Tom Stoppard: a playwright on the fence

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Authors
Ramsey, Julianne Elizabeth
Issue Date
2010-05
Type
Thesis
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en_US
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Abstract

This thesis examines the content of Tom Stoppard‟s work, rather than placing emphasis on his form and cleverness. By dissecting the plays Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Travesties, The Invention of Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, one can see that Stoppard acts as an impartial playwright. He presents opposing philosophical outlooks within the confines of his plays, but he gives no evidence as to which opinion most closely represents his own viewpoint. By examining the previous research in relation to Tom Stoppard, as well as Stoppard‟s own discussions of his works, it becomes apparent that Stoppard often focuses on three primary themes: an individual‟s attempt to find truth and meaning within his existence, the use of multiple narrative strains to establish a balanced societal view, and the importance of art and intellect to a society. However, after scrutinizing much of the scholarly research around Stoppard‟s works, it became apparent that much of the literary criticism focused on his word play and cleverness, rather than the subject matter of his plays. This thesis hopes to add to the negligible amount of existing analysis of his substance, rather than just his form. Although Tom Stoppard does function as an intellectual gamester and can dazzle with his cleverness, this paper concludes that focusing only on this facet of his plays yields an incomplete appreciation of what he has created. He treats his characters, regardless of whether or not he agrees with their points of view, as equally rational and logical. He leaves it to his audience to decide which character has the “correct” point of view. He is as much a philosophical gamester as he is a wordsmith, and he uses the three previously addressed themes to present the focal points of his philosophical debates. He functions as a playwright on the fence.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English
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Wichita State University
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Copyright First Name Last Name, 2010. All rights reserved
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