Death What do you know about death

Name: Sierra Koprowicz

Teacher: Mr. Fitz

Class: Lit

Date: 11.15.19


“What do you know about death?” Guildenstern demands of the Player and, when the Player replies that dying is “what actors do best,” Guildenstern insists death can’t be acted because “the fact of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen- it’s not gasps and blood and falling about.” (42)

As the title suggests, death is the main idea of Stoppard’s play. In the quote, the player explains to Guildenstern what death is. Guidenstern on the other hand does not agree with the Player that death can be acted. The protagonists, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are used by the author to show that death is inevitable. Even though the protagonists do not know they are going to die, the audience is aware because their deaths are detailed in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Stoppard builds his play around Shakespeare’s characters to show that death is inevitable. The protagonists struggle against death even though it is certain to humankind. 

Stoppard argues that there is an incomplete understanding of death by using the protagonists to portray the human understanding of death that is incomplete. In the quote, because Guildenstern does not understand what death is, he asks the Player to explain why he thinks it’s what actors do best. Death addresses the world’s capacity of staying together in harmony because of the common factor that is incomplete understanding of death. However, it can also be a cause of decay and dissolution because of the difference in its interpretation. I agree with Stoppard’s idea that even though death is inevitable, it is certain. Human beings may not understand it fully but they are aware it will come to pass. 

Fate and Free Will

“The only beginning is birth and the only end is death – if you can’t count on not matter. n that, what can you count on? ” (39).

No matter how lucky a person is, fate is pre-determinant because even free will do. The most fascinating things that people do in life are the adventures that they take. From the quote we understand the inevitability of death and how death is the end of life. From the quote the answer to the question is that people can count on emotions as well as feeling in their life as the feelings give them motivation to do things in life. According to Stoppard the course of life events is independent of free will. No matter the actions people pursue or the direction they take in their activities, the destination does not change. Theme of fate and free will addresses world capacity of unity because of the common understanding that as humans we decide what to make of our life although limitations exist. It can however also cause dissolution on how we view the concept of free will as others may not see free will and do not believe on idea of fate. I agree with Stoppard ultimately as humans although we have the free will to choose, eventually our fate is sealed as we all die.


Guildenstern: What’s your name?

Rosencratz: What’s yours?

Guildenstern: You first. (1. 14)

In the conversation between Guildenstern and Rosencratz, the two actors seem to have forgotten their identity. They cannot remember their names and end up introducing themselves by the wrong names. The conversation shows that the protagonists are not sure about their individual identities. Stoppard uses these two characters to show that human self is powerless. The protagonists’ identities appear to be porous in the way they lose track of their identities. Stoppard wonders what distinguishes people if everyone is bound to die. When individuals are aware of their multiple identities, they are able to understand themselves and their purpose and live with others harmoniously. If not well understood, confusion occurs as seen in the play. I agree with Stoppard’s idea that humans are lowly and powerless because they find themselves in situations that they are unable to recognize themselves.


GUIL: Well… aren’t you going to change into costume?

PLAYER: I never change out, sir.

GUIL: Always in character.

PLAYER: That’s it.


GUIL: Aren’t you going to – come on?

PLAYER: I am on. (Stoppard 33-4)

Throughout the play we see the theme of Existentialism showing itself. Ros and Gil are not able to make any significant choices in the play. The Player tries to hint to Ros and Guil that all of them are on stage as characters playing the roles they were assigned to but they do not get the hint thus throughout the play they remain confused wondering about their identity. Existentialist exist in the play because the two pair are not actual humans but just mare characters in the play. Them being unable to remember their identities reflects on existentialism in that existing is insignificant and unexplainable. Stoppard brings the idea of harmony in the play as we see that a man needs to take action of his life so that he may be essentially alive. However, we also see dissolution in that when one lets the whims of other people to determine what he does or his fate he may be existentially dead. I agree with the concept of existentialism in order for one to understand their true purpose they need to question their reason for existence or why they are in that particular state just as Ros and Gil.

Works Cited

Stoppard, T. (1967). Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead: a play in three acts. Samuel French, Inc.