We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


by Tom Stoppard

Rosencrantz (Ros) Timeline and Summary

  • Ros beats Guil repeatedly at a game of coin toss. He feels slightly bad about it and gets excited by the ever-increasing string of "heads," but it doesn't bother him.
  • When the Tragedians approach, Ros questions the Player about what they can perform. The Player suggests that they can get a private smutty performance, but Ros doesn't pick up on it.
  • Later, Ros thinks he understands what the Player means, but when he sees Alfred half in-and-out of a robe, he gets offended.
  • Claudius and Gertrude request that Ros and Guil cheer Hamlet up, and find out what's the matter with him.
  • Ros feels that he is in over his head.
  • Ros and Guil play a game of "questions." At first, Ros accuses Guil of cheating, but they get into it, and ultimately, Ros wins.
  • Ros and Guil role-play with Ros as Ros and Guil as Hamlet. It takes Ros a long time to properly understand what they are doing, but he eventually gets it. At the close, Ros summarizes the situation.
  • Ros sees Hamlet, who greets him and Guil.
  • After their conversation, Ros thinks that Hamlet made them look ridiculous, while Guil thinks that things went pretty well.
  • When Guil attempts to determine the position of the sun in order to compute the direction of the wind, Ros suggests that he just go look. Guil gets angry and tells him that pragmatism is all he has to offer.
  • The Tragedians appear at courts, and Ros is highly amused by the Player.
  • Ros tries to control who can come on and off stage, but to no avail.
  • Ros wonders about what it is like to be dead and in a box. He thinks that the reason people get depressed is because they think of it like being alive in a box.
  • Ros horses around during the dress rehearsal, and then becomes mad when the play contains nothing but murder, seduction, and incest.
  • At the end of the dress rehearsal Ros approaches the spy (who is playing him), and thinks he recognizes him, but is not sure from where.
  • After Hamlet murders Polonius, Claudius asks Ros and Guil to find the body and bring Hamlet to him. Ros says they will, but then misses an opportunity to approach Hamlet.
  • Ros wonders if it is summer. After he and Guil find that they have to take Hamlet to England, Ros is happy because he thinks that they will be free and anything could happen.
  • Ros wakes up on a boat with Guil in the dark. He is afraid that he is not alive, but Guil assures him that he is.
  • Ros gets frightened by their situation and wonders what they will do when they get to England. Ros says that he doesn't believe in England.
  • Ros and Guil role-play the scenario with Ros as the King and Guil as Guil. When they open the letter and find that it condemns Hamlet to death, Ros thinks that it is awful and unfair. He summarizes their overall situation.
  • The Player emerges and Ros asks him what he and the Tragedians are doing on the boat. They explain.
  • Ros and Guil summarize the situation with Hamlet for the player, and Ros is upset that all they get is incidents and no sustained action. On cue, the pirates attack.
  • After Hamlet has disappeared, Guil becomes worried about what they will do and Ros consoles him. They re-enact the scenario with Ros as Ros and Guil as King. At the end, they find the letter now condemns them to death.
  • After Guil stabs the Player with a false knife, Ros claps and is very impressed by the death spectacle.
  • When he finds that he and Guil are alone, he briefly laments their situation and asks for an explanation. Then he says that he is relieved, and he disappears.