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Creator / Tom Stoppard

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Czech-English playwright, most famous for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

Other plays include Arcadia, The Real Inspector Hound, After Magritte, The Real Thing, The Invention of Love, Rock 'n Roll, Travesties, Jumpers, and Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth.

Also co-wrote Shakespeare in Love, Brazil and The Bourne Ultimatum, and is reported to have done uncredited dialogue rewrites on Revenge of the Sith and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.


He is often associated with the Theatre of the Absurd partially due to the general tone of his work and partially because Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is essentially one big Shout-Out to the genre's codifier, Waiting for Godot.

Works by Tom Stoppard with their own trope pages include:

Other works by Tom Stoppard provide examples of:

  • Author Appeal: Stoppard likes translation scenes like Quentin Tarantino likes feet.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The opening lines of Travesties may seem like nonsense words, but when you sound them out it becomes a limerick in French introducing the speaker, Tristan Tzara, who actually used this technique of playing with sound and meaning in his own writing/performance.
  • Double-Meaning Title: After Magritte. In art terminology, "after" means a work in the style of or inspired by, so "after Magritte" means that it incorporates René Magritte's surrealism. On a more prosaic level, the play is about what happens to a group of people after they go to see an exhibition of Magritte's paintings.
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  • Fictionary: Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth features a language which contains the same words as English but with different meanings assigned to them, inspired by a thought experiment by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Hilarity Ensues, since for example, "Cretinous pig-faced git" means "What's the time, sir?" in Dogg, but "Afternoon, squire" means "Get stuffed, you bastard". The purpose of Dogg's Hamlet is to gradually get the audience to grips with understanding Dogg, at which point they're ready to watch Cahoot's Macbeth, in which characters who speak both languages can use it for hidden meanings.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages:
    • Professional Foul, set at an international philosophical colloquium, features a scene in which an academic's speech causes consternation among the interpreters required to translate it for non-English-speakers because it makes heavy use of wordplay that only works in English.
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    • Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth revolves around a series of encounters between speakers of English and speakers of Dogg, a language which sounds like English but assigns different meanings to the words. Hilarity Ensues, since for example, "Cretinous pig-faced git" means "What's the time, sir?" in Dogg, but "Afternoon, squire" means "Get stuffed, you bastard".
  • Gayngst: Housman and Chamberlain in The Invention of Love.
  • Generational Saga: Rock 'n' Roll covers a period from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, and has three generations of protagonists with the intermediate one being the odd one out.
  • Got Me Doing It: In Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth, the protagonist spends the first act surrounded by Strange Syntax Speakers, and by the end of the act, they've got him doing it too. In the second act, he starts passing it on to other people.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The Invention of Love is based on the life of the scholar and poet A. E. Housman, and the characters include Housman himself and several other real people.
  • Imagine Spotting: Travesties is presented to the audience through the recollections of an Unreliable Narrator, Henry Carr. In one scene, as his Hot Librarian love interest gives a long lecture on politics, she accuses him of tuning out and imagining her naked. He denies this, but as she continues lecturing the lighting changes, music plays, and she starts performing a striptease. A minute later, Carr sheepishly asks the audience if they "noticed anything" in that last scene...
  • Incompatible Orientation: Housman and Jackson in The Invention of Love.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: The play After Magritte starts with a surreal Magritte-like tableau. The rest of the play is the perfectly rational explanation for the tableau occurring.
  • Mind Screw
  • Proscenium Reveal: The prologue of The Real Thing is revealed to be a play written by one of the characters (and a foreshadowing of later events).
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Much of The Coast of Utopia, set during the 19th century in Europe, primarily Russia and France, and featuring the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin as a major character.
  • Scenery Porn: The London production of Voyage, the first in Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia, utilized a backdrop of photorealistic video imagery projected on a massive white semi-circular screen that curved around the stage. During scene changes, the video would pan to the next frame — for example, from the yard to the manor. Overall, the effect was pretty stunning.
  • Secret Keeper: Housman and Chamberlain for each other, in The Invention of Love.
  • Spy Speak: The Coast of Utopia, any time Mikhail Bakunin is around.
    Bakunin: The Green Canary flies at Dawn!
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Most of the cast in Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth
  • Stylistic Suck: The Real Thing features a playwright asked to rewrite a play by a young political agitator. The brief dialogue we hear from the play is utterly awful.
  • Tableau
    • After Magritte opens with a surreal tableau, the meaning of which is explained in the opening dialogue, and ends on another.
    • Taken to a logical extreme in The Coast of Utopia, where the characters are arranged like Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe for no real reason other than "it looks cool".
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: By a dramaturg/English major for dramaturgs/English majors. Arcadia is written for math majors.


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