Tom Stoppard Biography

Tom Stoppard is one smart chap. All of his critically acclaimed, award-winning plays reveal a ferocious intelligence that forms the bedrock of his work. Despite having no formal education, Stoppard has written plays that have been lauded for their whip-smart dialogue and deep thought. His instant classic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead upends the world of Hamlet by offering an absurd take on two relatively minor characters from the play. Shakespeare was also the subject for his charming historical fiction screenplay Shakespeare in Love. Stoppard’s work frequently explores complex notions of time and reality. The era-hopping Arcadia is an example of the former, while his play-within-a-play The Real Inspector Hound typifies the latter.

Facts and Trivia

  • Stoppard was born Tomas Straussler. He gained the surname of Stoppard as a boy when his mother remarried.
  • Stoppard had a multicultural childhood. A Czechoslovakian Jew, he relocated with his family to Singapore for a time, and he was later educated in England.
  • As a young man working at the Bristol Old Vic, Stoppard crossed paths with two men who would also go on to achieve great success: director John Boorman and acting legend Peter O’Toole.
  • For nearly twenty-five years, the Tom Stoppard Prize has been awarded to promising Czechoslovakian playwrights.
  • Stoppard not only writes plays but translates them as well. He has penned translations of works by Vaclav Havel and Luigi Pirandello.

Biography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 681

Tomas Straussler was born on July 3, 1937, in the town of Zlin, Czechoslovakia, since renamed Gottwaldov. He was the youngest of two sons of a physician, Eugene Straussler, and his wife, Martha. Stoppard’s parents were Jewish, although Stoppard did not know this until much later in life. Their religious background caused the family to move to Singapore in early 1939, on the eve of the German invasion of their homeland. In 1942, all but the father moved again, to India, just before the Japanese invasion, in which Dr. Straussler was killed. In 1946, Martha Straussler married Kenneth Stoppard, a major in the British army who was stationed in India. Both children took their stepfather’s name when the family moved to England later that year. Demobilized, Kenneth Stoppard prospered as a machine-tool salesperson.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Tom Stoppard Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Despite this globe-trotting background—in one interview he called himself “a bounced Czech”—Stoppard has spoken and written in English since the age of five. His first school in Darjeeling, India, was an English-language, American-run institution. He attended preparatory schools in Nottingham and Yorkshire, leaving at the age of seventeen after having completed his “A” levels. In 1954, he began working as a local journalist in Bristol, rejoicing in the life of a newspaper reporter for the next six years. He did not consider becoming a playwright until the late 1950’s, when a new breed of English dramatists, led by John Osborne and Arnold Wesker, asserted themselves on the London stage. Simultaneously, a new breed of actors emerged, prominent among them Peter O’Toole, whose blazing performances for the Bristol Old Vic repertory company definitively turned Stoppard to the theater.

In July, 1960, Stoppard wrote The Gamblers—a one-act clumsily derived from Beckett’s En attendant Godot (pb. 1952, pr. 1953; Waiting for Godot, 1954)—which was unsuccessfully staged in Bristol in 1965. Later in 1960, he composed his first full-length play, A Walk on the Water. Considerably rewritten and retitled Enter a Free Man, it was staged in London in 1968 after Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead had established Stoppard as a major playwright. In 1962, Stoppard moved to a London suburb and became the drama critic of a new magazine, Scene, which folded after eight months. Fortunately, he had begun by then a steady career as a writer of radio plays for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

With the aid of a Ford Foundation grant, he wrote, in 1964, a one-act version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which he rewrote and expanded for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1965, then for the Oxford Theatre Group in 1966, which performed it at that year’s Edinburgh Festival. An enthusiastic review in The Observer caused Laurence Olivier to buy the play for his National Theatre, which staged it in 1967. Critical acclaim showered on this production, which continued in the National Theatre’s repertoire for an unprecedented three and a half years.

In 1965, Stoppard married Jose Ingle; they became the parents of two sons, Oliver and Barnaby. They were divorced in 1972, and the same year, Stoppard married Dr. Miriam Moore-Robinson, a physician and television personality, with whom he had two sons, William and Edmond.

After the worldwide success of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Stoppard not only has produced a number of one-act and full-length dramas but also has adapted the plays of several European writers. He has written film scripts as well as radio and television plays. He has directed several stage plays, usually but not always his own, and has supervised the filming of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. In 1983, he adapted Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges for the Glyndebourne Opera.

Although he had known that one or two of his grandparents were Jewish, Stoppard learned in 1994 that, in fact, all of his grandparents were Jewish and all were killed by the Nazis. His adopted father’s anti-Semitism became public when he asked Stoppard in 1996 to stop using the name Stoppard because the playwright had been working for the cause of Russian Jews. In 1999 he wrote an article entitled “On Turning Out to Be Jewish” in which he discusses how these discoveries fundamentally altered his sense of self.

Biography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 241

Tom Stoppard, born in 1937, is one of the most critically acclaimed, award-winning playwrights of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His rich multicultural background has led him to write about a very diverse number of topics. He was born in Czechoslovakia, lived in Singapore and India for a short time, and was educated in England. His birth name was Straussler, but he took the name Stoppard when his mother remarried after his father’s death. Stoppard quit school at the age of 17 and began working as a journalist. His first big success as a playwright came in 1966 with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. For the next decade, he wrote several other popular plays and translated dozens more. In 1977, after a visit to Russia with an Amnesty International member, his work took a decided turn toward the political. He began infusing most of his plays with themes about human rights. Another of his hallmarks is how he manipulates the perception of time and reality in his plays, which often deviate from a typical realistic, linear form. In addition to plays, Stoppard has written many articles and screenplays, including 1998’s Shakespeare in Love for which he won the Best Screenplay Oscar in 1999. The Coast of Utopia trilogy earned Stoppard seven Tony Awards in 2007, the most ever won for a nonmusical. Stoppard has been quoted as saying that he wrote the majority of the trilogy while listening repeatedly to Pink Floyd’s song “Comfortably Numb.”

Biography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218

Award-winning and critically acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard is widely considered to be among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Stoppard was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937. His original name was Straussler, but he took the name Stoppard after his father died and his mother remarried. Growing up, Stoppard lived in Singapore, India, and England. His multicultural background is evident in his diverse work.

In 1952, Stoppard left school at the age of 17 and became a journalist. In 1966, Stoppard had his first big success with his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. During the 1970s, he wrote several more popular plays and translated many more. His work became more overtly political and focused on human rights after he made a trip to Russia with Amnesty International. One of the recurrent themes in Stoppard’s work is his questioning of both time and reality. Seldom do his plays follow linear time, and one can never be certain of any “reality” a character professes.

Although he is best known as a playwright, Stoppard has also written numerous articles and screenplays, including the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love (1999). The Coast of Utopia trilogy has won more Tony Awards than any other nonmusical play, seven in all, including best play, best direction, best featured actor, best featured actress, best costume, lighting, and scenic design.

Biography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 211

Critically acclaimed and award-winning playwright Tom Stoppard is often called one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Stoppard, born in Czechoslovakia in 1937, was originally named Straussler, but he took the name Stoppard after his father died and his mother remarried. As a child, Stoppard lived in Singapore, India, and England. His multicultural background is evident in his diverse work.

Stoppard left school in 1952 at the age of 17 and became a journalist. His first big success came in 1966 with his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Throughout the 1970s, he wrote several popular plays and translated many more. Following his trip to Russia with Amnesty International, his work became more overtly political and focused on human rights.

One of the recurrent themes in Stoppard’s work is his questioning of both reality and time.  Seldom do his plays follow a linear time line, and one can never be certain of any “reality” a character professes or seems to exist in.

Stoppard has also written numerous articles and screenplays, including the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love (1999). The Coast of Utopia trilogy has won more Tony Awards than any other nonmusical play, seven in all, including best play, best direction, best featured actor, best featured actress, best costume, lighting, and scenic design.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial
Next

Critical Essays