Study Guide

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Foolishness and Folly

By Tom Stoppard

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Foolishness and Folly

In many ways, in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead it is the title characters' fault that they die. They are easily, and, at times, willingly manipulated. Not to mention, Ros and Guil spend a good portion of the play messing around – swapping names, misunderstanding each other, playing at games of their own devising. Their foolishness is, in part, a source of comedy, but it also seems a natural way to stay entertained when one has as little to do.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Focusing on Hamlet in particular, what is the difference between madness and foolishness? Is Hamlet mad or foolish or both?
  2. How much of the action of the play is driven by folly? How much of it is purpose-driven?
  3. With regard to Ros, what is the difference between a foolish speech and an illuminating one? Are Ros's speeches any more foolish than Guil's? If so, how? If not, why not?

Chew on This

In the play, the characters that appear the most foolish are those who take time to step back and attempt to understand their situation. By contrast, those who act thoughtlessly appear wise.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Foolishness and Folly Study Group

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