Summary and Analysis Blog: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Author: Tom Stoppard. Born in Czechoslovakia, his family escaped due to Hitler. He spent most of his life in Britain, and writes plays. He is still alive, in his 80’s.


Setting: Takes place in Elsinore, and in the boat that Hamlet is put on at the end of Hamlet. Takes place during the same time as Hamlet.


Plot: The plot is the same as Hamlet, only it is told from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. R and G are on their way to Elsinore, because they were summoned by Claudius. On the way there, they are flipping a coin that keeps coming up heads. They meet some Players, a group of actors, and interact with them before arriving at Elsinore. They talk with Claudius and Gertrude, who welcome them, and ask R and G to question Hamlet about his madness. After this scene, R and G work on questioning each other to prepare for Hamlet. They do this in a very absurd way, playing a game of questions.


After their meeting with Hamlet, they bemoan how they were outsmarted by him in the questions that they asked and his answers. The Player comes back, talks with R and G about life and how to go with the flow, and leaves. Claudius and Gertrude enter, and they ask R and G about Hamlet’s condition.


We see the Tragedians perform a rendition of the Murder of Gonzago, only this one shows representatives of R and G dying on a boat. There is a cut to the scene where R and G are asked to find Polonius’ body. They set up a comical trap with their belts, that fails to catch Hamlet. They eventually find Hamlet and deliver him to the King.


We have a scene with the boat on its way to England, with Hamlet in tow. They open the letter with their instructions, and see that they are going to have Hamlet killed. The Players jump out of barrels on the ship, saying that they are escaping Denmark. Suddenly, pirates attack and Hamlet is shown having jumped ship. R and G bemoan their fate, and reread the letter, seeing that it now calls for their deaths. Guildenstern snaps and tries to kill the Player with a dagger, which is revealed to be a trick dagger. R and G’s death are now acted out, and the end has each say a few lines, then vanish (dying). The play closes with the ambassadors from England saying that R and G are dead.


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – the main characters of the piece. Very hard for others to distinguish between, as they are very similar in mannerisms and absurdity.


The Player – a know it all character, who seems to have already read Hamlet as a play. He is witty, and knows his fate, but he goes along with it. He often interacts with R and G and tries to reassure them.


Hamlet – He is still in the play, but his influence is that he is a puzzle for R and G to solve for the King and Queen. He has no new lines added.


There is no narrative voice, since this is a play. The author’s style is very interesting. The point of view leans towards R and G, since they have the majority of the lines. The tone is very absurdist, where very few things have emotion or seriousness attached. The only emotional lines happen near the end, where Guildenstern almost kills the player. There isn’t much imagery other than the stage directions, which tend to emphasize the place being very generic and plain.


There is a lot of symbolism throughout the play. Pirates can be likened to a disaster happening all of a sudden, which the non stop heads can show a high or low in life. In general, this play had a lot of intertextuality, like one of the articles we read about it. There is also a lot of back and forth between what is real, and acted, and the real world vs acting.


“Pirates can happen to anyone” – This quote shows that life can be confusing, and horrible things and good things can happen at random. The pirate ship was good for Hamlet, but it proved deadly for R and G.


“Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking: Well, at least I’m not dead.” – This is a very interesting question that he poses, and it reminded me a lot of schrodinger’s cat. It also shows how R and G feel that they would rather be immortal than mortal, even if their lives were terrible. It is quite similar to how they are living their lives anyway.


In R&G, Stoppard comments on the futility of human purpose in a world where people are confined to a role that they cannot control. (1st Hour)


R and G are put into a world that they have no power over. They even mention it at the start of the play, saying that there must have been something they could have done to not have ended up with this conclusion. The title of the piece seems to say that their fate is fixed, and nothing they can do will ever change that. The setting is mostly one of Elsinore, which Hamlet describes as a prison. R and G focus on that statement as well, after their talk with Hamlet. In a prison, you have a lot less free will than outside, in the world. The imagery that is given is harsh and unassuming, seeming to restrict them to one choice. The play (Murder of Gonzago) foreshadows their deaths, and also shows that no matter what happens, they will die on that boat.

Response to Course Materials 3/25

We finished our Hamlet discussion first. I think I got a lot out of that discussion, as listening to other people’s ideas is always fun. I do remember some of the conspiracy theories we started throwing around, and while they were entertaining, I feel like we should have stayed more on task.


We then started Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This play was rather confusing at first, like the American dream. So much of it seemed repetitive and boring. As time went on, however, I realized that the author was making differences in the dialogue to show us something. Yes, this is an absurdist play, but as we discussed in class, some of the lines were misused idioms, or a line would be repeated with a different subject.


There are a few parallels I noticed between this piece and the American Dream. For one, we lose some characters by the end, with something changing. R and G fade away, as does Grandma in some ways. The American Dream also has a seemingly omniscient character (Grandma), with R and G having the Player.


Annotating the literary analyses of R and G was very interesting. It is weird how literature can have so many faces, so many interpretations of the exact same story. I think that Stoppard has had more variation of responses when compared with the original Hamlet. I really liked the critique that said something to the affect of all writers being contained by Shakespeare. I feel like we saw this idea at the start of the year, with the book on how to read literature. So many writers have borrowed from Shakespeare, or maybe Shakespeare just wrote about 90% of the human experience. I like the idea of Stoppard complaining through a piece because it just seems like such a human thing to do.


We then had our discussion of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Evan’s theory of everything writing itself was a little far fetched. Overall, I didn’t like how much we theorized about how this play happened. I feel like we should have focused more on the symbols and discrepancies within the text, rather than some parallel universe theory.


I really wish we could have had more time to discuss!


Also, somewhere in here we did some poetry multiple choice, which I found harrowing. I need to brush up on my poetry skills. We ended up tying with another hour. The stories we read could be seen in so many different ways depending on what you knew about the specifics the author refers to. For example, we were comparing a physician to a doctor for medical knowledge, or some sort of Frankenstein body digger.


2008 Open Prompt Answer

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we are introduced to Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend. He always follows Hamlet where possible, and quickly carries out orders. He appears to care for Hamlet throughout the play. The relationship between Horatio and Hamlet shows us that Horatio is too perfect, and that he was essential in carrying out the death of Claudius.


We first see Horatio at the start of the play. He is trusted by the castle guards, who know that he is close to Hamlet. The castle guards show him the ghost, and he endeavours to tell Hamlet the next day, so that he is well informed. Horatio doesn’t go around telling anyone else, nor does he discuss it with the guards. The guards work for the king, but Horatio makes sure that the guards don’t tell anyone, so that Claudius never hears about it. He seems to have predicted every scenario, and does for the good of Hamlet. In this way, Horatio is perfect.


We later see Horatio and Hamlet in a number of scenes. Horatio is often advising Hamlet of what to do. When Hamlet needs to check if his uncle reacts unfavorably to the play he has put on, he turns to Horatio to watch his uncle. In this way, Hamlet shows that he trusts Horatio with his family members’ lives. That level of trust is almost never seen in the real world showing that Horatio must be very loyal to Hamlet. Later in the play, Horatio receives the letters from Hamlet, the key component that the entire plan rests on. Horatio delivers the letters perfectly, and he does this without letting Claudius know what is happening. Everyone seems to trust him, and not realize he is loyal to only Hamlet. This amount of amiability, and ability to look at a difficult situations and get a solution makes Horatio a “Mary Sue” – someone without any flaws.


Near the end of the play, Horatio advises Hamlet on what to do. He warns Hamlet that the entire setup with Hamlet fighting Laertes is a trap, but Hamlet doesn’t listen to him. Horatio demonstrates that he knows the future, or that he is very intelligent. Then, when everyone is dying, he offers to commit suicide as well. This is a huge moment. What kind of friend would willingly die, when everyone is so young? There were many rational decisions that Horatio could have made at this point, as he had demonstrated in the past. Horatio instead does exactly what Hamlet tells him to do, and makes sure that Hamlet’s voice is heard from beyond the grave in the choosing of the next king of Denmark.


Throughout Hamlet, we see Horatio and Hamlet’s relationship. The relationship appears to never change, but instead it is revealed to us through the many actions and the amount of trust Hamlet has in Horatio. Horatio is loved by all, but he only appears to care for Hamlet. His unquestionable loyalty, and his extreme intelligence make him a perfect man, someone who proves essential to Hamlet’s quest.

2008 Open Prompt Analysis


Author 1:

This author does change what they think the thesis is from the beginning to the end. They initially talk about foil and how they influence each other, but end up talking about how Huang influences just Lindo by making her stronger. There is also a lot of plot summary thrown in. While that is good and illustrates the point, the author could have talked more about the points they were trying to make rather than showing us the points, leaving it to the reader to figure it out. Lastly, I also felt that Huang wasn’t shown as being too much of an opposite with Lindo. Lindo is discussed too much rather than equally. Other than those few things, I think that this author did a really good job of answering the question. They had good answers, and although I disagree a little in the way they approached them, they did it well.


Author 2:

The thesis is very strong and talks about how a minor character (the father) causes Celie to feel terrible for the rest of her life. The first body paragraph tackles Maslow’s pyramid of needs, which is a strong literary argument. However, the paragraph starts more and more to explore how females in general are oppressed rather than staying on topic with the relationship between Celie and her father. The paragraphs start to focus more and more on feminism and being a strong female. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I feel like the author should have talked more about the relationship and how it makes an impact on the book, rather than talking about the plot and how the main character grows and learns. I don’t really think that the main character and her father are foils, since they are antagonists with some stuff in common. If they bounce ideas off each other, it might make more sense.


Author 3:

This essay starts out making a claim that Baba and Hassan were foils because they were very similar. Foils are people who are different, and whose relationship is shown to be important. While this relationship was important, Amir often said that Baba and Hassan were similar, that Baba wanted a son more like Hassan. The first body paragraph supports the illogical thesis and introduction, so the author knows how to draw from evidence. They could have stated their point more clearly, and used more than one example to make a point. The third body paragraph moves onto differences between the two. I feel like this should have been explored more in order to have a much better essay that could have answered the prompt a whole lot better. The conclusion has very little to do with the thesis, and could work to answer a different prompt much better. Overall, a rather weak essay.

Hamlet Final Summary and Analysis

Shakespeare is the author, lived during the 1500’s to 1600’s. He was a famous playwright, and had his own theatre that he wrote his plays for.


The setting is Elsinore, in Denmark. It is set during a similar time to Shakespeare, or before him.


Plot: Hamlet is a moody teenager, whose father recently died. His father’s ghost appears to him, and informs Hamlet that the current king (Hamlet’s uncle) killed King Hamlet, and that Hamlet should get revenge. Hamlet vows revenge. His family worries about him, especially his recently remarried (to his uncle) mother. His mother and his uncle seek out Hamlet’s old friends to spy on him and tell them what is wrong. Hamlet realizes that his friends are trying to spy on him. He also comes up with a plan to make sure that his uncle did actually kill his father, to verify what the ghost said. This plan involves a play that mimics what the ghost told Hamlet, and then watching the King’s reaction. Once the King reacts unfavorably, Hamlet starts making plans to kill him. Hamlet kills Polonius (mistaking him for his uncle) while talking with his mother. He is then sent to England, but he escapes and sends his old friends (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) to their deaths. He returns, realizes his girlfriend committed suicide, and attacks her surviving brother. They all head back to the castle, where his uncle and the brother are poisoning everything. A fencing match takes place, to kill Hamlet, but Hamlet poisons the brother, who poisons Hamlet. The queen drinks a cup of poison and dies. Hamlet makes the King drink poison so he dies. Hamlet hands the throne off to another prince (Young Fortinbras) before dying.



Hamlet – A young teenager who studies in Germany. His father just died, and he feels a strong sense of revenge against his uncle who killed him. He is quite intelligent, and driven.


Claudius – The younger brother of King Hamlet. He is shown to be quite cunning and deceitful, willing to kill his nephew to hold on to the throne with no challengers. He loves Hamlet’s mother, and never fights people in person.


Laertes – Overprotective older brother. He loves his family, and is popular with the inhabitants of the castle. Willing to do anything for his honor, including poison. Maybe easy to manipulate, or Claudius is really good at manipulating.


Gertrude – Hamlet’s mother and queen of Denmark. She loved King Hamlet dearly, and according to Hamlet had a very happy relationship with him. She makes Hamlet very angry by remarrying, and we see that she has very few doubts or regrets. She does speak with Hamlet before he sets off to England, where she agrees to keep his secrets, and starts to acknowledge that she may have done something wrong. While she loves Claudius, she kept her son’s secret from him.


Narrative Voice – Since it is a play, the only narrative voice are the directions, which are brief, and to the point. Very impersonal.

Style – Point of view is everyone, since it is a play, but we get more asides from Hamlet. Since Hamlet is the main character, we get more info from him, but he is not telling the story. Tone feels more dramatic than other Shakespeare plays. Lots of comparisons and flowy writing. Because many people are royalty, Shakespeare gives them blank verse lines, which are usually iambic pentameter. The tone is also serious, since this is a tragedy. There are lots of symbols. Main ones would be the poison that is used, and the “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Another symbol would be the deaths of the people representing the way royalty would be dying and losing power all across Europe.


Quotes: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Meaning is to show how a supernatural being can influence us all. Also relates to the poison I mentioned earlier, death, corruption, and decay.


“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” – this is rather interesting because it is being told to someone who ends up causing many different deaths. Despite the number of people that died due to Hamlet’s actions, his best friend Horatio still believes that Hamlet will go to heaven.


In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we are taught that inaction is the weakest and worst thing that man can do.


Setting – Hamlet is literally a prince. His job is to do things for his people. By neglecting that duty, he dooms Denmark. Plot – Hamlet fails to act on Claudius, preferring to make sure and dilly dally, before making too many bad decisions leading to his death. There is a lot of symbolism (that I saw) with not doing your job (inaction) and something being rotten in the state of Denmark. I can’t think of any imagery that supports this thesis, but the image of Claudius praying while Hamlet doesn’t attack him is fixated in my mind.


Response to Course Materials 2/26

The first thing that we did was our final exam project. First off, I love how open ended these are. I always have way too much fun with creating games, and when it doubles as a school assignment, I can feel productive while having fun. I spent too much time on this game for homework, but it was worth it and a ton of fun in the end. I think that most of the class enjoyed it, and if we have an open ended project for Hamlet, I can’t wait to create “Stabby Hamlet”.

I have created Stabby Macbeth, Stabby Boys (this one), and I am working on a more full featured game for a class I am taking at MSU. I always love how there are well written games, that make it more of an interactive literature experience.

After that, we covered a bunch of poetry. Hearing my classmates debate and talk about the different viewpoints made me realize that there is rarely one “true” answer for any given piece of text. There are bad answers that may lack evidence, but there are a lot of good ones, influenced by prior readings.

We then started a Shakespeare unit, with Elizabethan theatre, before jumping into Hamlet. Hamlet is a good story, albeit with some missing parts almost (I really wish that Shakespeare had written an addition for it that explained more of the plot). He died in his fifties, so it isn’t unreasonable that he may have had a sequel or prequel in mind. We read through the play, which is always nice. Polonius’ lines were a pain. He didn’t have that many, but they were literally tongue twisters.

We also did the multiple choice creation exercise. Learning what it is like from the other side does better prepare us for the AP. I had a few learning moments where I realized just how College Board designs questions, and how to exploit that to do better.

The poetry projects were very cool. I loved seeing how many people were able to have different opinions on something as short as a poem. Just being forced to sit down and analyze something isn’t something I have done since middle school. Since I have learned a ton since then, it was fun to read something and give myself time to mull it over.

My goal score on the AP exam is a 5. I need to work on my writing skills a ton, I think that I have been underperforming recently. I don’t often write out the connections I make in my head, or my thesis morphs as I write. Most of this is just practice. The only way you could help me is by grading extra AP essays that I fill out by myself, and leaving helpful feedback.

2006 Open Prompt

In Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck uses a country setting to show how primative the country can often be. He has many simple laborers working in a secluded area, where murders take place without anyone in the outside world really noticing. The country setting also manages to create some simple characters, such as Lennie and Candy. Lastly, the setting influences the dreams that the characters have while living there.

Having sheep dogs killed, and Lennie’s puppy, shows that nobody in the country of this book really cares. It is a part of life, and the people just accept it. When Candy’s sheep dog is killed, everyone accepts it, and they try to get him a new dog. Lennie pets his puppy to death, and Curley’s wife to death. The killing of a human being would ordinarily make the news, and cause sensation, but we are left thinking that soon this will only be a memory. The country setting serves to cover up some of the more viscious crimes that take place.

The setting creates a few simple characters. First we have Lennie Smalls, who has always lived in a country area with his protector, George. We have Candy, who offers his life savings for a farm, without any guile or tricks. Carlson is also a part of the story, with him playing a simple brute of a man. The country setting shows how uncomplicated many of these people are. When Candy offers giving all of his money to three strangers, only George is a little apperhensive at first. He warms up to the idea as well, something that would not happen in a city setting.

The biggest influence the country has on the story is with the dreams of the characters. Candy’s dream is to work his own land. He has spent his entire life working for other people, and now he wants to work for himself, still within the country. If this had been any other setting, he wouldn’t have wanted that. Curley’s wife wants to be a movie star, something that is as far away from the country as possible. George and Lenny’s dream is similar to Candy’s dream, to have their own farm with rabbits. Crooks wants his own garden where he can plant what he wants. All of these people clearly want things based on what they have seen. Curley’s wife wants to get out of the country, everyone else wants a better version of it for themselves.

The country setting in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men leads to many mishaps, dreams, and adventures that would not be possible without it. The pleasant setting belies many of the killings that take place there, the people have dreams due to it, and some of the characters are quite simple.

Open Prompt 1 Jan 28

2006 Question 3


This response does a really well job of responding to the prompt and staying on topic. The author focused on the setting of the book, and the specific development it had on one character. The main issue with this response was how much it overfocused on only one aspect of one character. While there was some comparisons between two settings, the majority of the essay was talking about how the Anne was innocent and smart, just like the countryside. As I read it, I felt that the author was simple repeating themselves, without giving much new information. I also thought that the author could include more focused detail. Certain characters were introduced without giving much more thought, when related to the setting. Overall, this author definitely connected the setting to the values of the character they chose, Anne. This is a very strong response.



This response tries to respond to the prompt, but doesn’t do that well of a job. One entire paragraph is dedicated to just plot summary, without focusing on the details of the setting. This author connected setting to plot influence, but barely touched on the values of the setting that add to the story. The only affect the author describes is one of confusion due to the contrasting countryside and city. The conclusion makes a different point than the introduction. The conclusion says that the main point the play makes is that of comedy through confusion, whereas the introduction says that the setting develops confusion, in a comedic play. I feel like the author should have focused more on the point they were making in the conclusion rather than the thesis they put forward at the start. The value they would have used would be comedy, and they could show how the differences between the two settings creates comedy. Adding the confusion intermediate weakens their response.



The thesis starts out weak, and simply spits back out at the question/prompt. The second paragraph gives no specific examples of setting. The author simply makes generic statements about how the text uses diction and has a stream of consciousness. The third paragraph makes a generic point about how Faulkner says that the south has backward values in his story, but the author fails to provide any specific evidence or plot points to corroborate this argument. The next few paragraphs start to make a point about a specific character being influenced from where they are from, but that is not the same as setting. The book doesn’t (from what I could gather) actually take place in the south. It just has characters that are from the south. All of the comparisons that the author makes seems to rely on calling southerners stupid, even though the south isn’t the setting. The conclusion says that all of the weird bits in the story can be blamed on the south. The author never discusses any values or ideals that might lead to this conclusion.  

Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Summary and Analyses

Author  – Sophocles. Greek playwright, not all of his work survived. He wrote this play for an Athenian contest, where he came second.


Oedipus rules a troubled kingdom. He sends his brother in law (Creon) to a oracle, to see how the problem may be resolved. Creon tells Oedipus that the killer of their king must be apprehended for everything to return to normal. Oedipus resolved to find the killer, and asks everyone to find him. Jocasta (his wife) and Oedipus talk, and they summon the sole survivor of the attack that killed Laius. A messenger arrives, and says that Oedipus’ father is dead. Oedipus is happy, because he didn’t kill him, stopping the prophecy. The messenger says that Oedipus’ father is adopted, as is his mother. He tells Oedipus that one of Laius’ men gave him a child, who he gave to Oedipus’ parents. They interrogate that man, who tells Oedipus that he is the son of Jocasta. Jocasta hangs herself, and Oedipus uses her brooches to gouge his eyes out. He leaves, and banishes himself.


Oedipus – Prideful king who believes that everything he does is right, and often disregards other people. He holds himself to very high standards.

Creon – Intelligent man who helps in managing the kingdom, and provides advice to Oedipus. He is a little prideful, but is willing to reconcile with Oedipus after their spat.

Jocasta – Oedipus’ wife, who is scared of the truth. She begs him to go back on his promise, and would rather live in ignorance than embrace the bitter truth.

Tiresias – Blind prophet who knows everything. He refuses to tell Oedipus the truth, and when he does, he enrage Oedipus. They have some verbal wordplay, and then Tiresias leaves.

There is no narrative voice here. The point of view is that of the person watching the play. You don’t see anyone’s inner thoughts, just the drama playing out in front of you. The tone is also rather impersonal. Since this is a translation, the author can’t add additional remarks, and interpreting what Sophocles may have meant 2000 years ago is very difficult. The imagery he uses is very strong, especially near the end with the blood pouring out of Oedipus’ eyes is shown. Whenever a character reminisces about their past, it is well described and easy to understand.

Symbolism is very strong. The fall of a prideful arrogant man, with pride being symbolized by Jocasta’s golden brooch. A blind man who sees symbolizes intelligence, such as Tiresias. The majority of the story happened at a crossroads, showing that even though a prophecy was declared, it wasn’t forced on anyone. Oedipus and Laius made it happen on themselves.


Creon – “You are stubborn—obviously unhappy to concede, and when you lose your temper, you go too far. But men like that find it most difficult to tolerate themselves.” This quote is foreshadowing what will happen later in the story, as Oedipus gives up on himself. He would have killed himself, but he was too proud to do that as well. The best form of torture that he can come up with, is to live with himself, because that is the thing he most fears.

Tiresias – “Let me go home. You must bear your burden to the very end, and I will carry mine, if you’ll agree with me.” Tiresias knows what Oedipus will do. He also seems to liken their burden as being similar, foretelling the blindness that will occur to Oedipus. Oedipus chooses not to agree with Tiresias, making his story that much more tragic.

In Oedipus the King, Sophocles illustrates how pride brings downfall, by looking at Oedipus’ character and showing his stubbornness.

This is illustrated by dialogue. Everything is illustrated by dialogue, since there is no voice, and any style is translated. Oedipus starts out by calling his citizens children, and pretends to know what has been going on. He quarrels with the only threat to his rulership, Creon, even when Creon is just trying to help him. He talks with Tiresias, and belittles him, just because of the truth. He does irrational things because of his pride. He finds out who is true mother and father are because of the promise he makes to all the citizens, not because he hates ignorance.


Reponse to Course Material

We learned about the different tones that authors will use when talking about literature. This felt like a review of what we learned in British Literature.

Then we started Kite Runner. It was a great book, that kept me hooked while I was reading it. By breaking up the story the way Hosseini did, he was able to keep talking about his themes while appearing fresh. He showed the parallels and the differences between two very different cultures. Our discussions were a bit slow and awkward, but it was nice to hear the thoughts of other people who had just read what I had read. Not going to write much else here, we spent a lot of class time reading. We studied this book quite well, and came up with a good theme statement. The most important theme, in my opinion, was that guilt leads to redemption.

We did peer reviews of poetry blogs this time around, and that was super helpful. I needed to be more concise and accurate with my words and thesis. We also did some practice multiple choice on the Kite Runner, which went smoothly. I need to do more practice AP Lit multiple choice. I did not do well on the 52 that we were given in class. Reviewing my answers made me realize that there are usually two that are similar, but one is always backed better by the text.

We did a final Kite Runner summary and analysis blog. We also read through all of Oedipus Rex, which is a very unique play. It explores 2000 year old tragedy, and I am still amazed by how well it was written, despite being so old. It was still fascinating.

That is all we did. It was mostly reading Kite Runner, which I enjoyed, and some multiple choice work.