“Uncertainty is the normal state. You’re nobody special.”

From Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard):

p. 51
ROS: To sum up: your father, whom you love, dies, you are his heir, you come back to find that hardly was the corpse cold before his young brother popped onto his throne and into his sheets, thereby offending both legal and natural practice. Now why exactly are you behaving in this extraordinary manner?

GUIL: I can’t imagine! (Pause.) But all that is well known, common property. Yet he sent for us. And we did come.

p. 57
ROS: Half of what he said meant something else, and the other half didn’t mean anything at all.

GUIL: Thwarted ambition—a sense of grievance, that’s my diagnosis.

ROS: Six rhetorical and two repetition, leaving nineteen, of which we answered fifteen. And what did we get in return? He’s depressed! Denmark’s a prison and he’d rather live in a nutshell’ some shadow-play about the nature of ambition, which never got down to cases, and finally one direct question which might have led somewhere, and led in fact to his illuminating claim to tell a hawk from a handsaw.

p. 60
GUIL: Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which we are… condemned. Each move is dictated by the previous one—that is the meaning of order. If we start being arbitrary it’ll just be a shambles: at least, let us hope so. Because if we happened, just happened to discover, or even suspect, that our spontaneity was part of their order, we’d know we were lost. (He sits.) A Chinamen 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.

p. 61
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.

p. 63
PLAYER: […] Don’t you see?! We’re actors—we’re the opposite of people!

p. 66
PLAYER: Uncertainty is the normal state. You’re nobody special.

p. 68
GUIL: I think I have it. A man talking 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.

p. 71
ROS: I wouldn’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?

p. 72
ROS: […] They’re taking us for granted. Well, I won’t stand for it! In future, notice will be taken.

p. 79
PLAYER: […] There’s a design at work in all art—surely, you know that? Events must play themselves out to aesthetic, moral and logical conclusion.

p. 80
PLAYER: […] Now if you’re going to be subtle, we’ll miss each other in the dark. I’m referring to oral tradition. So to speak.


ROS: I want a good story, with a beginning, middle and end.

3 thoughts on ““Uncertainty is the normal state. You’re nobody special.”

  1. This is one of my favorite plays though I have never seen it performed live. I first saw the Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss film and then read the play multiple times. Back in my acting days I wanted to play the part of the PLAYER. I would love to see this staged someday.


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