The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck

by Tom Stoppard

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List of Characters

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Alexander Herzen—a radical writer.

Natalie Herzen—Alexander's wife.

Tata Herzen—the Herzens' daughter.

Sasha Herzen—the Herzens' son.

Kolya Herzen—the Herzens' younger son.

Nicholas Ogarev—a poet and radical.

Ivan Turgenev—a poet and writer.

Timothy Granovsky—a historian.

Nicholas Ketscher—a doctor.

Konstantin Aksakov—a Slavophile policeman.

Vissarion Belinsky—a literary critic.

George Herwegh—a radical poet.

Emma Herwegh—his wife.

Madame Haag—Herzen's mother.

Nicholas Sazonov—a Russian émigré.

Michael Bakunin—a Russian émigré activist.

Jean-Marie—a French servant.

Karl Marx—author of The Communist Manifesto.

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Natalie (Natasha)Tuchkov—Natalie's friend.

Benoit—a French servant.

Maria Ogarev—Ogarev's estranged wife.

Franz Otto—Bakunin's defense lawyer.

Character Analysis

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Michael Bakunin is less prominently featured in Shipwreck than in Voyage, but his presence is still crucial to the play. Although Bakunin does not lose the childishness he displays in Voyage, it is changed and compounded in Shipwreck. Bakunin becomes more and more reckless, searching for a fight to join regardless of the consequences. He is set apart from friends like Herzen because of his destructive view of social and political reform. His act-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude puts him in danger and distances him from his contemporaries.

Herzen, despite his abbreviated role in Voyage, is the center of the entire Coast of Utopia trilogy. In Shipwreck, this role becomes clearer as the story is told from his perspective, and that of his friends and family. Throughout Shipwreck, Herzen remains stoic and grounded, even as those around him vacillate from one extreme to the other. He is not a dumb or especially naïve character, but he is consistently surprised by the extremes to which his friends and family go to achieve their goals.

Natalie Herzen is everything her husband is not:  fragile, emotional, and even somewhat deluded. Natalie has a romantic world-view, which is constantly threatened by the harsh realities that surround her. Natalie's emotions swing from one extreme to the other with the simplest things often setting her off. Her confrontational visit with Maria coupled with the death of her son finally shatters Natalie's illusions, but the she never recovers from the loss.

George Herwegh and his wife, Emma, provide a reversed-sex parallel to the Herzens. The monied, unglamorous Emma pampers George, often at the expense of her own feelings. George, in turn, displays a mercurial nature that helps explain his attraction to Natalie. His nature is defined by affect, posturing, and (like Natalie) a steady stream of unconscious selfishness.

The other "revolutionaries" serve to remind Herzen of the groups' misdirection. Ogarev recalls the ideals born in their youth and implicitly hints at the failure of those ideals. Belinsky, before dying, laments the belief in a utopia that does not exist. Herzen's dream meeting with Bakunin shows Herzen's desire to recapture those ideals.

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