Themes and Meanings
Travesties is primarily about revolution in politics and art, and the role of the artist. At times the discussion of art becomes philosophical in tone as Tzara advances the Dadaist concept that chance rules all. Carr, by contrast, believes that the artist is someone special, although he resents that a bit. Lenin is primarily interested in the way art can serve revolution. He and Cecily see it generally in practical terms. Joyce, conversely, thinks of art for art’s sake, regards himself as a shaper of material, and considers his work a high calling. Interwoven with these discussions are comments on World War I, which was raging in Europe while Joyce, Lenin, Tzara, Carr, and Nadya were in neutral Switzerland.
Although they were in Zurich at about the same time, Lenin, Tzara, and Joyce may never have met. Carr and Joyce did in fact go to court in a dispute over expenses for the production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Juxtaposing the four men is Stoppard’s device for testing various arguments against each other: Joyce was revolutionizing the novel with Ulysses; Tzara and other Dadaists were trying to revolutionize all art; Lenin would soon help revolutionize Russia. Stoppard creates various combinations of figures and lets them speak their own words or his version of what they might have said. Lenin is more distant and does not argue with the others, but one of Stoppard’s creations, Cecily, voices his views on social...
(The entire section is 428 words.)