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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


by Tom Stoppard

Hamlet Timeline and Summary

  • We learn from Claudius that, since Hamlet's father has died, he has undergone a transformation. Claudius wants Ros and Guil to find out what is wrong with Hamlet.
  • Hamlet appears at the close of Act One speaking with Polonius. He is riddling with him, and it is unclear whether he is speaking madness or sense. He tells Polonius that he cannot take anything from him that he would not already willingly part with, except for his life.
  • Hamlet greets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern warmly. The start of their conversation ends Act One and the close of it opens Act Two.
  • Ros and Guil are a bit flummoxed by Hamlet's behavior, and he tells them that he is "but mad north north-west; when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw" (2.4). Apparently this is a good test of madness.
  • Polonius tells Hamlet that his actors have arrived.
  • When the Tragedians arrive, Hamlet asks the Player if he can put on The Murder of Gonzago. Hamlet would like to alter some of the lines in it to his own liking.
  • Hamlet appears on stage pursuing Ophelia. He tells her "Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered" (2.228).
  • Hamlet appears again with Ophelia and breaks up the Player's dress rehearsal. This time he is pursuing Ophelia aggressively and seems to be in a semi-hysterical state. He suggests that either his mother or her father will be killed, and tells her to go to a nunnery (this is the famous "nunnery" scene from Hamlet).
  • News comes from Claudius that Hamlet has slain Polonius. Guil and Ros see him dragging Polonius's body, but fail to act.
  • When Ros does confront Hamlet, Hamlet accosts him for doing favors for the King and disregarding their friendship.
  • Hamlet discusses the troops of Norway, led by Fortinbras, with a soldier. Ros approaches him and he tells Ros that he will be with them in a minute. Ros and Guil are going to take him on a ship to England.
  • Hamlet lights the lantern on the ship in the opening of Act Three. He spends most of the Act sitting in a deck chair behind a large umbrella.
  • After Ros and Guil realize they are taking Hamlet to his death, he waits until night and then goes and gets the letter and changes it so that they will be condemned and not he.
  • While Ros, Guil and the Player speak of Hamlet, he comes to the front of the stage and spits on the audience. He then wipes his eye as if he were the one that was spit on.
  • When the pirates attack, Hamlet jumps into a barrel to hide (like the rest), but his barrel disappears and he escapes.
  • Hamlet's body appears in the closing scene, amidst those of the King, Queen, and Laertes.