By using Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest as a subtle reference point, Stoppard contextualizes the play as a social satire, but also makes it clear that he is paying homage to one of the most well known plays in the English language. In his plays, Wilde frequently satirized high society, calling attention to hypocrisy and pretension among the upper classes. Stoppard's play Travesties is also engaged in exploring and commenting upon high society through its frequent conversations about art, politics, revolution and the meaning of life.
Joyce is the primary "artistic" character because his mode is traditional; compared to Tristan Tzara, a proponent of Dada, Joyce is essentially old-fashioned in his approach to his art. Tzara's approach to art as a form that can be manipulated by random chance, as opposed to skill or inspiration, underscores the idea that discussion of art, such as that practiced in high society, is more shallow and less meaningful that the pursuit or creation of art itself.
Whereas Wilde used a high form of art (a comedy of manners) to call attention to the relatively shallow concerns and standards of people in high society, Travesties portrays its characters as more down to earth and sincere, making their discussions of art and its place in the social milieu into layered and thoughtful commentary. Travesties has its central theme the exploration of the human condition by its most passionate participants: artists, philosophers and politicians (those who would rule over society and change its structures, laws, and rules).
The major theme in Travestiesis the relationship between art and politics. Stoppard creates characters with very different opinions about art and politics. These contradictory points of view result in neither art nor politics be priviledged over the other.
The secondary theme that extends from the relationship between art and politics is that of nature and the function of art and the artist. Again, Stoppard provides very contridictory points of view, where none is priviledged over the other.
In both cases, the reader is never clear as to the stance the author takes!