February 8 - April 8

chris johnston rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead american shakespeare center

Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.

From the Oscar winner who gave us Shakespeare in Love, this wickedly funny companion piece to Hamlet turns Shakespeare inside out and shows the Dane’s story from the point of view of Hamlet’s school chums. Tom Stoppard serves up a feast of wordplay, wit, and slapstick while exploring the timeless questions about identity, illusion, and toe-nail growing. An instant classic, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead won the 1968 Tony Award for Best Play, appeared on stages all over the world, and became a major motion picture.

2.5 hours

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Stuff That Happens in the Play
Stuff that Happens BEFORE the Play…
  • Hamlet, King of Denmark, dies.
  • Claudius, his brother, is crowned King and marries the dead king’s widow, Gertrude.
  • Prince Hamlet returns to court at Elsinore from studying at Wittenberg University.
  • The ghost of the dead king appears on the battlements twice.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are “sent for.”
Stuff that Happens IN the Play…
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are flipping coins; they think they remember a messenger waking them up, telling them they were “sent for.”
  • A troupe of traveling actors encounter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and offer them entertainment.
  • “Ophelia runs on in some alarm, followed by Hamlet. They both are mute. Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced, no hat upon his head, his face as pale as his shirt . . . he takes her by the wrist and holds her hard.” Hamlet and Ophelia leave.
  • The King and Queen welcome Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and ask them to discover what’s troubling Hamlet; the King and Queen leave.
  • Hamlet calls Polonius a “fishmonger,” greets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and asks them if they were “sent for” or if “it is a free visitation.”
  • Guildenstern says he “thinks they’ve made some headway” in figuring out what’s troubling Hamlet. Rosencrantz disagrees.
  • Players arrive at Elsinore; Hamlet knows them and requests a performance of The Murder of Gonzago, with the addition of “a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines which [Hamlet] would set down and insert in’t.”
  • The Player chastises Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for leaving the actors on the road to Elsinore. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to get more information from the Player about their situation. Rosencrantz declares Guildenstern might be “stark raving sane.”
  • Much to the astonishment of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the rest of Hamlet ensues.