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the Complete Review

A Literary Saloon and Site of Review


  

Tom Stoppard
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Tom STOPPARD (originally: Tomas Straussler)
Nationality: GB
Born: 3 July 1937
Awards: Ford Foundation grant to live in Berlin, 1964
Tony Award for best play (1968, 1976, 1984)
Academy Award for best screenplay, 1998
O.B.E., 1978

  • Born in Zlin, Czechoslovakia
  • Childhood in Singapore, India, and, after 1946, in England
  • Never attended university.
  • Worked as a journalist

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Bibliography

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

  • The Gamblers - drama, 1965
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - drama, 1966
  • Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon - novel, 1966
  • If You're Glad I'll Be Frank - radio play, 1966 (staged, 1969)
  • Albert's Bridge - radio play, 1967 (staged, 1969)
  • Enter a Free Man - drama, 1968
  • The Real Inspector Hound - drama, 1968
  • After Magritte - drama, 1970
  • Dogg's Our Pet - drama, 1971
  • Jumpers - drama, 1972
  • Travesties - drama, 1974
  • Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land - dramas, 1976
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Favor - drama, 1977
  • Professional Foul - TV play, 1977
  • Night and Day - drama, 1978
  • Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth - dramas, 1979
  • Undiscovered Country - adaptation (of Arthur Schnitzler's Das weite Land), 1979
  • On the Razzle - adaptation (of Johann Nestroy's Einen Jux will er sich machen), 1981
  • The Real Thing - drama, 1982
  • Dalliance - adaptation (of Arthur Schnitzler's Liebelei), 1986
  • Hapgood - drama, 1988
  • Artist Descending a Staircase - drama, 1988
  • Arcadia - drama, 1993
  • Indian Ink - drama, 1995
  • The Invention of Love - drama, 1997
  • Shakespeare in Love - screenplay, 1998
  • The Coast of Utopia - trilogy:
  • Rock 'n' Roll - drama, 2006

Please note that this bibliography is not complete.

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Quotes

What others have to
say about
Tom Stoppard:

  • "No one like Stoppard for making you feel both spoilt and inadequate as an audience." - Michael Coveney, The Observer (18/4/1993)

  • "He remains the cleverest conversationalist in the common room, but he is still behaving more like a ventriloquist than an artist. I think I'd rather listen to him be brilliant without the intervention of stuffed characters." - Robert Brustein, The New Republic (30/1/1995)

  • "To his detractors, his plays are devoid of feeling and sensibility: improbably shallow people saying improbably deep things in an emotionally sterile context. But, to his supporters, his passion for theatrical conundrums has created a new dramatic style which melds the moral questioning of Shaw with the incongruity of Ionesco." - Jane Montgomery, Times Literary Supplement (29/9/1995)

  • "(H)is plays have a brilliant theatricality. He is, in fact, an exemplary autodidact, and a very quick study. In the plays, things are never quite what they seem to be. (...) Time plays tricks, as past and present coexist and sometimes brush against each other on the same stage. In many of his plays, there are echoes of his previous writings. The subject matter may shift from moral philosophy to quantum physics, but the voice is that of the author caught in the act of badinage, arguing himself in and out of a quandary." - Mel Gussow, American Theatre (December, 1995)

  • "In Tom Stoppard's plays ideas can just as much be objects of aesthetic perception and delight as can sunsets or roses. Ideas can be elegant; they can seduce, tease, or strike comic poses; they can rhyme and be set ringing at selected overtones. From ideas thus at play we ask what we ask of any imaginative use of language: inevitability and surprise." - David Guaspari, The Antioch Review (Spring, 1996)

  • "It's one of the paradoxes of Stoppard's work that while it often satirizes academics and biographers, no British dramatist since Shaw has been so concerned to teach, or to use theatre as a medium for biography -- or rather biographies, since Stoppard is above all a cultural historian." - Jeremy Treglown, Times Literary Supplement (10/10/1997)

  • "(I)n both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Jumpers, his first big successes, one was aware of a Beckett-like regret for our insignificance in the universal void. But from The Real Thing through Arcadia the emotions have become more human and particular: a lost love, a dead girl. And now the Stoppard heart is ticking almost more strongly than that famously formidable organ, the Stoppard brain." - Benedict Nightingale, The Times (5/11/1998)

  • "More than any other contemporary British playwright, Tom Stoppard populates his plays -- from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to The Invention of Love (his portrait of the poet and scholar A. E. Housman) -- with characters from life and literature. But one cannot always tell the difference between those who are real and those who are imaginary." - Mel Gussow, The New York Times (18/3/2001)

  • "The dramatist of champagne ideas and intellectual curiosity can become dense and difficult in his joy of the mind. But the "Shakespeare Defense" will not do. It is said that we don’t always understand Shakespeare’s plays, either. But Shakespeare is a breeze compared to Mr. Stoppard. And Mr. Stoppard doesn’t borrow other dramatists’ plots. He has no need. He has no plots." - John Heilpern, The New York Observer (9/4/2001)

  • "Tom Stoppard's career offers a prime example of winning through intimidation. From Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead through Jumpers, Travesties, Arcadia and beyond, borrowing techniques, dropping names and playing abstruse word games, the British playwright has shot over the heads of his critical and popular audiences. Rarely do those awed seat holders dare to state that the emperor, while not exactly nude, wears a secondhand wardrobe." - Stefan Kanfer, The New Leader (May/June, 2001)

  • "Stoppard's work invariably demands much from its audiences -- head, heart, libido -- and credits them with the capacity to learn. They must come prepared to laugh and to ponder the gravest of thoughts. If they do, they will find themselves not just intrigued and enlightened, but also moved and enlivened, with all their switches flicked on and buzzing." - Amy Reiter, Salon (13/11/2001)

  • "Mitigating the charge of chilly cleverness has always been an element of broad, vulgar showmanship. Stoppard’s major plays are big, noisy spectacles, with substantial casts (.....) Stoppard has always made demands on the limits of the possible." - Philip Hensher, The Spectator (22/6/2002)

  • "Maybe it's his gaiety that critics can't forgive. With the world in the state it's in, shouldn't he be mopier ? Why doesn't he hate things, like all the Good writers do ?" - Lloyd Rose, The Washington Post (22/7/2002)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • The works are clever and entertaining
  • The works are well-conceived -- with special attention paid to making sure they work on the stage
  • Interesting thoughts and ideas addressed in the works
  • Most of the work readily accessible, and the dramas often revived

    Cons:
  • Different editions of some of the plays differ markedly
  • Some find much of his work too complex and confusing -- playing with doubles, different (yet simultaneous) time-frames, etc
  • Some find much of his work too cerebral, and without enough heart

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the complete review's Opinion

     Tom Stoppard is one of the leading playwrights of the past half-century, probably the greatest English-speaking one. From his early triumph in the 1960s, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, he has continued to present plays decade after decade that have been greeted with both critical and popular acclaim. Many of his plays have won "Best Play" awards, and most are also frequently revived. (Stoppard has also enjoyed considerable success with -- though far less recognition for -- his many screenplays, most notably the Academy Award-winning Shakespeare in Love.)
     Stoppard's dramas are, above all else, clever. He uses the stage very effectively: drama is very different from fiction (or poetry), and Stoppard knows what can be done with the form. Stoppard also uses words and language very effectively (and therefore the plays also read very well).
     There is a great deal of artifice in Stoppard's works: no simple naturalism here. It's not a fault -- one can't (and shouldn't even want) everything in a play. And for all the artifice, the plays remain very (or become even more) approachable. The devices Stoppard uses, the tricks he plays: they all serve some end -- and usually it is a greater end.
     Stoppard's best plays -- like the near-perfect Arcadia -- are among the glories of the modern English theatre. There is nothing here that is too demanding, and much that is heartfelt. As in many of Stoppard's plays, there are moments of understated yet deep poignancy. Those who say Stoppard's plays lack soul and feeling are apparently able only to respond to the tear-jerkingly obvious; Stoppard's is a much finer (and yet no less resonant) art.
     One of our favourite playwrights, each of whose new works we eagerly look forward to.

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Links

Tom Stoppard: Tom Stoppard's books at the complete review: Books about Tom Stoppard at the complete review: See also:

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