Tom Stoppard Biography

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.


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.

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...

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ph_0111201622-Stoppard.jpg Tom Stoppard Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Tom Stoppard (STOP-ahrd) was born Tomas Straussler, the second son of Eugene and Martha Straussler, in Zlín, Czechoslovakia (now in Czech Republic), on July 3, 1937. His father was a Jewish physician who worked for the Bata Shoe Company. In 1939, to protect the family from internment when the Nazi invasion was imminent, the company transferred the Straussler family to Singapore. There the Straussler children attended a multinational American school until the Japanese invasion of 1942 sent them fleeing to Darjeeling, India. Stoppard’s father, however, remained behind and was killed; his mother later married a British major, Kenneth Stoppard, whose name the Straussler children took. In 1946, the Stoppard family moved to England and settled in the Bristol area in 1950. Stoppard was educated at Dophin School, Nottinghamshire, and Pocklington School, Yorkshire, but did not continue on to a university. His knowledge of the theater and the dramatic arts is mainly self-taught.

Stoppard worked as a journalist for the Western Daily Press in Bristol for the next four years and then for the Bristol Evening World for two more years. He wrote feature articles, humor columns, and second-string drama criticism. This involvement with theater criticism led to a new career and is reflected in his rapier attacks on drama critics in The Real Inspector Hound (pr., pb. 1968). He next became a freelance journalist and writer. As drama critic for...

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Tom Stoppard’s major plays in many ways represent the times in which they were written. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is clearly in the style of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a play out of the 1950’s and the existential-absurdist tradition. Jumpers has the manic energy and outrageous non sequiturs of swinging London in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Travesties, although written shortly after Jumpers, returns to a slightly more conventional format, while The Real Thing is on the surface a play from a much earlier time. The Coast of Utopia, in turn, reflects a twenty-first century attempt to reexamine the debates of the past in order to shed light on...

(The entire section is 193 words.)