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«Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead», Tom Stoppard

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Characters

 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern:

a pair of schoolmates and childhood friends of Hamlet

 

The Player:

a traveling actor

 

Hamlet:

the Prince of Denmark

 

Tragedians:

traveling with the Player, including Alfred

 

King Claudius:

the King of Denmark, Hamlet's uncle and stepfather

 

Gertrude:

the Queen of Denmark, and Hamlet's mother

 

Polonius:

Claudius' chief adviser

 

Ophelia:

Polonius' daughter

 

Horatio:

a friend and schoolmate of Hamlet

 

Fortinbras:

the nephew of the King of Norway

 

Soldiers, courtiers, and musicians

ACT ONE

 

TWO ELIZABETHANS passing the time in a place without any visible character.

They are well dressed-hats, cloaks, sticks and all.

Each of them has a large leather money bag.

GUILDENSTERN'S bag is nearly empty.

ROSENCRANTZ'S bag is nearly full.

The reason being: they are betting on the toss of a coin, in the following manner. GUILDENSTERN (hereafter " GUIL ") takes a coin out of his bag, spins it, letting it fall. ROSENCRANTZ (hereafter " ROS ") studies it, announces it as "heads" (as it happens) and puts it into his own bag. Then they repeat the process. They have apparently been doing this for some time.

The run of "heads" is impossible, yet ROS betrays no surprise at all– he feels none. However, he is nice enough to feel a little embarrassed at taking so much money off his friend. Let that be his character note.

GUIL is well alive to the oddity of it. He is not worried about the money, but he is worried by the implications; aware but not going to panic about it– his character note.

GUIL sits. ROS stands (he does the moving, retrieving coins) .

GUIL spins. ROS studies coin.

ROS: Heads.

He picks it up and puts it in his bag. The process is repeated.

Heads.

Again.

Heads.

Again.

Heads.

Again.

Heads.

GUIL (flipping a coin) : There is an art to the building up of suspense.

ROS: Heads.

GUIL (flipping another) : Though it can be done by luck alone.

ROS: Heads.

GUIL: If that's the word I'm after.

ROS (raises his head at GUIL) : Seventy-six-love.

GUIL gets up but has nowhere to go. He spins another coin over his shoulder without looking at it, his attention being directed at his environment or lack of it.

Heads.

GUIL: A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability. (He slips a coin over his shoulder as he goes to look upstage.)

ROS: Heads.

GUIL, examining the confines of the stage, flips over two more coins as he does so, one by one of course. ROS announces each of them as "heads."

GUIL (musing) : The law of probability, it has been oddly asserted, is something to do with the proposition that if six monkeys (he has surprised himself) … if six monkeys were.

ROS: Game?

GUIL: Were they?

ROS: Are you?

GUIL (understanding) : Game. (Flips a coin.) The law of averages, if I have got this right, means that if six monkeys were thrown up in the air for long enough they would land on their tails about as often as they would land on their

ROS: Heads. (He picks up the coin.)

GUIL: Which even at first glance does not strike one as a particularly rewarding speculation, in either sense, even without the monkeys. I mean you wouldn't bet on it. I mean I would, but you wouldn't… (As he flips a coin.)

ROS: Heads.

GUIL: Would you? (Flips a coin.)

ROS: Heads.

Repeat.

Heads. (He looks up at GUIL -embarrassed laugh.) Getting a bit of a bore, isn't it?

GUIL (coldly) : A bore?

ROS: Well…

GUIL: What about the suspense?

ROS (innocently) : What suspense? Small pause.

GUIL: It must be the law of diminishing returns… I feel the spell about to be broken. (Energizing himself somewhat. He takes out a coin, spins it high, catches it, turns it over on to the back of his other hand, studies the coin-and tosses it to ROS . His energy deflates and he sits.) Well, it was an even chance… if my calculations are correct.

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