HONORS PS1500 - Physics in the Plays of Tom Stoppard
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Act 1 - Questions for Discussion
Randomness <--- Free Will ---> Inevitability
How does the opening scene set the mood of the play?
Identify the oblique reference to the law of averages and six monkeys on
Guil's speech on pp 17 - 18: How useful is logic in this situation?
Discuss the possible symbolism of the coin-flipping and the timing of the run of
Guil's speech on p 17: To what extent is "the scientific approach
to the examination of phenomena a defence against the pure emotion of fear?"
Guil's speech on p 18: How does Guildenstern characterize the role of
chance in nature?
Guil's speech on p 21 (about the unicorn): How is this related to
Horatio's observation that a gravedigger can joke about his grisly task because
"Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness." (Hamlet, Act V,
Scene I, line 55). Can you think of other examples of how custom deadens the senses,
including our sense of wonder?
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern identify themselves for the first time on p
22. What happens? (Compare with Hamlet, Act II, Scene II, lines 34 and 35.)
Discuss the attitudes of R&G and the Player concerning why they are
going to Elsinore. How does the Player characterize the times?
Pages 29 - 31: Discuss the coin-tossing with Guilderstern and the
Comment on Guil's line (p 39): "All your life you live so close to
truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye, and when something nudges it
into outline it is like being ambushed by a grotesque."
Guil's line on p 41: "Words, words. They're all we have to go
on." How skilled are R&G at using words? Can they rely upon words for
1. Act 1, pp. 11 - 15 (Two parts: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
Starts with Ros: Heads.
Ends with Guil: Im afraid it is.
2. Act 1, pp. 22 - 25 (Three parts: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Player)
Starts with Ros: Tumblers, are you?
Ends with Player: Oh yes. We have no control. Tonight we play to the court. Or the night after. Or to the tavern. Or not.
3. Act 1, pp. 36 - 39 (Two parts: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
Starts with Ros: I want to go home.
Ends with Guil: --- But not choice.
4. Act 1, pp. 46 - 51 (Two parts: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
Starts with Ros: Who was that?
Ends with Guil: I cant imagine! (Pause.) But all that is well known, common property. Yet he sent for us. And we did come.
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Last modified: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 04:15 PM