Stoppard, Tom. (b. 1937).
L i f e
- born Tomáš Straussler in Czechoslovakia, accepted his step-father’s surname Stoppard on his mother’s remarriage, and settled in Britain
W o r k
- playwright both for the theatre and radio, screenwright, and drama critic
- frequently uses plays by other playwrights as launching pads for his own
- appeals to the pragmatic and speculative alike: delights in parallels, coincidences, and convergences
x but: his carefully plotted, symmetrical, and logical plays systematically found their ends in their beginnings
If You’re Glad I’ll be Frank (1966):
- a short radio play of exuberant fantasy: a bemused husband desperately tries to reclaim his wife subsumed into a speaking clock
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1966):
< playfully rereads Shakespeare’s Hamlet according to Einsteinian laws, Eliotic negatives, and Beckettian principles
< influenced by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot x but: Beckett focuses on hopelessness x Stoppard celebrates the gaiety and perverse vitality generated from despair
- marginalises the Prince x makes the two attendant lords take on the weight of a tragedy they neither understand nor dignify
- their tragedy lies in their awareness of the inescapable pattern of Hamlet
The Real Inspector Hound (1968):
< rereads Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap into a hilarious parody on the classic country house murder-mystery play
- satirises the pomposity of theatre critics whose lives become entangled with those of the characters in the play they are supposedly reviewing
- a moral philosopher prepares a lecture on the existence of God and the problem of the objectivity of good x evil, is confronted by the murder of an acrobat in his own home, and forced to make mental and moral jumps
< shapes the play around echoes, parodies, and inversions of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest
- analyses political and literary history in a complex and speculative way
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1977):
- a political anti-Communist script for actors and symphony orchestra
Professional Foul (1978):
- a political TV play on the persecution of intellectuals by Communism
- a subtle and allusive fusion of complementary oppositions: on nature, literary history, truth and time, and the disruptive influence of sex
AuthorBorn Tomáš Straussler. Now Sir Tom Stoppard. (b. 1937). British.
WorkPlaywright. Screenwriter. Drama critic. Author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1966).
GenresAbsurd drama. Pastiche. Comedy.
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"Language is a finite instrument crudely applied to an infinity of ideas, and one consequence of the failure to take account of this is that modern philosophy has made itself ridiculous by analysing such statements as, 'This is a good bacon sandwich,' or, 'Bedser had a good wicket.'"
From Jumpers (1972).