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The popular/classic playwright: Tom Stoppard Contemporary Literature in English Natália Pikli ELTE.

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Presentation on theme: "The popular/classic playwright: Tom Stoppard Contemporary Literature in English Natália Pikli ELTE."— Presentation transcript:

1 The popular/classic playwright: Tom Stoppard Contemporary Literature in English Natália Pikli ELTE

2 Tom Stoppard (b. 1937) ‘double act’ Czech/English popular/‘classic’ postmodernism / modernism science / literature ‘a major minor playwright’?: international acclaim, Sir Tom Stoppard v. aesthetic value adaptations metatheatre well-made play v. experimentational plays ‘special Stoppardian flair’ – wit, humour, intelligence multimediality: theatre plays, films, radio and TV plays (interviews! – a special genre)

3 Life – double identity Born Tomáš Straüssler, Zlin, 1937 (Czech – Jewish: discovered only later, in the 1990s) Family escaped to Singapore in 1939, father died, India: mother remarried: Major Kenneth Stoppard – moved to England typical English education and wit (cf. Oscar Wilde) v. Eastern European humour and inclination towards the absurd early 1960s: struggling writer (cf. young Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love), Bristol Evening World offered Stoppard the position of feature writer, humour columnist, and secondary drama critic, novel: Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon breakthrough: 1966/1967 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Edinburgh Festival → London National Theatre, Broadway) Later: 4 Tony Awards, countless other drama awards, Oscars, Golden Lion, etc – knighted, Order of Merit: a Czech refugee child; honorary professor at Yale, Cambridge, Dublin – with no university degree…

4 ‘Stoppardian’ = wit + comedy + philosophy/science late 1960s/1970s: working for/with the National Theatre (Jumpers, Travesties) AND experimentation with Ed Berman’s Dogg’s Troupe of Inter-Action (Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth – inventing a new language, Wittgenstein’s language philosophy) Late 1970s: political interest (Squaring the Circle, Professional Foul – TV plays, Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour – play with an orchestra) Arcadia – 2011, Broadway – Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play 1998: Shakespeare in Love (film, scipt with Marc Norman, 7 Oscars) 2002/2008: The Coast of Utopia (a trilogy of plays), 2006: Rock ‘n’ Roll Films: Brazil, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (director as well, Golden Lion), Shakespeare in Love, latest: 2012: Anna Karenina (uncredited: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Star Wars III) Adaptations/free translations of plays by Mrozek, Schnitzler, Nestroy, Chekhov, Pirandello, Vaclav Havel, Rough Crossing - Ferenc Molnár’s A Play in the Castle

5 General questions What audience is targeted? highbrow= education, erudition needed to appreciate the philosophy/science/intertextual elements OR: Lowbrow = humour, fun, entertainment ‘edutainment’: Stoppard explaining difficult scientific/philosophical concepts in comedy’s disguise Stoppard: theatre is recreational first and foremost and a group effort (different textual versions of his plays)

6 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Dan David Prize, 2008 ‘Creative Rendering of the Past in Theatre’ 1960s: Stoppard – ‘a good age to be born in for a playwright’ (Brecht, Beckett, Pinter, Angry Young Men) a play based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet – ‘Hamlet inside-out’ – what happens backstage overshadows the well-known tragedy 2 minor characters (friends/spies) in Hamlet → protagonists in a play that declares their death in its title ‘trapped in a text’ three acts, episodic structure – ‘ambush’ after ‘ambush’ Ros and Guil’s dialogue, Ros and Guil and the Player (s), Ros and Guil and characters of Hamlet adaptation: ‘something old, something new’ – the common set of two intersecting sets Hamlet himself: Shakespeare’s and ‘modern James Bond’ in Act 3 (”Beneath the re-tilted umbrella, reclining in a deckchair, wrapped in a rug, reading a book, possibly smoking, sits Hamlet.”)

7 The Hamlet-myth, Hamlet as a cultural icon – the intellectual hero, Renaissance man, ‘to be or not to be’ RosGuil: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and The Player in the foreground (20th century language, ‘the law of diminishing returns’ – maths, philosophy) Hamlet in the background Ros and Guil travelling through the narrative of Hamlet talking and waiting/ passivity Shakespeare: As You Like It, Jacques: All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,

8 Shakespeare - Beckett- Eliot Tom Stoppard: ”There are certain things written in English which make me feel as a diabetic must feel when the insulin goes in. Prufrock and Beckett are the twin syringes of my diet, my arterial system.” Beckett’s Waiting for Godot - SD: ” Two ELIZABETHANS passing time in a place without any visible character.” - the feeling of the absurd: passing the time waiting and talking - Didi and Gogo – Guil and Ros, intellect/body, belonging together, identities confused, cyclical structure, tragicomedy, Beckettian dialogue (see next slide)

9 GUIL: Are you there? ROS: Where? GUIL (bitterly): A flying start.... (Pause.) ROS: Is that you? GUIL: Yes. ROS: How do you know? GUIL (explosion): Oh-for-God's-sake! ROS: We're not finished, then? GUIL: Well, we're here, aren't we? ROS: Are we? I can't see a thing. GUIL: You can still think, can't you? ROS: I think so. GUIL: You can still talk. ROS: What should I say? GUIL: Don't bother. You can feel, can't you? ROS: Ah! There's life in me yet! GUIL: What are you feeling? ROS: A leg. Yes, it feels like my leg. GUIL: How does it feel? ROS: Dead. GUIL: Dead? ROS (panic): I can't feel a thing! GUIL: Give it a pinch! (Immediately he yelps.) ROS: Sorry. GUIL: Well, that's cleared that up.

10 T.S. Eliot: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – cf. Prufrock’s persona and Ros/Guil ” There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face that meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create” ” I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter; I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker, And in short, I was afraid.” ”No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool”

11 The Player - life as theatre PLAYER: We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else. STRUCTURE of the play PLAYER: You don’t understand the humiliation of it – to be tricked out of the single assumption which makes our existence viable – that somebody is watching… players’ existence/existential problem: is God/Godot there watching? PLAYER: We're more of the blood, love and rhetoric school […] well, I can do you blood and love without rhetoric, and I can do you blood and rhetoric without love, and I can do you all three concurrent or consecutive, but I can't do you love and rhetoric without blood. Blood is compulsory - they're all blood, you see. Player: art is prostitution (Albert – boy-actor)/serving the audience

12 Player: metatheatrical questions death portrayed or real death on stage? Cf. Coleridge’s ”the willing suspension of disbelief” GUIL (fear, derision): Actors! The mechanics of cheap melodrama! That isn't death! (More quietly.) You scream and choke and sink to your knees, but it doesn't bring death home to anyone-it doesn't catch them unawares and start the whisper in their skulls that says- One day you are going to die. (He straightens up.) You die so many times; how can you expect them to believe in your death? PLAYER: On the contrary, it's the only kind they do believe. They're conditioned to it. I had an actor once who was condemned to hang for stealing a sheep-or a lamb, I forget which-so I got permission to have him hanged in the middle of a play-had to change the plot a bit but I thought it would be effective, you know- and you wouldn't believe it, he just wasn't convincing! It was impossible to suspend one's, disbelief-and what with the audience jeering and throwing peanuts, the whole thing was a disaster!-he did nothing but cry all the time-right out of character-just stood there and cried... Never again. - characters: no memory, no future – only the present moment: actors?

13 Death Ros’s one long monologue – musings on what it feels like lying in a coffin Guil’s intellectual speculations Guil’s and the Player’s passionate debate on real/feigned death on stage – cf. Ros and Guil’s death: ROS: All right, then. I don't care. I've had enough. To tell you the truth, I'm relieved. (And he disappears from view. GUIL does not notice.) GUIL: Our names shouted in a certain dawn... a message... a summons... there must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we Could have said-no. But somehow we missed it. (He looks round and sees he is alone.) Rosen--? Guil--? (He gathers himself.) Well, we'll know better next time. Now you see me, now you - (And disappears.) Their existence – no dead bodies on stage: no substance confirmed – only theatrical/literary existence

14 Postmodern and non-postmodern concerns mistrust in language – and truth: GUIL: Words, words. They are all we have to go on. – questions-game: the eternal questioners (intellectuals) PLAYER: Everything has to be taken on trust; truth is only that which is taken to be true, It’s the currency of living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn’t make any difference so long as it is honoured. One acts on assumptions. What do you assume? PLAYER: You understand, we are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style. -clichés/intertextuality: ‘Give us this day our daily clue’ (Lord’s Prayer) -”it is written” : text ≈ reality V. -Real art= miracle – cf. Guil’s unicorn v. horse with an arrow in its head Victims or traitors ‘hoist by their own petard’? Is moral choice possible? GUIL: Our names shouted in a certain dawn... a message... a summons... there must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said-no. But somehow we missed it.

15 Monkey at a typewriter v. Shakespeare – how to make drama out of a mathematical/philosophical problem? ”A monkey randomly hitting the keys of a laptop over an infinite period of time may well eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare” : Infinite Monkey Theorem In the early 20th century, Émile Borel and Arthur Eddington used the theorem to illustrate the timescales implicit in the foundations of statistical mechanics (earlier: Aristotle, Cicero, Pascal, Swift)

16 GUIL (musing): The law of probability, as it has been oddly asserted, is something to do with the proposition that if six monkeys (he has surprised himself)... if six monkeys were... ROS: Game? GUIL: Were they? ROS: Are you? GUIL (understanding): Games. (Flips a coin.) The law of averages, if I have got this right, means that if six monkeys were thrown up in the air for long enough they would land on their tails about as often as they would land on their - ROS: Heads. (He picks up the coin.) -85 times ‘heads’ in a coin tossing game – free will or determinism? Fate or choice? Cf. Ros and Guil’s situation: can they make a choice? Free will or determinism? – the postmodern answer: if reality is just one narrative among many, pastiche/parody/fiction might be equal to reality

17 Arcadia, 1993 Tom Stoppard: ”a thriller and a romantic tragedy with jokes” sex/love/art/death/idyll/science chaos AND order not excluding each other but in interaction TITLE: Arcadia – Greek idylls → Virgil’s eclogues, nature and art and man in harmony; young shepherds and shepherdesses in love (also a type of garden)

18 The setting Sidley Park – a country estate with a garden: in 1809/1812 and Present day – Coverly family Idyllic landscape: garden in the process of transformation (18th- century rational mastering of nature to‘Gothic’/Romantic garden with ruins, hermit, etc.)/ as the subject of research in the present

19 N. Poussin: Et in Arcadia ego (Arcadian shepherds), Et in Arcadia ego: –I too am in Arcadia –I too am/lived here (dead person) –Even here I am (death) –et: too/even Cf. Thomasina, a young girl’s death Love tragedy: Th. dead, Septimus becomes a mad hermit in the Gothic garden designed by Richard Noakes

20 Timelines 1809/1812: Byron at Sidley Park sex: Mrs Chater/Septimus/Captain Brice, Septimus Hodge/Lady Croom (mother of Thomasina); Lady Croom/Byron (‘ghost’)/Count Zelinsky love: Thomasina Coverly → Septimus Present day: sex: Bernard Nightingale/Chloe Coverly /Hannah Jarvis love: Chloe→Bernard, Valentine Coverly and Gus Coverly → Hannah The present day characters doing research on the characters of the past: Valentine on Thomasina’s mathematical discoveries, Hannah on the ‘hermit’, Bernard Nightingale, a university don on Byron/Chater (cf. Byatt: Possession, 1990) In the final scenes the two timelines (so far running parallel/consecutively) converge: present day characters in early 1800s costumes with characters of the past – final dance/waltz (Thomasina and Septimus, Hannah and Gus)

21 Enlightenment v. Romanticism love and science – in interaction “It is a defect of God's humor that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them.” – love frustrated/Romantic yearning “Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one's arms around a side of beef.” – sexual attraction/ rationale of the Enlightenment, the cynical present day “The universe is deterministic all right, just like Newton said, I mean it's trying to be, but the only thing going wrong is people fancying people who aren't supposed to be in that part of the plan. … It’s the attraction that Newton left out” SCIENCE: Newton’s physics – age of reason, the universe is predictable, reversibility and order rule our world ↔ Thomasina: rice pudding ‘experiment’ – the jam once stirred cannot be unstirred: modern science – the law of entropy/ the second law of thermodynamics (tea never gets hot by itself only colder - ”we’ll all end up at room temperature”) – corresponds to Romantic pessimism Thomasina: a mathematical genius/free mind – adolescent girl – science and love (opposites meet in one)

22 Chaos theory: free will and determinism “The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is.” Fractal geometry: iterated algorhytms (Thomasina with a pencil, Val with a laptop) produce order in seeming disorder – the Mandelbrot set/”The Coverly set” Cf. shapes of snowflakes, snowstorms, weather forecasts

23 The Mandelbrot set

24 Garden Garden of Eden – Arcadia – Sidley Park (God/Nature/Manmade ‘paradise’) Gothic/Romantic garden – Salvator Rosa (Richard Noakes) Gus (15, mute) offering an apple to Hannah, as a love gift: the truth (hermit = Septimus) cf. tree of knowledge Garden of Eden: free will or determinism ‘the original sin’: wanting to know – cf. the rational Hannah’s passion for pursuing knowledge

25 Arcadia: the waltz Byron: The Waltz (‘muse of motion’, ‘ voluptuous Waltz’) introduced in England in 1812, a fashion ‘carnal embrace’ steps based on a triangle – fractals – order in chaos Music/piano/Pan in Greek Arcadia harmony AND tragedy – Thomasina dies that night, Septimus’s moral choice (‘I will not’) = her death

26 Theatrical virtuosity Order in chaos – one place, two timelines, chaos of sexual attraction/love Final scene: desk at the centre – accumulating objects from both timelines (seeming entropy – order for the spectator) mute Gus, adolescent characters (Augustus – Gus, Thomasina): focus on them/sexuality, innocence v. experience ‘investigation’: popular genre - ‘play the detective’

27 Academia and ‘afterlife’ Tom Stoppard Prize was created in 1983 (in Stockholm, under the Charter 77 Foundation) and is awarded to authors of Czech origin The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, USA ppard/ Hungary: RosGuil – first translation by István Vas, 1967! Tom Stoppard: Drámák (Európa,2002) Árkádia, transl. Várady Sz., mek.oszk.hu (Hungarian electronic library) Performances of RosGuil and Arcadia, 1990s Katona J. Theatre, 2012 MU Theatre, etc.


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