(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The title The Coast of Utopia derives from the key motivation of almost all of the characters in this dramatic trilogy—the search for a perfect society. Ironically, utopias, as nonexistent (the word literally means “no place”), can have no coast. Yet this truth is repeatedly denied as Stoppard’s huge cast of revolutionaries and fellow travelers (forty-four actors in seventy roles in the New York production) insist that a new secular Eden lies just beyond the horizon, virtually within sight. The main candidates for that paradise are Russia and, briefly, France. The characters’ travels, from Russia to France, Germany, Switzerland, England, and Italy, meld their personal voyages, their political quests, and the coastal metaphor contained in the title of each part of the trilogy: Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage. The political activists expect a triumphant return home after places of temporary exile, mere jumping off points.

Stoppard’s courage in taking on this massive project is noteworthy. Beyond simple cast size, there is no explicit contemporary relevance to the discussion, and much is firmly anchored in nineteenth century political history, primarily the painful attempts to drag Russia into the modern world. The central characters may be unrecognizable by the nonspecialist, and the issues—the relative merits of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling’s theories of reality—can be...

(The entire section is 575 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bareham, T., ed. Tom Stoppard: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” “Jumpers,” “Travesties,” a Casebook. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 1990.

Delaney, Paul. Tom Stoppard: The Moral Vision of the Major Plays. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.

Dunkin-Jones, Katherine. “Continental Drift: Katherine Duncan-Jones on How Tom Stoppard’s Study of Philosophy and Revolution Slips Its Moorings.” New Statesman 131 (August 26, 2002): 26-27.

Hitchens, Christopher. “A Nine-Hour Resurrection: Alexander Herzen, Marx’s Rival and Tolstoy’s Nonfiction Counterpart, Enjoys a Well-Deserved Return to Center Stage in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia.The Atlantic Monthly 290 (December, 2002): 141-146.

Karwowski, Michael. “All Right: An Assessment of Tom Stoppard’s Plays.” Contemporary Review 282 (March, 2003): 161-166.

Kelly, Katherine E. Tom Stoppard and the Craft of Comedy: Medium and Genre at Play. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991.

Kelly, Katherine E, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Orlich, Ileana Alexandra. “Tom Stoppard’s Travesties and the Politics of Earnestness.” East European Quarterly 38 (Fall, 2004): 37-49.

Teachout, Terry. “Utopians on Stage.” Commentary 123 (April, 2007): 62-65.

Wolf, Matt, Celia Wren, and Julia Klein. “Unstoppable Stoppard: Utopia Unattainable Is the Topic of His Grand-Scale New Trilogy.” American Theatre 19 (November, 2002): 40-43.