Act 1

The Opening

  • · Setting – “a place without any visible character” p.9 Limbo?

  • · Characters – costumes (Elizabethan, well dressed), props (full/empty bags of coins)

  • · Focus – probability, purpose, identity, memory, reliability

  • · Dramatic techniques – characters used from Hamlet – what past do minor characters have? We are piecing together the ‘lives’ of the characters from the fragments mentioned in Hamlet.

  • · Purpose of the Player (enter p.17) – reflects the issues that Ros and Guil are grappling with – “Why, we grow rusty…We’d be back where we started – improvising.” P.17 “We keep to the usual stuff…only inside out…every exit being an entrance somewhere else.” P.22

  • Re-read the entrance of Hamlet and Ophelia on p. 26 and the entrance of Claudius and Gertrude on p. 27-8. What effect does this initial sighting of Hamlet have on Ros and Guil? How does this help to build the audience's understanding of the characters?

  • What types of dramatic techniques has Stoppard used to suggest a change in mood/atmosphere?

  • What effect does the changing style of dialogue (pp.27-9) have on the reader’s impression of Ros and Guil, and the reader's understanding of the situation?

  • Which techniques does Stoppard use to communicate an increasing state of panic in p.29? How does he then counter this panic to change the mood again?
  • "To be taken in hand and led, like being a child again, even without the innocence of a child - It's like being given a prize, an extra slice of childhood when you least expect it, a prize for being, or compensation for never having had one... Do I contradict myself?" (p.30) Explain the context of these lines and how this concept can be applied to the play at large.
  • On pp.32-3 Ros and Guil begin the first of many games of 'Questions'. Explain some of the techniques Stoppard uses to induce humour.
  • Pace is very important in this play. Examine the different techniques used by Stoppard to affect the pace toward the end of this act.

Act 2
  • A substantial conversation is supposed to have taken place between the end of Act1 and beginning of Act 2. How important is it to know the contents of that conversation. Have a look in the script of Hamlet (complete version is online) to see what was covered in the lapsed time. How does this affect your perception of the ensuing conversation?
  • How does the audience's understanding of Ros and Guil and their situation develop between pp.40-5?