Tom Stoppard

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Tom Stoppard (2011)

Sir Tom Stoppard OM , CBE , born Tomáš Straussler , (born July 3, 1937 in Zlín , Czechoslovakia ) is a British playwright who is known for his plays such as The Real Thing and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead as well as for the screenplay for the Film Shakespeare in Love . He is considered one of the outstanding authors of the British post-war drama, which he has significantly influenced through his stage-effective as well as intellectually stimulating mixture of puns, situational comedy and philosophical reflections. His works are among the most played and also most intensely discussed in academic circles in contemporary British drama. Stoppard's status as an author and playwright was also recognized in 1997 when he was raised to the nobility.

life and work

Tom Stoppard was born Tomáš Straussler on July 3, 1937 in Zlín in Czechoslovakia. Both parents were Jews , his father was a works doctor at the Bata shoe factory . The parents and their two sons fled Czechoslovakia after the German invasion in 1939 and ended up in Singapore . Straussler's grandparents and other relatives were victims of the Holocaust . Straussler attended an English school in India , where his family fled when the Japanese invaded Singapore in the spring of 1942. His father died during this escape and his mother married a British major named Stoppard in 1946. The new family moved to England in the same year.

Stoppard left school at seventeen and began working as a journalist. His first piece, A Walk on the Water (later title: Enter a Free Man ) was completed in 1960, shown on television in 1963 and premiered on stage in Hamburg in 1964. In 1963, Stoppard worked as a theater critic for Scene magazine. A year later, he attended the Literary Colloquium in Berlin , which enabled him to work on one of his most famous plays, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead , a comedy with two minor characters from Hamlet . It resembles Samuel Beckett's absurd play Waiting for Godot . Stoppard's own adaptation of the work received an award at the 1990 Venice Film Festival .

The connection between Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Shakespeare's Hamlet, whose supporting characters become the protagonists of his play, already reveal the connection between intertextuality and metadrama that is typical for many of his works . With the entanglement of his characters in a multitude of systems of meaning and cultural constructs, which is already apparent here, which is characteristic of many of his other pieces, Stoppard also radically poses the possibility of transcending what is textual in the broadest sense with regard to the recognition of an ultimate reality or truth in question.

The Real Inspector Hound was premiered in 1968 and has a similar interweaving of everyday and stage reality as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead . When two theater critics, who are initially viewers of a crime play, allow themselves to be included in the action on the stage, they are shot. With its sophisticated satirical design, the piece aims at competition among journalists.

The dramas Jumpers (1972) and Travesties (1974) also show Stoppard's linguistic and dramatic design skills. Both pieces were well received by the critics and quickly met with success with the public. Jumpers combines elements of a romantic comedy, a detective piece and a farce with philosophical reflections. Viewers are encouraged to ask questions and speculate, but there is no answer. The external movements of the figures and their internal mental impulses are an expression of their acrobatic existence. However, this acrobatic dance seems absurd because it doesn't make any sense; only the emptiness and the deceptive appearance of modern life are illustrated .

The drama Travesties is based on the historical fact that James Joyce , Tristan Tzara and Lenin stayed in Zurich during the First World War , where Joyce produced a performance of Oscar Wilde's comedy The Importance of Being Earnest during this time . The scenes that focus on Joyce and Tsara shine with their parodic effects, whereas the passages that thematize Lenin's political ideas are not included with the same theatrical elegance in the course of the comedic plot. Against the background of the politically and historically very serious situation, the farce-like gags fail here .

In 1978, Stoppard wrote the screenplay for Despair - A Journey into Light , a little-known film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, based on a novella by Vladimir Nabokov . With the drama Night and Day in the same year, he returned to a topic that had preoccupied him in his first works: the role and responsibility of the journalist in modern society. The play takes place in an imaginary African state; However, the situation of the journalists working there shows the essential problems of their profession as a model: Does the journalist write solely as a way of earning a living for the sake of money or does he primarily want to help the truth break through? This drama shows that, with all his talent for comedic play and all his enjoyment of parodies, Stoppard's interest is also directed towards the fundamental questions of the present age.

Numerous short dramas such as After Magritte (1970), Dirty Linen and New-Found Land (1976) or Dogg's Hamlet and Cahoot's Macbeth (1979) offer variations of Stoppard's full-length pieces; in Dirty Linen and New-Found Land he again addresses problems of sexual morality in politics and the press in the style of a farce . TV plays such as Professional Foul (1977), the radio play Artist Descending a Staircase (1972) or the scripts for numerous films as well as the adaptations of the works of other authors such as Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba (1973) or Arthur Schnitzler's Das weite Land (English as Undiscovered Country , 1979) and Nestroy's A Joke (English: On the Razzle , 1981) document Stoppard's broad interests and his ability as a playwright to adapt to the different demands of different media. With the marriage tragedy The Real Thing (1982), Stoppard once again presents the game with the different levels of reality in the style of his earlier pieces.

His pieces play with philosophical ideas that are presented with a lot of wit and humor. Stoppard shows himself to be a master of wordplay and often uses multiple timelines in his works, which, with their self-theming of theater, raise the question of the relationship between art and life or fiction and reality. In the same way, Stoppard's pieces show his penchant for linking the widely divergent and seemingly incompatible, so that surprising analogies emerge, such as between philosophy and acrobatics (in Jumpers ) or espionage and quantum physics (in Hapgood , 1988). His works are also shaped by the idea that the act of observing and the location-based perspectives of any view of reality determine reality. This is evident not only in the incorporation of scientific theories or philosophical conceptions into his works, but also in the various alienations of the classic crime genre, which is supported by the concept of a rationally explicable reality, such as in The Real Inspector Hound (1968) or After Magritte .

Whether it is about the personal bias of the theater critics in Hound , the hypotheses of the police and witnesses in After Magritte or the construction of one's own biography or identity in Travesties , filtered through literary patterns , Stoppard repeatedly provides hermeneutical insight into the constitutive in his plays Function of the respective prior understanding. The relativity of the viewpoints determines the dramatic course of action and the change in the replicas.

Although all of Stoppard's pieces have no clear overall message, this does not mean a mere arbitrary relativism . On the one hand, in Travesties , Stoppard approaches Derrida's insight into the impossibility of fixing a meaning, as it culminates in his différance term, on the other hand, he refers to the confrontation between aestheticism and totalitarianism that revolves around moral-political issues , for example in Dirty Linen or Every Good Boy Deserves Favor (1978), but on a realm of absolute values ​​that is beyond intellectual play.

In his later pieces, Stoppard set another high point in his literary work , especially with Arcadia ( Arcadia ) in 1993. It is again about the problem of a construction of reality with different premises, here in the field of tension between recognizable order on the one hand and chaos on the other. Again, completely different areas of human activity are brought into relation with one another, such as horticulture and literature (i.e. classical strictness of form and romantic savagery), physics and mathematics (i.e. Newton's view of the world and chaos or thermodynamics ) and finally sexuality (i.e. conjugal love as opposed to illegitimate ones) Relationships) as the attraction that Newton left out . By alternating between two time levels (1809 and the present), Stoppard draws attention to the prejudice- and interest-driven strategies in the reconstruction or construction of the past, especially with regard to the events of Lord Byron , who acts on the edge of the story of the past, but without himself to occur. Likewise, Stoppard tries to show how erroneous it is to assume a linearity of time and the progressive improvement of human cognitive abilities. All attempts to fathom a “reality in itself” always have only a limited validity in this piece; From Stoppard's point of view, reality in its actual being remains ultimately indefinable.

Tom Stoppard was married twice: in his first marriage with the nurse Jose Ingle (1965-1972) and then with Miriam Moore-Robinson (1972-1992). He left his second wife to enter into a relationship with actress Felicity Kendal. He has two sons from both marriages. In 1978, Stoppard was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE); In 1997 he was knighted . In 1986 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2000 he was accepted into the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II . In the same year he was accepted as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters . In 2009 he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale . In 2017 he was made an honorary member of the British Academy and received the David Cohen Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

Works (selection)

Stage works

  • A Separate Peace (1966 TV version, 1969 book version)
    a man who wants to live in a private hospital because he is tired of life.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. (1967; German Rosenkranz and Güldenstern )
  • Enter a Free Man (1968)
  • After Magritte (1970)
  • The Real Inspector Hound (1968)
    is a well-known short drama. Two theater critics watch a play and are drawn into a murder themselves.
  • Jumpers (1972)
    examines academic philosophy and presents it like a gymnastic competition.
  • Travesties (1974)
    a parody of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest .
  • Dirty Linen and New Found Land . (1976)
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Favor (1977)
    is a peculiar piece that requires few actors, but requires a full orchestra to be performed.
  • Night and Day (1978)
  • Dogg's Hamlet (1979)
    In this play, the actors speak normal English words, but they have completely different meanings.
  • Undiscovered Country (1979)
  • On the razzle . (1981)
    is a comedy based on a 19th century play written by the Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy : He wants to make a joke (Nestroy's work was also used as a template for Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker and the musical Hello , Dolly! ).
  • The real thing. (1982; revised version 2010; Ger. The only true )
    examines the nature of love and the origin of literature.
  • Rough Crossing (1984)
  • Dalliance (1986)
  • Hapgood (1988)
    mixes an espionage thriller and quantum mechanics .
  • Arcadia (1993; Eng. Arcadia )
    follows the fortunes of two researchers investigating a literary crime novel.
  • Indian Ink (1995)
    deals with British rule in India. Play based on the radio play In The Native State .
  • The Invention of Love . (1997)
    deals with the life and death of the Oxford poet Alfred Edward Housman , especially with his homosexuality .
  • The Coast of Utopia (2002)
    trilogy, consisting of the parts Voyage , Shipwreck and Salvage . ( Tony Award to Tom Stoppard for Best Play 2007 and 6 other Tonys)
  • Rock 'n' Roll (2006)
  • The Hard Problem (2015)
  • Leopoldstadt (2020)
    deals with the fate of a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna during the first half of the 20th century

Radio plays (excerpt)

  • The Dissolution of Dominic Boot
  • 'M' is for Moon Among Other Things
  • If You're Glad I'll Be Frank
  • Albert's Bridge
  • Where Are They Now?
  • Artist Descending a Staircase
  • The Dog It Was That Died
  • In the native state
  • Darkside (BBC, setting of The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd )

Films (cinema)

Television series

Total expenditure

  • Tom Stoppard: Plays . 5 volumes. Faber and Faber, London 1996ff.
  • Tom Stoppard. Edited by Harold Bloom . Bloom's Major Dramatists . Chelsea House, New York 2003.

further reading

  • Beate Blüggel: Tom Stoppard. Metadrama and Postmodernism. Lang Verlag, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1992, ISBN 3-631-44970-4 .
  • Richard Corballis: Stoppard. The Mystery and the Clockwork. Oxford, New York 1984, ISBN 0-906399-47-5 .
  • Paul Delaney: Tom Stoppard: The Moral Vision of the Plays. Macmillan, London / Basingstoke 1990, ISBN 1-349-20605-9 (new edition 2014).
  • William W. Demastes: The Cambridge Introduction to Tom Stoppard. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2012, ISBN 978-1-107-60612-8 .
  • John Fleming: Stoppard's Theater: Finding Order Amid Chaos. University of Texas Press, Austin 2001, ISBN 0-292-72552-3 .
  • Jim Hunter: About Tom Stoppard: The Playwright & the Work. Faber & Faber, London 2005, ISBN 0-571-22023-1 (new edition 2006).
  • Katherine E. Kelly (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001, ISBN 0-521-64592-1 (new edition 2010).
  • Felicia Hardison Londré: Tom Stoppard. Literature and Life. (= Modern Literature Series ). Frederick Ungar Publishing, New York 1981, ISBN 0-8044-2538-8 .
  • Doris Mader: Illusion of reality and awareness of reality. A thematic and structural analysis of selected great stage dramas by Tom Stoppard. Winter Verlag, Heidelberg 2000, ISBN 3-8253-1066-3 .
  • Beate Neumeier : Game and Politics: Aspects of Comedy in Tom Stoppard. Fink Verlag, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-7705-2417-9 .
  • Nigel Purse: Tom Stoppard's Plays. Patterns of Plenitude and Parsimony. Brill, Leiden 2016, ISBN 978-9-004-31836-6 .
  • Holger Südkamp: Tom Stoppard's Biographical Drama. Scientific publishing house Trier, Trier 2008, ISBN 978-3-86821-043-9 .

Web links

Commons : Tom Stoppard  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Middeke: Stoppard, Tom. In: Eberhard Kreutzer, Ansgar Nünning (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexicon of English-speaking authors. 631 portraits - from the beginning to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, ISBN 3-476-01746-X , p. 558 f.
  2. Martin Middeke: Stoppard, Tom. In: Eberhard Kreutzer, Ansgar Nünning (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexicon of English-speaking authors. 631 portraits - from the beginning to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, ISBN 3-476-01746-X , p. 559.
  3. Bernhard Fabian (Ed.): The English literature. Volume 2: Authors. 3. Edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-423-04495-0 , p. 384 f.
  4. Bernhard Fabian (Ed.): The English literature. Volume 2: Authors. 3. Edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-423-04495-0 , p. 385.
  5. Bernhard Fabian (Ed.): The English literature. Volume 2: Authors. 3. Edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-423-04495-0 , pp. 385f.
  6. Martin Middeke: Stoppard, Tom. In: Eberhard Kreutzer, Ansgar Nünning (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexicon of English-speaking authors. 631 portraits - from the beginning to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, ISBN 3-476-01746-X , p. 559.
  7. Martin Middeke: Stoppard, Tom. In: Eberhard Kreutzer, Ansgar Nünning (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexicon of English-speaking authors. 631 portraits - from the beginning to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, ISBN 3-476-01746-X , p. 559.
  8. Martin Middeke: Stoppard, Tom. In: Eberhard Kreutzer, Ansgar Nünning (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexicon of English-speaking authors. 631 portraits - from the beginning to the present. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, ISBN 3-476-01746-X , p. 559 f.
  9. Honorary Members: Tom Stoppard. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 23, 2019 .
  10. ^ Elections to the British Academy celebrate the diversity of UK research. British Academy , July 21, 2017, accessed July 21, 2017 .