Why Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Innocent
Hamlet has an array of interesting characters with many debates about the character’s motives and mental status throughout the play. Arguably one of the most unknown and interesting pairs of characters are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Are they truly Hamlet’s friends, there in Denmark to help him? or Are they puppets of the King, following his every command and deserve their deaths? On the surface, it may appear certain that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are tools for the king. However, Shakespeare loves to use dramatic techniques, such as dramatic irony, in his literature that skews and shrouds the meaning of certain events and storylines that leads to ambiguity about the characters. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may not be heartless tools for the king Claudius, but one of the unintentional victims of Shakespeare’s use of dramatic techniques and were truly trying their best to help Hamlet.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are first introduced in Act II Scene ii. It begins with Claudius and Gertrude asking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to help them find out why Hamlet is depressed and act erratic and try to find a way to cheer him up. Claudius believes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can solve the issue because were childhood friends of Hamlet:
KING: That, being of so young days brought up with him / And sith so neighbored to his youth and havior, / That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court / Some little time, so by your companies / To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather / So much as from occasion you may glean, / [Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus] / That, opened, lies within our remedy.
QUEEN: Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you, / And sure I am two men there is not living / To whom he more adheres. (II.ii:11-21).
Based on previous appearances by Hamlet, the audience already knows why he is acting mad: he is putting on an antic disposition. The audience also knows that Claudius murdered Old King Hamlet and that Hamlet is upset with his mother’s quick marriage. However, Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern do not know this, a prime example of dramatic irony. Because of this, the audience is set to dislike every action of Claudius and root for anything Hamlet does; this creates the belief that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are working against Hamlet because they are working for the king.
When Hamlet and his childhood friends meet for the first time in the play, Hamlet begins by talking about why he feels like he is in a prison. He continues talking about his woes before he asks the two why they are in Elsinore. They respond with a true but open statement for their reason:
HAMLET: But, / in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at / Elsinore?
ROSENCRANTZ: To visit you, my lord, no other occasion. (II.ii:289-292).
Hamlet does not believe them and continues to question them. He also says an interesting line aside while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern talk amon...