Could Rosencrantz and Guildenstern be depicted as heroes or heroic, in a non-traditional sense?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, is based on the characters from the Shakespeare play, Hamlet. The two characters are something of side characters in the original Hamlet play, but they are brought right into the spotlight in the newer story.

Traditionally, a hero is a character...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, is based on the characters from the Shakespeare play, Hamlet. The two characters are something of side characters in the original Hamlet play, but they are brought right into the spotlight in the newer story.

Traditionally, a hero is a character that fights for some noble purpose, like justice, defending the weak, on behalf of their country, or something similar.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern definitely aren’t heroes by that definition. In fact, they work for the villain of the play, Claudius. However, it’s clear from Hamlet that these two characters don’t really understand what’s happening in the play. They don’t appear to understand that Claudius killed Hamlet’s father and is trying to destroy Hamlet, for example.

In the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead version of events, the audience sees what the characters are doing behind the scenes. In Hamlet, they aren’t in the main action often, so the new play imagines what they might be doing in between. And a good portion of what they are doing is being confused and trying to understand what’s going on.

This is the sense in which you could argue that they are heroes or heroic. They are heroes of meaning. They try to understand their own lives. This is also the context the play was written in. It was the end of the Victorian Era, and there was a lot of focus on how to bring meaning to your life without more traditional appeals to religion.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team