The Invention of Love by Tom StoppardIt is 1936 and A.E. Housman is being ferried across the river Styx, glad to be dead at last. His memories are dramatically alive. The river that flows through Tom Stoppards The Invention of Love connects Hades with the Oxford of Housmans youth: High Victorian morality is under siege from the Aesthetic movement, and an Irish student called Wilde is preparing to burst onto the London scene. On his journey the scholar and poet who is now the elder Housman confronts his younger self, and the memories of the man he loved his entire life, Moses Jackson - the handsome athlete who could not return his feelings. As if a dream, The Invention of Love inhabits Housmans imagination, illuminating both the pain of hopeless love and passion displaced into poetry and the study of classical texts. The author of A Shropshire Lad lived almost invisibly in the shadow of the flamboyant Oscar Wilde, and died old and venerated - but whose passion was truly the fatal one?
Tom Stoppard interview (2001)
The Invention of Love
In order to illustrate the conflicts and conciliations of mind and heart in The Invention of Love , Stoppard introduces poet and scholar A. Housman, whose literary life at the end of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th was divided between his devotion to Greek and Roman classics and his renown as a writer of romantic and homoerotic poetry--most notably, the wildly successful collection A Shropshire Lad. As Stoppard has explained in interviews, he tapped Housman as subject because he found in the lifelong bachelor's diaries some terse entries that obliquely indicated an unrequited longing for one of his Oxford chums, the thoroughly heterosexual athlete and engineer Moses Jackson. Allowing his stupendous imagination to roam free, the playwright conjured two Housmans: the just-deceased year-old looking back on his life from Charon's punt as it crosses the Styx, and the living Housman as he journeys from young manhood to middle age. Stoppard's intention is to dramatize the damage done to the soul when a man suppresses his natural desires in order to assure himself of a relatively safe existence. So he shows how Housman went about befriending Jackson in their undergraduate days, rooming with the object of his affection in London. There he finds a single, melancholy occasion on which to speak his guilty secret, eventually deciding to re-orient his energies to the scrupulous translation of famous and obscure classical poetry.
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The best scene in Tom Stoppard's new play is the quietest. The elderly poet AE Housman sits on a park bench in Oxford alongside his year-old undergraduate self. The two men talk about textual editing and the suppression of uncomfortable data. They discuss classical portrayals of male friendship and Sophocles's definition of love: 'A piece of ice held tight in the fist. The year-old says to his companion: 'I'm not as young as I was. Whereas you, of course, are. This is a telling scene because, in picturing Housman as two people, it dramatises something important about him.
Housman , focusing specifically on his personal life and love for a college classmate. The play is written from the viewpoint of Housman, dealing with his memories at the end of his life, and contains many classical allusions. Considered by many to be Stoppard's finest play, it has been called "esoteric". This clarified, he cited it in as Stoppard's "masterpiece to date". The play begins with A.