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Tom Stoppard

Stoppard, Tom, 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 Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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