Guildenstern and Rosencrantz constantly seem like outsiders in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Why are they so alienated from the rest of the cast?

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As the other educator post states, Tom Stoppard’s absurdist play follows the minor Hamlet characters that Claudius employs in hopes of having Hamlet executed on a trip to England.

Because of their limited role within Shakespeare’s original play, most of the action involving them in Stoppard’s play occurs while the two men are “offstage.” Since they are offstage for the majority of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are isolated for much of the story.

This is why the play is often categorized as an absurdist text. Stoppard inverts conventions by having the main character become a minor one, and much of the “action” of the play is uneventful. Furthermore, the title characters are relatively oblivious to what is happening “onstage,” which is played to humorous effect. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, despite being the protagonists of their own story, don't really function in ways that traditional main characters do.

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In "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", playwright Tom Stoppard is creating a comedy for a very sophisticated audience who are very familiar with William Shakespeare's Hamlet and with twentieth century philosophical thought.

The two protagonists, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are minor characters in Shakespeare's play, hired by the king to spy on Hamlet and to accompany him to England. They are comic characters and somewhat naive. A secret letter tells the king of England to kill Hamlet. Hamlet discovers the plot, and arrange for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to be killed instead. At the very end of Shakespeare's play, a messenger brings the news "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead." That news becomes the title of Stoppard's play.

The two protagonists are outsiders with respect to the plot of Hamlet, and have no connection to the players and little connection to the court. Much of the comic effect of Stoppard's play is attained by using their confusing as a lens through which to see the main actions of Shakespeare's play.

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