A Brief Synopsis of
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, having forgotten their summons to Hamlet's castle at Elsinore, are passing the time tossing coins and musing over a continuous and seemingly impossible run of heads over tails. As they remember their task, they are approached by a band of tragedians led by the Player, who offers them a "private" performance with Alfred, a boy actor. After some wagering with the Player, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern request a play but are quickly transported to Elsinore before it begins.

At the castle they are greeted by Claudius and Gertrude who tell them of Hamlet's "transformation" and their wish that the two attend him and find the cause. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play a game of questions with each other to prepare for the task but when they encounter Hamlet they become frustrated by his answers.

With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern looking on, Hamlet commands the Player to perform a play, The Murder of Gonzago, "to catch the conscience of the King." Gertrude enters and questions them about their conversation with Hamlet and they report his interest in the players. Claudius tells them to encourage him in that pursuit.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern watch the tragedian's dress rehearsal for the dumbshow from The Murder of Gonzago. The play now includes two spies who are executed in the final scene.

Claudius tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that Polonius has been slain by Hamlet. He orders them to bring Hamlet and the body of Polonius to the chapel. They encounter Hamlet but he escapes, dragging the dead body with him. When Hamlet is found again, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are ordered by Claudius to accompany him on a ship bound for England and to deliver a letter to the English king. On board, they discover the letter orders Hamlet's death.

When pirates attack the ship, Hamlet escapes. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern discover that Claudius' letter has been switched by Hamlet. The letter that should have brought them favor now orders their deaths. As they contemplate their situation, the action switches to Denmark where an ambassador brings the news that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

A Picture from the a Production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Source: www.tesser.com/csf/rosen.htm

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