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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Quotes

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Guil:(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: Fear! The crack that might flood your brain with light!

Guil: THe scientific approach to the examination of phenomena is a defence against the pure emotion of fear. Keep tight hold and continue while there's time.

Ros: What is your line?

Player: Tragedy sir. Deaths and disclosures, universal and particular, denouements both unexpected and inexorable, transvestite melodrama on all levels including the suggestive. We transport you into a world of intrigue and illusion..clowns if you like, murderes-- we can do you ghosts and battles, on the skirmish level, heroes, villains, tormented lovers-- set pieces in the poetic vein; we can do you rapiers or rape or both, by all means, faithless wives and ravished virgins-- flagrante delicto at a price, but that comes under realism for which there are special terms. Getting warm, am i?

Ros (doubtfully): Well, I don't know...

Player: It costs little to watch and little more if you happen to get caught up in the action, if that's your taste and times being what they are

Ros: What are they?

Player: Indifferent.

Guil: It was chance, then?

Player: Chance?

Guil: You found us.

Player: Oh yes.

GUil: You were looking?

Player: Oh no.

Guil: Chance, then.

Player: Or fate.

Guil: Yours or ours?

Player: It could hardly be one without the other.

Guil: Fate, then.

Guil (Shaking with rage and fright): It could have been-- it didn't have to be _obscene_...I could have been-- a bird out of season, dropping bright-feathered on my shoulder... I could have been a tongueless dwarf standing by the road to point the way...I was prepared. But it's this, is it? No enigma, no dignity, nothing classical, portentous, only this-- a comic pornographer and a rabble of prostitutes...

Player (acknowledging the description with a sweep of his hat, bowing, sadly): You should've caught us in better times. We were purists then.

Player: We do on stage the things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else.

Player: They're hardly divisible, sir-- well, I can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and I can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and I can do you all three concurrent or consecutive, but I can't do you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory-- they're all blood, you see.

Guil: ALl your life you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye, and when something nudges it into outline it is like being ambushed by a grotesque.

Ros (an anguished cry): Consistency is all I ask!

Guil (low, wry rhetori): Give us this our daily mask.

Guil: The only beginning is birth and the only end is death-- if you can't count on that, what can you count on?

Ros: What are you playing at?

Guil: Words, words. They're all we have to go on.

Ros (at footlights): How very intriguing! (turns.) I feel like a spectator-- an appalling business. The only thing that makes it bearable is the irrational belief that somebody interesting will come on in a minute...

Guil: See anyone?

Ros: No. You?

Guil: No. (at footlights.) What a fine persecution-- to be kept intrigued without ever quite being enlightened...

Guil: Consistency is all I ask!

Ros: Immortality is all I seek...

Guil (dying fall): Give us this day our daily week...

Guil: A Chinaman of the T'ang Dynasty-- and, by which definition, a philosopher-- dreamed he was a butterfly, and from that moment he was never quite sure that he was not a butterfly dreaming it was a Chinese philosopher. Envy him; in his two-fold security.

ROS leaps up and bellows at the audience

Ros: Fire!

Guil: Where?

Ros: It's all right-- I'm demonstrating the misuse of free speech. To prove the it exists. (He regards the audience, that is the direction, with contempt-- and other directions, then front again.) Not a move. They should burn to death in their shows.

Guil: We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

Player: You don't understand the humiliation of it-- to be tricked out of the single assumption which makes our existence viable-- that somebody is watching... The plot has two corpses gone before we caught sight of ourselves, stripped naked in the middle of nowhere and pouring ourselves dowon a bottomless well...We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened. Don't you see?! We're actors-- we're the opposite of people!

Guil: We're still finding our feet.

Player: I should concentrate on not losing your heads.

Guil: But for God's sake what are we supposed to do?!

Player: Relax. Respond. That's what people do. You can't go through life questioning your situation at every turn.

Guil: But we don't know what's going on, or what to do with ourselves. We don't know how to act.

Player: Act natural. You know why you're here at least.

Guil: We only know what we're told, and that's little enough. And for all we know, it isn't even true.

Player: For all anyone knows, nothing is. Everythign has to be taken on trust; truth is only that which is taken to be true. It's the currency of living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn't make any difference so long as it is honored. One acts on assumptions.

Ros: He talks to himself, which might be madness.

Guil: If he didn't talk sense, which he does.

Ros: Which suggests the opposite.

Player: Of what?

Guil: I think I have it. A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself.

Ros: Or just as mad

Guil: Or just as mad.

Ros: And he does both.

Guil: So there you are.

Ros: Stark raving sane.

Ros: Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with a lid on it?

Guil: No.

Ros: Nor do I, really... It's silly to be depressed by it. I mean one thinks of it like being alive in a box, one keeps forgetting to take into account the fact that one is dead... which should make all the difference... shoun't it? I mean, you'd never know you were in a box, would you? It would be just like being asleep in a box. Not that I'd like to sleep in a box, mind you, not without any air-- you'd wake up dead, for a start, and then where would you be? Apart from inside a box. That's the bit I don't like, frankly. That's why I don't think of it...

Because you'd be helpless, wouldn't you? Stuffed in a box like that, I mean you'd be in there for ever. Even taking into account the fact that you're dead, it isn't a pleasant thought. Especially if you're dead, really... ask yourself, if I asked straight off-- I'm going to stuff you in this box now, would you rather be alive or dead? Naturally, you'd prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You'd have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking-- well, at least I'm not dead! In a minute someone's going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out. "Hey you, whatsyername! Come out of there!"

Guil (jumps up savagely): You don't have to flog it to death!


Ros: I woulnd't think about it if I were you. You'd only get depressed. (Pause.) Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where's it going to end? (Pause, then brightly.) Two early Christians chanced to meet in Heaven. "Saul of Tarsus yet!" cried one. "What are you doing there?!"... "tarsus Schmarsus," replied the other, "I'm Paul already." They don't care. We count for nothing. We could remain silent till we're green in the face, they wouldn't come.

Guil: Blue, red.

Ros: ...We have no control. None at all... (He paces.) Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don't go on for ever. It must have been shattering-- stamped into one's memory. And yet I can't remember it. It never occurred to me at all. What does one make of that? We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling witht hte knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there's only one direction, and time is its only measure.

Guil: Death followed by eternity... the worst of both worlds. It is a terrible thought.

Player: There's nothing more unconvincing than an unconvincing death.

Player: Do you call that an ending?-- with practically everyone on his feet? My goodness no-- over your dead body.

Guil: How am I supposed to take that?

Player: Lying down. (He laughs briefly and in a second has never laughed in his life.) There's a design at work in all art-- surely you know that? Events must play themselves out of aesthetic, moral, and logical conclusion.

Guil: And what's that, in this case?

Player: It never varies-- we aim at th epoint where everyone who is marked for death dies.

Guil: Marked?

Player: Between "just desserts" and "tragic irony" we are given quite a lot of scope for our particular talent. Generally speaking, things have gone about as far as they can possibly go when things have got about as bad as they reasonably get.

Guil: Who decides?

Player: Decides? It is written...The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy is.

Player: It's what the actors do best. They have to exploit whatever talent is given to them, and their talent is dying. They can die heroically, comically, ironically, slowly, suddenly, disgustingly, charmingly, or from a great height. My own talent is more general. I extract significance from melodrama, a significance which it does not in fact contain; but occasionally, from out of this matter, there escapes a thin beam of light that, seen at the right angle, can crack the shell of mortality.

Guil: Actors! The mechanics of cheap melodrama! That isn't death! You scream and choke and sink to your knees, but it doesn't bring death home to anyone-- it doesn't catch them unawares and start the whisper in their skulls that says-- "One day you are going to die." You die so many times; how can you expect them to believe in your death?

Guil: No, no, no... you've got it all wrong... you can't act death. The fact of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen--it's not gasps and blood and falling about-- that isn't what makes it death. It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all-- now you see him, now you don't, that's the only thing that's real: here one minute and gone the next and never coming back-- an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced, a disappearance gathering weight as it goes on, until, finally, it is heavy with death.

Ros: All I ask is a chance of ground!

Guil (coda): Give us this day our daily round.

Guil: Autumnal-- nothing to do with leaves. It is to do with a certain brownness at the edges of the day... Brown is creeping up on us, take my word for it.. Russets and tangerine shades of old gold flushing the very outside edge of the senses... deep shining ochres burnt umber and parchments of baked earth-- reflecting on itself and through itself, filtering the light. At such times, perhaps, coincidentally, the leaves might fall, somewhere, by repute. Yesterday was blue, like smoke.

Guil: Yes, I'm very fond of boats myself. I like the way they're-- contained. You don't have to worry about which way to go, or whether to go at all-- the question doesn't arise, because you're on a boat, aren't you?

Ros (mournfully): Not even England. I don't believe in it anyway.

Guil: What?

Ros: England.

Guil: Just a conspiracy of cartographers, you mean?

Ros: Do you think death could possibly be a boat?

Guil: No, no, no... Death is...not. Death isn't. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not-be on a boat.

Ros: I've frequently not been on boats.

Guil: No, no, no-- what you've been is not on boats.

Ros: I wish I was dead. I could jump over the side. That would put a spoke in their wheel.

Guil: Unless they're counting on it.

Ros: I shall remain on board. That'll put a spokie in their wheel. (The futility of it, fury.)

Guil: Let us keep things in proportion. Assume, if you like, that they're going to kill him. Well, he is a man, he is mortal, death comes to us all, etcetera, and consequently he would have died anyway, sooner or later. Or to look at it from the social pointn of view-- he's just one man among many, the loss would be well within reason and convenience. And then again, what is so terrible about death? As socrates so philosophically put it, since we don't know what death is, it is illogical to fear it. It might be... very nice. Certainly it is a release from the burden of life, and, for the godly, a haven and a reward.

Player: Life is a gamble, at terrible odds-- if it were a bet you wouldn't take it.

Guil (broken): We've travelled too far, and our momentum has taken over; we move idly towards eternity, without possibility of repreieve of hope of explanation.

Ros: Be happy-- if you're not even HAPPY what's so good about surviving? We'll be all right. I suppose we just go on.

Guil: Where we wrong was getting on a boat. We can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but our movement is contained within a larger one that carries us along as inexorably as the wind and current...

Guil: You die a thousand casual deaths-- with none of that intensity which squeezes out life... and no blood runs cold anywhere. Because even as you die you know that you will come back in a different hat. But no one gets up after death-- there is no applause-- ther eis only silence and some second-hand clothes, and that's--death--

Guil: Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over... Death is not anything... death is not... It's the absence of presence, nothing more... the endless time of never coming back... a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows throught it, it makes no sound...

Ros: That's it then, is it? (No answer. He looks out front) The sun's going down, or the earth's coming up, as the fashionable theory has it. (Small pause.) Not that it makes any difference. (Pause.) What was it all about? When did it begin? (Pause. No answer.) Couldn't we just stay put? I mean no one is going to come on and drag us off...They'll just have to wait...We're still've got years...(Pause. No answer.)(A cry.) We've done nothing wrong! We didn't harm anyone did we?

Guil: I can't remember.

(Ros pulls himself together.)

Ros: All right then. I don't care. I've had enough. To tell you the truth, I'm relieved.

(And he dissappears from view, Guil does not notice.)

Guil: Our names shouted in a certain dawn...a message...a summons...There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said-no. But somehow we missed it. (He looks round and see that he's alone.) Rosen-? Guil-? (He gathers himself.) Well we'll know better next time. Now you see me, now you- (and disappears.)

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