Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of the world’s worst spies. One of the first rules, I’m told, of spying is not to admit that you are a spy. This R & G do when they first confront Hamlet.
Though they don’t exactly shine when they’re on stage, they’re remarkable when they’re off!
In Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the Player (played by Richard Dreyfuss) comments on the players’ unique view of theatre:
That principle opens up the marvelous world of “within-the-play” in the film. The players put on the play of Hamlet in dumbshow—as well as a rehearsal of the play-within-the-play (with its own play-within): players in masks playing the king and queen watch puppets (pictured above) playing the player king and queen.We do on stage what is supposed to happen off . . . which is a kind of integrity . . . if you look on every exit as an entrance somewhere else.
The main problem—and I think that Stoppard himself has acknowledged this . . . in the DVD special features, I believe—is that it’s too long. The pacing is just not what it should be. There are brilliant, brilliant passages . . . but they’re interposed with lengthy moments of not very much at all.