Study Guide

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Writing Style

By Tom Stoppard

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Writing Style


Stoppard may not be as devoted a minimalist as Beckett, but he certainly doesn't mince words. There are sometimes pages and pages where Ros and Guil swap phrases that are just a few words long. For example,

ROS: Took the very words out of my mouth.
GUIL: You'd be lost for words.
ROS: You'd be tongue-tied.
GUIL: Like a mute in a monologue.
ROS: Like a nightingale at a Roman feast.
GUIL: Your diction will go to pieces.
ROS: Your lines will be cut.
GUIL: To dumbshows.
ROS: And dramatic pauses.
GUIL: You'd be lost for words. (2.92 – 101)

Repetition is also a trademark of minimalists (using the same few elements over and over again in different ways so that they gain more and more resonance and meaning), and if you take a few minutes you'll notice just how many events are repeated in the play [Ros looks under the Player's shoe twice; Guil attacks the Player twice; Ros and Guil act out the England scenario twice; because of the dress rehearsal, much of the late action happens twice (once in the play and once in reality)]. Since certain parts of the play are taken directly from the text of Hamlet, the style occasionally becomes Shakespearean, but much of the dialogue that is new to this play is sparse, varying quickly between the absurd and the absurdly eloquent.

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