Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Richard E. Rogers

Thesis Committee Member

Lucina P. Gabbard


Tom Stoppard (1937- ), British playwright, creates in his Absurd novel Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon (1966) three character voices that begin a debate on man's reason for existence. Instead of resolving the debate at the end of his novel, Stoppard, using the same character voices in various combinations, continues the debate in three of his later works: the plays Albert's Bridge (1968), Jumpers (1972), and Dirty Linen (1976). The three character voices include the realist's, who ties to make some sense out of the disorder of the world and to find his place in it; the manipulator's, who ignores the disorder of the world and creates his own place in his own world; and the sensualist's, who withdraws from the world into sensual pleasures. In Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon, Stoppard creates the characters of Mr. Moon (the realist's voice), Lord Malquist (the manipulator's voice) and Jane Moon and Laura Malquist (the sensualist's voice split between two characters). With these three character voices Tom Stoppard begins and continues his debate on man's reason for existence through the novel and the three plays.

The technique that Stoppard uses to create dialogue for his on-going debate is labelled by the playwright, himself, as an "infinite . . . intellectual leap-frog" in an interview with the editors of Theatre Quarterly (May-June, 1974). This system works well, allowing Stoppard to present an argument, a rebuttal, a counter-argument in one work and then continue it in another by leap-frogging the same character voice from an earlier work to a later one. Sometimes he changes the sex of the character voice, splits one voice between two characters, or combines two voices into one character. In this way he creates a neverending supply of characters to continue his debate on man's reason for existence and produce a type of comedy that attempts to marry the "play of ideas" with the ''work of wit" (Gambit, 10, No. 37, 1982).