Tom Stoppard’s Science Plays: Metaphor and Experiment



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Świat i Słowo (World and Word)
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords Tom Stoppard; science play; theatre; metaphor; textuality; performativity
Description The science play is a well-established genre of dramatic writing in the Englishspeaking theatrical tradition. This paper discusses three full-length science plays by the prominent British playwright Tom Stoppard. These are Hapgood, Arcadia, and The Hard Problem. The plays are based on popular science sources and offer their audience an access to science. After providing a brief history of the science play and the science show, the paper shows that Stoppard develops the dramatic and theatrical traditions by involving science on the textual (giving popularised scientific knowledge in the form of dialogised lectures) and performative levels (demonstrating or illustrating science on stage), primarily to turn it into a metaphor of human behaviour. Hapgood and Arcadia further engage with science on the structural level, thus becoming thought experiments reflecting upon science. The most recent play, The Hard Problem, develops textual and performative strategies related to science but ceases to experiment with the form, leaving more space for the audience to draw ethical conclusions.

You are running an old browser version. We recommend updating your browser to its latest version.