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Stoppard - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
July 1st, 2001
05:47 pm

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Stoppard
I'm still under the vast impression left on me by Tom Stoppard's play The Invention of Love. The play includes two characters based on the same person (A. E. Housman), as a young man and as a dead, old man. The dead Housman reflects, right out of Charon's boat, on his life and his convictions, and the play lapses into several flashbacks of young Housman's Oxford life. Said Oxford life also features such Oxford scholars as Benjamin Jowett, Walter Pater, John Ruskin, and Oscar Wilde.

It is mostly through my sustained interest in the life and works of Oscar Wilde that I know these names and something about the people who bore them, but I can't help but wonder -- what audience did Stoppard have in mind when writing this play? Does he really expect contemporary theater goers to have associations with the name of Pater? More thought-provoking yet is his choice of material -- Housman, considered the foremost classicist of his day, in his portrayal in Stoppard's play, is prone to long soliloquies on matters of Latin translation, often dwelling on one word's mistranslation and on what he'd consider a correct one. I happen to have studied Latin grammar, so I was able to follow and appreciate those bits as well, but again I wonder, does Stoppard really expect his audience to follow the nuances of these speeches? And if not, why are they there nevertheless? Is it some sort of statement by Stoppard?

I absolutely enjoyed the play, but was also constantly amazed by its having been written at all.

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