Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
opening scene

GUILDENSTERN flips a coin onto the ground. ROSENCRANTZ studies the coin.

(He picks it up and puts it in his money bag. The process is repeated.)

GUILDENSTERN (flipping a coin): There is an art to the building up of suspense.


GUILDENSTERN (flipping another): Though it can be done by luck alone.


GUILDENSTERN: If that's the word I'm after.

ROSENCRANTZ (raises his head at GUILDENSTERN): Seventy-six love.
(GUILDENSTERN gets up but has nowhere to go. He spins another coin over his shoulder without looking at it, his attention being directed at his environment or lack of it.)

GUILDENSTERN: A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability.
(He slips a coin over his shoulder as he goes to look upstage.)

(GUILDENSTERN, examining the confines of the stage, flips over two more coins, as he does so, one by one of course. ROSENCRANTZ announces each of them as "heads".)

GUILDENSTERN (musing): The law of probability, as it has been oddly asserted, is something to do with the proposition that if six monkeys (he has surprised himself) ... if six monkeys were ...




GUILDENSTERN (understanding): Game. (Flips a coin.) The law of averages, if I have got this right, means that if six monkeys were thrown up in the air for long enough they would land on their tails about as often as they would land on their -

ROSENCRANTZ: Heads. (He picks up the coin.)

GUILDENSTERN: Which at first glance does not strike one as a particularly rewarding speculation, in either sense, even without the monkeys. I mean you wouldn't bet on it. I mean I would, but you wouldn't ... (As he flips a coin.)


GUILDENSTERN: Would you? (Flips a coin.)

(He looks up at GUILDENSTERN - embarrassed laugh.)
Getting a bit of a bore, isn't it?

GUILDENSTERN (coldly): A bore?


GUILDENSTERN: What about suspense?

ROSENCRANTZ (innocently): What suspense?
(Small pause.)

GUILDENSTERN: It must be the law of diminishing returns ... I feel the spell about to be broken. (Energising himself somewhat.)
(He takes out a coin, spins it high, catches it, turns it over on to the back of his other hand, studies the coin - and tosses it to ROSENCRANTZ. His energy deflates and he sits.)
Well, it was an even chance ... if my calculations are correct.

ROSENCRANTZ: Eighty-five in a row - beaten the record!

GUILDENSTERN: Don't be absurd.


GUILDENSTERN (angry): Is that it, then? Is that all?


GUILDENSTERN: A new record? Is that as far as you are prepared to go?


GUILDENSTERN: No questions? Not even a pause?

ROSENCRANTZ: You spun it yourself.

GUILDENSTERN: Not a flicker of doubt?

ROSENCRANTZ (aggrieved, aggressive): Well, I won - didn't I?

GUILDENSTERN (approaches him - quieter): And if you'd lost? If they'd come down against you, eighty-five times, one after another, just like that?

ROSENCRANTZ (dumbly): Eighty-five in a row? Tails?

GUILDENSTERN: Yes! What would you think?

ROSENCRANTZ (doubtfully): Well ... (Jocularly.) Well, I'd have a good look at your coins for a start!

GUILDENSTERN (retiring): I'm relieved. At least we can still count on self-interest as a predictable factor ... I suppose it's the last to go. Your capacity for trust made me wonder if perhaps ... you, alone ...
(He turns on him suddenly, reaches out a hand.)
(ROSENCRANTZ clasps his hand. GUILDENSTERN pulls him up to him.)
(More intensely): We have been spinning coins together since - (He releases him almost as violently.) This is not the first time we spun coins!

ROSENCRANTZ: Oh no - we've been spinning coins for as long as I remember.

GUILDENSTERN: How long is that?

ROSENCRANTZ: I forget. Mind you - eighty-five times!


ROSENCRANTZ: It'll take some time beating, I imagine.

GUILDENSTERN: Is that what you imagine? Is that it? No fear?


GUILDENSTERN (in fury - flings a coin on the ground): Fear! The crack that might flood your brain with light!

ROSENCRANTZ: Heads ... (He puts it in his bag.)
(GUILDENSTERN sits despondently. He takes a coin, spins it, lets it fall between his feet. He looks at it, picks it up; throws it to ROSENCRANTZ, who puts it in his bag.)
(GUILDENSTERN takes another coin, spins it, catches it, turns it over on to his other hand, looks at it, and throws it to ROSENCRANTZ who puts it in his bag.)
(GUILDENSTERN takes a third coin, spins it, catches it in his right hand, turns it over on to his left wrist, lobs it in the air, catches it with his left hand, raises his left leg, throws the coin up under it, catches it and turns it over on to the top of his head, where it sits. ROSENCRANTZ comes, looks at it, puts it in his bag.)

ROSENCRANTZ: I'm afraid -


ROSENCRANTZ: I'm afraid it isn't your day.

GUILDENSTERN: I'm afraid it is.
(Small pause.)

ROSENCRANTZ: Eighty-nine.

GUILDENSTERN: It must be indicative of something, besides the redistribution of wealth. (He muses.) List of possible explanations. One: I'm willing it. Inside where nothing shows, I'm the essence of a man spinning double-headed coins, and betting against himself in private atonement for an unremembered past.
(He spins a coin at ROSENCRANTZ.)


GUILDENSTERN: Two: time has stopped dead, and a single experience of one coin being spun once has been repeated ninety times ...
(He flips a coin, looks at it, tosses it to ROSENCRANTZ.)
On the whole, doubtful. Three: divine intervention, that is to say, a good turn from above concerning him, cf. children of Israel, or retribution from above concerning me, cf. Lot's wife. Four: a spectacular vindication of the principle that each individual coin spun individually (he spins one) is as likely to come down heads as tails and therefore should cause no surprise that each individual time it does.
(It does. He tosses it to ROSENCRANTZ.)