- Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occurred to you that you don't go on forever. Must have been shattering, stamped into one's memory. And yet, I can't remember it. It never occurred to me at all. We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the word for it. Before we know that there are words. Out we come, bloodied and squalling, with the knowledge that for all the points of the compass, there's only one direction, and time is its only measure.
- 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?
- 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.
- No, no, no... you've got it all wrong... you can't act death. The fact of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen — it's not gasps and blood and falling about — that isn't what makes it death. It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all — now you see him, now you don't, that's the only thing that's real: here one minute and gone the next and never coming back — an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced, a disappearance gathering weight as it goes on, until, finally, it is heavy with death.
- There must have been a time, in the beginning, when we could have said – no. But somehow we missed it.
- We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.
- We're more of the love, blood and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They're all blood, you see.
- There we were—demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow protestations of faith hurled after empty promises of vengeance—and every gesture, every pose, vanishing into the thin unpopulated air. We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened. Don't you see?! We're actors—we're the opposite of people!
- Player: Events must play themselves out to aesthetic, moral and logical conclusion.
- Guildenstern: And what's that, in this case?
- Player: It never varies — we aim at the point where everyone who is marked for death dies.
- Guildenstern: Marked?
- Player: Between "just desserts" and "tragic irony" we are given quite a large scope for our particular talent. Generally speaking, things have gone about as far as they can possibly go when things have gotten about as bad as they can reasonably get.
- Guildenstern: Who decides?
- Player: Decides? It is written.
- Rosencrantz: Do you think Death could possibly be a boat?
- Guildenstern: No, no, no... death is not. Death isn't. Take my meaning? Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not be on a boat.
- Rosencrantz: I've frequently not been on boats.
- Guildenstern: No, no... what you've been is not on boats.
- Rosencrantz: Did you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with a lid on it?
- Guildenstern: No.
- Rosencrantz: Nor do I, really. It's silly to be depressed by it. I mean, one thinks of it like being alive in a box. One keeps forgetting to take into account the fact that one is dead, which should make all the difference, shouldn't it? I mean, you'd never know you were in a box, would you? It would be just like you were asleep in a box. Not that I'd like to sleep in a box, mind you. Not without any air. You'd wake up dead, for a start, and then where would you be? In a box. That's the bit I don't like, frankly. That's why I don't think of it. Because you'd be helpless, wouldn't you? Stuffed in a box like that. I mean, you'd be in there forever, even taking into account the fact that you're dead. It isn't a pleasant thought. Especially if you're dead, really. Ask yourself, if I asked you straight off, "I'm going to stuff you in this box. Now, would you rather be alive or dead?" Naturally, you'd prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect. You'd have a chance, at least. You could lie there thinking, "Well. At least I'm not dead. In a minute somebody is going to bang on the lid, and tell me to come out." [bangs on lid] "Hey, you! What's your name? Come out of there!"
- [long pause]
- Guildenstern: I think I'm going to kill you.