mime with soft music in the background. The Tragedian-King embraces the Tragedian-Queen. She kneels and makes a sign of protestation to him. He lifts her up, and declines his head upon her neck. He lies down, and when she sees he is asleep, she leaves him.
Guil asks why they do a dumbshow, and the Player explains that it is a device used to make the action more comprehensible. He says, "we are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style" (2.290).
Another person enters and pours poison in the sleeping Tragedian-King's ear. The Tragedian-King dies heroically.
Ros asks who was being depicted. The Player explains that it was Claudius. Guil notes that his behavior wasn't quite fraternal, and the Player adds that it won't be avuncular (referring to the kindness of an uncle) as time goes on.
The Tragedian-Queen returns and finds the Tragedian-King dead. The Poisoner comes in and consoles her. The body is carried away. The Poisoner offers the Tragedian-Queen gifts. She seems harsh, but then accepts him. The mime ends, and Ophelia enters the stage wailing with Hamlet in hot pursuit.
Hamlet says, "Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath made me mad!" (2.295).
Ophelia falls on her knees and weeps. Hamlet says that there will be no more marriages and, of those already married, only one shall live. He tells Ophelia to go to a nunnery. Ophelia falls to her knees again, and sobs until the sound fades out on the stage.
The Tragedian-King begins his lines again. Claudius enters with Polonius and approaches Ophelia. The Tragedians jump back.
Claudius concludes that Hamlet is not in love with Ophelia, and that, considering how he spoke, he may not be mad. Yet he knows there is something he broods over that will cause trouble, and decides to send him to England.
Claudius, Polonius, and Ophelia move out of sight. The Player tries to regain everyone's attention. He asks what Guil thinks, but Guil isn't sure what he was supposed to think. The Player snaps at the actors that they are not getting the idea across.
Ros has been looking at Ophelia, and notes that Hamlet's behavior didn't seem like love to him.
The Player calls for the start of Act Two, and Guil asks if that wasn't the end. The Player says that couldn't be the end with everyone standing. He laughs and then becomes serious. He says, "There's a design at work in all art – surely you know that? Events must play themselves out to aesthetic, moral and logical conclusion" (2.310).
Guil asks what that conclusion might be, and the Player says they aim for the point where everyone who is marked for death dies.
Guil asks what he means by marked. He says that given the options of "just desserts" and "tragic irony," there is a lot of room for them to exercise their talent. He goes on, "Generally speaking, things have gone about as far as they can possibly go when things have got about as bad as they reasonably get" (2.314).
Guil asks who decides when this is, and the Player says that it is written. The Player starts to move, but Guil grabs him. The Player says that he is referring to oral tradition, and Guil releases him. He explains that they are Tragedians, that they follow directions, "there is no choice involved. The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily" (2.316).
The Player calls for them to continue the mime, which this time is a passionate love scene between the Tragedian-Queen and the Poisoner, who is now the new King.
The Player narrates what is happening on stage, but Ros exclaims that they can't do that on stage. He says that the people came to be entertained, not to see sordid things on stage.
The Player retorts that that is exactly what they came to see.
Ros says that he wants "a good story, with a beginning, a middle and end" (2.322).
The Player asks what Guil wants, and he says, "I'd prefer art to mirror life, if it's all the same to you" (2.324).
The Player says it's all the same to him, and tells the lovers onstage not to overdo it. He says that he will come on in a moment, and calls for the next scene.
The Player (as Hamlet) acts very anguished, and then has an impassioned argument with the Tragedian-Queen. There is a reproduction of Polonius being stabbed behind the curtain (the Tragedian who played the King now plays Polonius), and the Player himself continues to explain the mime to Ros and Guil.
The Player narrates how Lucianus (the name of the Hamlet character in this play) is upset at the usurpation, and loses his reason. He considers suicide and then homicide. He then confronts his mother, and asks her to repent. The Tragedian-King is tormented by guilt and fear, and sends Lucianus on to England. He entrusts the trip to two spies (which correspond to Ros and Guil, though they don't recognize it).
As the Tragedians act it out, the Player describes the arrival in England. When they get there, the prince is gone, and the two spies have been tricked into delivering a letter that condemns them to their deaths. He asks if these two are "traitors hoist by their own petard? – or victims of the gods?" (2.326).
Ros breaks up the mime and approaches "his" spy, who is wearing the same coat that he is. He notes the two coats, but doesn't put together what is happening.
Ros thinks that he recognizes the spy, but then changes his mind and tells the actor-spy that he is mistaken for thinking that he recognized Ros (though it was Ros who thought he recognized the spy).
Guil approaches the other spy thoughtfully. The Player asks if Guil is familiar with the play, and he says that he is not.
The Player announces that it is a slaughterhouse. There are eight corpses, which brings out the best in his troupe.
Guil is rattled and asks what the Player knows about death. The Player says it is what his actors do best. He says that he can "extract significance from melodrama, a significance that it does not in fact contain; but occasionally, from out of this matter, there escapes a thin beam of light that, seen at the right angle, can crack the shell of mortality" (2.333).
Ros asks if dying is the only thing that the actors can do. The Player answers that the ones who cannot die well can kill well. Ros asks which ones are which, and the Player says that there isn't much difference.
Guil angrily denounces all of them as actors. He says that what he has seen is not death. He goes on, "You scream and choke and sink to your knees, but it doesn't bring death home to anyone – it doesn't catch them unawares and start the whisper in their skulls that says – 'One day you are going to die'" (2.338).
The Player retorts that that is the only kind of death people believe in. He says he once had an actor that was condemned to be hanged, and he got permission for it to happen in the middle of the play. But no one believed it. He was crying the whole time, and people just jeered at him.
The Player pulls a knife to kill the spies onstage. He says, "Audiences know what to expect, and that is all that they are prepared to believe in" (2.339). The two spies die, and the lights fade.
Guil maintains that you can't act out death. He says the fact of death, the gasps and the blood, has nothing to do with it. For him, "It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all – now you see him, now you don't, that's the only thing that's real […] an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced, a disappearance gathering weight as it goes on, until, finally, it is heavy with death" (2.340).
The Player throws the spies' cloaks over their bodies. There is a blackout, and then a bunch of noise. There are shouts of "The King rises!" and calls for the play to end. Someone calls for the lights (these are blips from when the Tragedians actually put on the play for everyone in the court, and Claudius freaks out).
When the lights do come up, it is like a sunrise. Guil and Ros are lying comfortably in the same position that the two dead spies were in a few moments before.
They resume their conversation about the direction of the sun. Ros thinks it is east, but Guil says that he will assume nothing.
Ros says he saw the sun come up, but Guil says that he just opened his eyes very slowly. If he'd been facing the other direction, he would think that was east.
Guil says that everyone is just waiting for them to move, and then will burst in, giving them random instructions and confusing their names.
Ros is about to protest, but Claudius calls for Guildenstern. Claudius announces that Hamlet has slain Polonius (as was depicted in the Tragedians play shortly before). He wants the two to find Hamlet and to bring Polonius's body to the chapel. As he and Gertrude leave, he tells her that they will call their wisest friends and ask what to do.
Ros repeats that they should seek Hamlet out, and Guil thinks this is a step in the right direction.
Guil asks whether or not Ros liked him (Polonius). Ros doesn't know he's talking about, and Guil hopes that more tears are shed for them when they die.
Ros is still excited that they have a task. He begins to step, but then realizes he doesn't know which way to go. They decide to search in different directions. They walk toward the ends of the stage, but then halt. They decide to switch directions, and walks past each other.
Ros asks Guil to wait, and says that they should stay together in case Hamlet is violent. Guil agrees and marches over to where Ros is standing, but then Ros says he will come with Guil. They march across the stage, but then Ros says he will come with Guil, but they will go Ros's way. They march across the stage again.
It then occurs to Ros that, if they both leave, Hamlet could come right where they are now, and that would be stupid. Guil agrees to stay and let Ros go.
Guil goes to midstage, and Ros starts to march off, but then remembers that they wanted to stay together. They are in their original positions, and Guil is happy that at least they are getting somewhere.
Ros sees Hamlet approaching. He describes him as walking with an old man, who is not walking. Guil is excited, calls this a great opening, and says that they will let him walk into their trap.
Ros doesn't know what he talking about, but Guil just tells him to stand his ground and not to let "Hamlet" pass.
The two of them take off their belts and attach them to create a barricade. Ros's pants slide down.
Hamlet enters, dragging Polonius's body. He makes an arc and leaves the stage on the same side. Ros and Guil stare at him and keep the belts taut.
Ros says that at least they were close, and Guil agrees that there are limits to what they can do. They undo their belts, and Ros pulls up his trousers.
Ros is shocked that Polonius was actually dead, but Guil angrily says, "Death's death, isn't it" (2.402)?
They surmise that Hamlet will come back, and Ros begins to take off his belt again, but Guil tells him that they must learn from their experience (the belt trick already failed).
Ros begins to shout for Hamlet, but Guil tells him that he is being absurd. When Ros shouts again, Hamlet enters, and Ros asks what he did with Polonius's body.
Hamlet says that he has mixed it with dust, with which it was kin anyway (dust to dust). Ros asks him where it is so that he and Guil might take it to the chapel.
Hamlet tells Ros that he knows he is league with the king, and that he is merely the King's sponge. He compares Ros and Guil to food stored in the corner of the King's mouth. He will squeeze what he needs from them when the time comes and then swallow them last.
Ros does not understand him, and persists in asking about Polonius's body.
Hamlet asks them to take him to the King. He acts as if he sees the King offstage and bows. Ros and Guil also bow. Hamlet does an about-face and walks off in the other direction. Ros and Guil look up from their bows and realize they are bowing at nothing. Claudius approaches behind them.
Claudius asks what happened, and Ros tells him that they cannot get at the body. Claudius asks Ros where Hamlet is, and Ros tells him that he is "guarded to know your pleasure" (2.424).
Claudius tells Ros to bring Hamlet to him. Ros is a bit shocked, and then tells Guil to bring in Hamlet (he doesn't want to be the one to actually betray Hamlet). Hamlet comes in with escorts just as Claudius leaves so that Ros and Guil escape their situation (neither has to betray him). Hamlet and escorts follow Claudius.
It is just Ros and Guil again. They wonder why it had to be them and not someone else since they contributed nothing. Ros doesn't know exactly what happened; he is just happy that things are over. Then he looks upstage and sees Hamlet.
Guil says he knew that wasn't the end. Ros wonders what else is going to happen, and Guil reminds him that they have to take Hamlet to England.
Ros announces that Hamlet is talking with a soldier. Ros wonders if they should go. Ros hears a sound again, and wishes for "a change of ground" (2.443).
Guil jokingly plays off of Ros and says "Give us this day our daily round…" (2.444).
Hamlet and soldier enter behind Ros and Guil, but they do not turn around.
Ros notes that they will leave them "hanging about till we're dead" (2.445). He thinks that at least the weather will change at some point (note that he doesn't know how literally his phrase will come to pass).
Hamlet speaks with the soldier, who identifies the powers that they see as the troops of Fortinbras of Norway. They are commanded against some part of Poland.
Ros says that they will be cold when the summer ends, but Guil says that it is autumnal.
Ros observes that there are no leaves on the ground. Guil counters that autumn has nothing to do with leaves, but with "a certain brownness at the edges of the day" (2.455).
Ros hears something again. It is the Tragedians' band.
Hamlet thanks the soldier, who exits.
Ros goes up to Hamlet, and asks if it will please him. Hamlet tells him he will catch up and to go on.
Ros reports to Guil that Hamlet is talking to himself. Ros says that Hamlet told them they can go, but Guil worries that if they go they won't know where they are and they won't know if they will ever come back.
Ros says they don't want to come back. Guil agrees that this is true, but asks if they want to go.
Ros says that if they go, they will be free. Guil says he isn't sure, that it's the same sky anywhere.
As they exit, Ros says that they've come this far, "And besides, anything could happen yet" (2.485).