What is Rozencrantz and Guildenstern's role in the play Hamlet? 

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sylviabe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play "Hamlet" draws heavily on the themes of betrayal and revenge. Hamlet, after encountering the ghost of his father, the former king, becomes entangled in seeking revenge against his uncle, the current king, both for having supposedly murdered his father and then married his former sister-in-law. In the midst of his struggles with grief, revenge, and possible insanity, Hamlet becomes noticeably troubled, leading the king and queen to send for Rosencratz and Guildenstern, two courtiers and childhood friends of Hamlet. They are called upon by the royal couple to unearth what is causing Hamlet's distress. Initially, Hamlet receives them fondly, referring to them as "My excellent good friends" in line 227. However, he quickly sees past their claims of visiting for the sake of their old friendship and discerns their true connections to the king. While it could be argued that their intentions were based on their continued love for Hamlet, Rosencratz and Guildenstern's involvement with Claudius poisons Hamlet's opinions of them. In this, they add another layer of betrayal by Claudius to Hamlet's perspective. Arguably, this additional deception, and by such close friends, solidifies Hamlet's commitment to seeking revenge against Claudius. In switching the letter to the King of England to incite the execution of his former friends, Hamlet expresses no remorse or sympathy, blaming their fate on their foolish involvement with Claudius.