Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Suggested Essay Questions

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  1. 1

    The one point in the play where the Player loses his composure is when he discovers that his troupe has been performing without an audience. Why is it so imperative for the Player to have an audience? What implications might the need for an audience or even its existence have for philosophical or religious points of view?

  2. 2

    As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern participate in frivolous word play and games, they are in search for more than the details of the plot: they are also seeking out their identities. However, this quest is frustrated by their lack of memory and the inability of people, including themselves, to distinguish them from one another. Do you agree or disagree with the assessment that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have no distinct, separate identities? Explain.

  3. 3

    Explore the theme of death in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

  4. 4

    Critics often compare Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot to Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. What are some of the similarities and differences between the two plays?

  5. 5

    Critic Normand Berlin has commented that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a play that "thinks." According to Berlin, the play examines deep, probing philosophical topics at a sprinting pace. Discuss some of the philosophical movements and schools of thought that are explored in Stoppard's play.

  6. 6

    The Murder of Gonzago is the play within the play of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. What are the similarities and differences between the plots of the two works? Discuss why you think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not grasp the true significance of the play.

  7. 7

    Compare and contrast the character of Hamlet in Shakespeare and Stoppard's plays.

  8. 8

    Actors and the idea of acting are thematic threads throughout the play. Discuss what implications the fluidity of their identities has upon Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's search for a stable sense of self.

  9. 9

    Throughout their journey in the play, do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern gain understanding, or are all of their activities pointless and absurd? Explain.

  10. 10

    Compare and contrast Stoppard's play with T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."