I have a short list of my favourite plays from Stoppard, which I utterly implore my children not to miss a chance to see it whenever the opportunity arises:
- "Arcadia" - classical vs. Romantic landscape, "classical" /scientific viewpoint vs. "romantic" /humanities approach. As Tom himself said: the play is about the contrast between the classical temperament ("those who have particular respect for logic, geometry and pattern") and the romantic temperament "those with a much more spontaneous, unstructured communion with nature"). Newtonian physics vs Chaos Theory framing Love, "the attraction that Newton left out".
- - "The Invention of Love" - classical ancient poetry and "in the old days" ' repression of emotions vs. Romantic, and erotically engaged, life of a contemporary poet. Around Housman (and Wilde a bit) , Classical Scholarship and Romantic Poetry; http://www.albemarle-london.com/inventionl.html
- - "Travesties" - starring Lenin and James Joyce. Revolutionary vs. artistic life projects. "If you can't be an artist you have to be a revolutionary. Or is it the way around?"
- - "The Coast of Utopia" trilogy - starring Bakunin, Herzen and Turgeniev, and dealing with "classical" revolutionaries, like ordinary "Communards", with romantic-anarchist ones, like Bakunin, and with former believers in revolution but still artists, like Turgeniev.
It’s the IQ versus Emotional Intelligence debate all over again, plus the Left/Right political shaping and the weight we are prepared to give to Art and to the pursuit of Love in our lives. In all these plays you get closer to that major seismic fault-line in our own divided Faustian-driven personalities. Are we to see to world through revolution-friendly eyes or through art-leaning eyes? Equipped with a cerebral, rational "classical" mind, potential scientists of our existential project, or rather with "romantic", emotions-driven, a-scientific ammunition?
Science/Knowledge,Art/Sensorial Experience, Love/God (Extrasensorial Experience...) and Revolution/Socio-Politics are the Four cardinal points we all have to be aware of in plotting our own stand. Those Stoppard plays are a brilliant short course on that mapping we all have to do for ourselves. (Goodness me, I end up elucubrating about the same stuff as the lectures on the model of "The Personality in Situation" by the distinguished voice-impaired Professor of Psychiatry during my own Etinrcadiaego-like University years!)