Stoppard's Theatre: Finding Order amid Chaos

Stoppard's Theatre: Finding Order amid Chaos

Stoppard's Theatre: Finding Order amid Chaos

Stoppard's Theatre: Finding Order amid Chaos


With a thirty-year run of award-winning, critically acclaimed, and commercially successful plays, fromRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead(1967) toThe Invention of Love(1997), Tom Stoppard is arguably the preeminent playwright in Britain today. His popularity also extends to the United States, where his plays have won three Tony awards and his screenplay forShakespeare in Lovewon the 1998 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

John Fleming offers the first book-length assessment of Stoppard's work in nearly a decade. He takes an in-depth look at the three newest plays (Arcadia,Indian Ink,andThe Invention of Love)and the recently revised versions ofTravestiesandHapgood, as well as at four other major plays (Rosencrantz,Jumpers,Night and Day,andThe Real Thing). Drawing on Stoppard's personal papers at the University of Texas Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRHRC), Fleming also examines Stoppard's previously unknown playGalileo,as well as numerous unpublished scripts and variant texts of his published plays.

Fleming also mines Stoppard's papers for a fuller, more detailed overview of the evolution of his plays. By considering Stoppard's personal views (from both his correspondence and interviews) and by examining his career from his earliest scripts and productions through his most recent, this book provides all that is essential for understanding and appreciating one of the most complex and distinctive playwrights of our time.


In 1977, ten years after Tom Stoppard's breakthrough success with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Kenneth Tynan, prominent critic and longtime Literary Manager for England's National Theatre, asserted that in terms of international prestige, the standard of British playwriting was held by Harold Pinter, Peter Shaffer, and Stoppard (46). Since that assessment Pinter has done limited writing for the stage, while Shaffer's post-1980 work has received a mixed reaction. In contrast, Stoppard has consistently continued to garner both critical acclaim and commercial success. Of his nine major plays—Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967), Jumpers (1972), Travesties (1974), Night and Day (1978), The Real Thing (1982), Hapgood (1988), Arcadia (1993), Indian Ink (1995), and The Invention of Love (1997)—only Hapgood and Indian Ink have failed to win one of London's Best New Play Awards. Beyond their status as award-winners these plays merit study and production by virtue of their intelligence, theatricality, and linguistic mastery.

Stoppard's plays cover an eclectic array of themes and topics. From the world of science, he has tapped into the metaphoric potential of quantum physics and chaos theory. From philosophy, he has dramatized logical positivism, Wittgenstein's language games, and debates over whether morality is relative and socially constructed or grounded in metaphysical absolutes.

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