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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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...
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