Friendship as demonstrated by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

The friendship demonstrated by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is in sharp contrast to that demonstrated by Horatio. 

We first meet these two characters in Act 2 Scene 2 as they have been summoned by Claudius to court in order that they may spy on Hamlet.
‘I entreat you both,
That, being of you young days brought up with him,
And since so neighbour’d to his youth and humour,
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, open’d, lies within our remedy.’ 

Their fawning response suggests that their loyalty lies with Claudius rather than with Hamlet. Their relationship with their friend is now defined by dishonesty, deception and duplicity.

‘But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded.’ 

Hamlet’s exclamation when he first sees Rosencrantz and Guildenstern certainly seems to be joyful:

‘My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?’

He engages in witty banter with them regarding Fortune and the misery of his existence. However, Hamlet sees through them and he questions their motives for being at Elsinore. Rosencrantz blatantly lies to Hamlet and states that their purpose is ‘To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.’ Even in the early stages of his madness, the Prince of Denmark sees through them and interrogates them further:

‘Were you not sent for? Is it a free visitation? Come, come, deal justly with me: come, come; nay speak.’

Guildenstern attempts to evade the question: ‘What should we say, my lord?’. But Hamlet will have none of it:

‘You were sent for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know the good King and Queen have sent for you.’

Rosencrantz continues the evasion: ‘To what end, my lord?’

But Hamlet persists:

‘That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for or no!’

It is only after conferring together in an aside that Guildenstern finally admits the truth:

‘My lord, we were sent for.’ 

Are there any examples from ‘How Many Miles to Babylon?’ or ‘Inside I’m Dancing’ of friendship that is dishonest or has an ulterior motive? 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *