About Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is an absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy by Tom Stoppard, first staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1966. The play expands upon the exploits of two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet, the courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The action of Stoppard's play takes place mainly 'in the wings' of Shakespeare's, with brief appearances of major characters from Hamlet who enact fragments of the original's scenes. Between these episodes the two protagonists voice their confusion at the progress of events of which - occurring onstage without them in Hamlet - they have no direct knowledge.

The main source of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is Shakespeare's Hamlet. Comparisons have also been drawn to Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, for the presence of two central characters who almost appear to be two halves of a single character. Many plot features are similar as well: the characters pass time by playing Questions, impersonating other characters, and interrupting each other or remaining silent for long periods of time.

The title is taken directly from a passage by an ambassador in the final scene of Hamlet that is quoted in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The play was performed by the Royal National Theatre at London's Old Vic Theatre on 11 April 1967. It was directed by Derek Goldby and designed by Desmond Heeley.