Spring 2003
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Dramaturgy Program
Department of Theater
- UMass Amherst

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A Selection of Stoppard's Plays for the Stage:

A Walk on the Water (1960)

The Gamblers (1965)

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

The Real Inspector Hound (1968)

After Magritte (1970)

Dogg's Our Pet (1971)

Jumpers (1972)

Travesties (1974)

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1977)

Night and Day (1979)

Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth (1979)

The Real Thing (1982)

Hapgood (1988)

Arcadia (1993)

Indian Ink (1995)

The Invention of Love (1997)




Tom Stoppard (1937- )

Tomas Straussler, the son of Eugene and Martha Straussler, was born July 3, 1937 in Zlin, Czechoslovakia. In 1939 the Straussler family moved to Singapore to escape the Nazi invasion. Because of the impending Japanese invasion, 5-year-old Tomas fled to India with his mother and brother in 1942. His father stayed behind in Singapore and was killed.

In 1946, Tomas Straussler became Tom Stoppard when his mother married Kenneth Stoppard, a British army officer stationed in India. Kenneth Stoppard moved the family to England, where Tom attended school until he was seventeen. At 17, he became a journalist, writing news stories and theatrical reviews for such newspapers as the Western Daily Press and the Bristol Evening World.

From 1965-1971, Stoppard was married to Josie Ingle. They had two sons together. After getting divorced, he married Dr. Miriam Moore-Robinson in 1972. They also had two sons and divorced in 1991.

Stoppard's Early Career

Tom Stoppard began writing plays for television, radio, and the stage in 1960. After having several radio plays broadcast on BBC Radio, Stoppard's first major success on the stage came with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1966. This fantastical treatment of Shakespeare examines the world through the eyes of two minor characters from Hamlet and incorporates many of the ideas that Stoppard would continue to explore throughout his career as a playwright. What is the meaning of life? How do the laws of probability affect us? How can we interact with classic works of literature in new ways?

Although his formal education ended when he was 17, Stoppard's plays engage with weighty intellectual issues of language, literature, theater, philosophy, art, and mathematics. The Real Inspector Hound (1968) depicts two theater critics watching a murder mystery on stage. When they get caught up in the action, the play raises questions about the differences between theater and real life. Travesties (1974) explores the historical potential of a production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest in Zurich, Switzerland in 1917, involving writers and artists such as James Joyce and Tristan Tzara. In Arcadia (1993), the subject matter moves on to mathematics, as the characters discuss Fermat's Last Theorem and chaos theory.

In 1977, after visits to Moscow and Czechoslovakia under the auspices of Amnesty International, Stoppard's work took on a more political bent. Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth and Every Good Boy Deserves Favor (set in mental asylum with a full orchestra on stage!), written in the late 1970s, display a marked interest in human rights issues.

Stoppard has also written plays that deal with love, including The Real Thing (1982), about the intersections of love and theater, and The Invention of Love (1997), about the unrequited love of writer and scholar A.E. Housman.

Stoppard on Film

In addition to his success as a playwright, Tom Stoppard has also worked in the film industry. In 1985, he co-wrote the screenplay of Brazil, a fantastical film in which reality and dreams intermingle, directed by Terry Gilliam (who went on to direct Twelve Monkeys). Stoppard directed a film version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1990; the film stars Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, and Richard Dreyfuss. Stoppard was also a major force in the writing of Shakespeare in Love (1998); he shared an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with his co-writer, Marc Norman.



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This is the official Web site for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, produced by the Dramaturgy Program of the Department of Theater at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Produced and maintained by Dan Smith, dansmith_251@yahoo.com.