Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard, 1937–, English playwright, b. Zlín, Czechoslovakia (now in the Czech Republic), as Tomas Straussler. During his childhood he and his family moved to Singapore, later (1946) settling in Bristol, England, where he became a journalist. In 1960 he moved to London, where he became a theater critic and wrote radio plays. He first gained prominence with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967), a witty drama about peripheral characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Stoppard is noted for his idiosyncratic style, artful and complex construction, deft parody, profound intellectuality, wide-ranging knowledge, and ability to find significance in wordplay and bizarre juxtapositions of language and character. In Travesties (1974), for example, James Joyce, Lenin, and Tristan Tzara collaborate on a production of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest.

Many critics consider his Jumpers (1973), a play that includes gymnastics, murder, song, dance, and ethical discussion, and Arcadia (1993), a drama that takes place in both 1809 and the early 1990s and is centered on a 19th-century mathematical prodigy and a 20th-century literary scholar, his finest works. Stoppard's other plays include The Real Inspector Hound (1968); Dirty Linen (1976); The Real Thing (1982); Hapgood (1988); Indian Ink (1995); The Invention of Love (1997); and Rock 'n' Roll (2006). One of his most complex and acclaimed later works, the trilogy The Coast of Utopia (2002), explores the roots of the Russian Revolution via six late 19th-century intellectuals and their associates and spans 35 years.

Stoppard is also a skilled screenwriter; he was a main scriptwriter for Brazil (1985) and Empire of the Sun (1987), won particular acclaim for his Shakespeare in Love (1998, with Marc Norman), and wrote the script for Anna Karenina (2012). He also has written for television, and is the author of a novel, Lord Malaquist and Mr. Moon (1966), and short stories.

See P. Delaney, ed., Tom Stoppard in Conversation (1994) and M. Gussow, Conversations with Stoppard (1995, rev. ed. 2003); biography by I. Nadel (2001); studies by R. Hayman (1977), V. L. Cahn (1979), J. Hunter (1982); T. R. Whitaker (1983), M. Page (1986), S. Rusinko (1986), M. Billington (1987), J. Harty, ed. (1988), A. Jenkins (1987, 1990), K. E. Kelly (1991), R. A. Andretta (1992), T. Hodgson (2001); J. Fleming (2001), J. Hunter (1982, 2005), and H. Bloom, ed. (rev. ed. 2003); K. E. Kelly, ed., Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard (2001).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Tom Stoppard and "Postmodern Science": Normalizing Radical Epistemologies in Hapgood and Arcadia
Jernigan, Daniel.
Comparative Drama, Vol. 37, No. 1, Spring 2003
Unmarked: The Politics of Performance
Peggy Phelan.
Routledge, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Theatre and Its Mother: Tom Stoppard's Hapgood"
Playing for Time (and Playing with Time) in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia
Brater, Enoch.
Comparative Drama, Vol. 39, No. 2, Summer 2005
Aesthetic Consolation and the Genius of the Place in Stoppard's Arcadia
Wheatley, Alison E.
Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 37, No. 3, September 2004
"Oh, Phooey to Death!": Boethian Consolation in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia
Alwes, Derek B.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 36, No. 4, Fall 2000
Literary Wit
Bruce Michelson.
University of Massachusetts Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "Witty Plays, Witty Poems: Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and Poems of Richard Wilbur"
Tom Stoppard's Travesties and the Politics of Earnestness
Orlich, Ileana Alexandra.
East European Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 3, Fall 2004
The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy
Normand Berlin.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1981
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Death: Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"
Shakespeare, Text and Theater: Essays in Honor of Jay L. Halio
Lois Potter; Arthur F. Kinney.
University of Delaware Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: The Film" begins on p. 183
Staging the Impossible: The Fantastic Mode in Modern Drama
Patrick D. Murphy.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Multiplicities of Illusion in Tom Stoppard's Plays"
The Death of Representation and the Representation of Death: Ionesco, Beckett, and Stoppard
Milutinovic, Zoran.
Comparative Drama, Vol. 40, No. 3, Fall 2006
The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War
David Caute.
Oxford University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Squaring the Circle: Ionesco, Beckett, Havel, Stoppard"
Is the Theatre Still Dying?
Eric Salmon.
Greenwood Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Faith in Stoppard"
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