Tom Stoppard Quotes

Tom Stoppard

Born: 3 July 1937, Zlín, Czechoslovakia

Born Tomáš Straussler in the Moravian town that was headquarters of Bata Shoes, where his father worked as a doctor. Immediately before the Nazi forces occupied the area, the company dispatched all of its Jewish employees to foreign operations. The Strausslers were sent to Singapore, immediately before the Japanese invaded. The father volunteered to stay with the British troops, sending the rest of the family to Australia. In 1941 the family moved to Darjeeling, India, and the father died in a Japanese POW camp. In 1945 Tom’s mother married a British Army major, Kenneth Stoppard, and the next year the family moved to England. Tom was educated at Nottinghamshire and East Riding, Yorkshire before dropping out at seventeen to work as a journalist for the Western Daily Press of Bristol for four years, including theatre reviews. He completed his own first play in 1960 and other than some freelance reviewing for Scene magazine he devoted his time to writing from then on. A Ford Foundation grant allowed him to hole up in a Berlin mansion for five months in 1964, the result was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Meet King Lear, which later became the hit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He has had a several major hits on stage and film and has collaborated on dialogue on the projects of others, including much of the dialogue for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, as well as translating several plays by eastern-European authors. He has a healthy array of awards for his work, including an Oscar for the screenplay of Shakespeare in Love, a knighthood, and although he never went to college, honorary doctorates from Yale and Cambridge.

Tom Stoppard quotes:

A Chinaman of the T’ang Dynasty — and, by which definition, a philosopher — dreamed he was a butterfly, and from that moment he was never quite sure that he was not a butterfly dreaming it was a Chinese philosopher.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

A foreign correspondent is someone who lives in foreign parts and corresponds, usually in the form of essays containing no new facts. Otherwise he’s someone who flies around from hotel to hotel and thinks that the most interesting thing about any story is the fact that he has arrived to cover it.
    Tom Stoppard – Night and Day (1978)

A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.
    Tom Stoppard

A scholar’s business is to add to what is known. That is all. But it is capable of giving the very greatest satisfaction, because knowledge is good. It does not have to look good or even sound good or even do good. It is good just by being knowledge. And the only thing that makes it knowledge is that it is true. You can’t have too much of it and there is no little too little to be worth having.
    Tom Stoppard – The Invention of Love (1997)

Act first! The ideas will follow, and if not — well, it’s progress
    Tom Stoppard – The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck (2002)

Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
    Tom Stoppard

An essentially private man who wished his total indifference to public notice to be universally recognized.
    Tom Stoppard – Travesties (1974)

Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn’t disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into the each moment. We don’t value the lily less for not being made of flint and built to last.
    Tom Stoppard – The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck (2002)

Better a fallen rocket than never a burst of light.
    Tom Stoppard

Buddy Holly was twenty-two. Think of what he might have gone on to achieve. I mean, if Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at twenty-two, the history of music would have been very different. As would the history of aviation, of course.
    Tom Stoppard – The Real Thing (1982)

Eternity’s a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it all going to end?
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Every exit is an entry somewhere else.
    Tom Stoppard

Everything has to be taken on trust; truth is only that what is taken to be true. It’s the currency if living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn’t make any difference so long as it is honoured. One acts on assumptions. What do you assume?
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
    Tom Stoppard

Fantasy flows in where fact leaves a vacuum.
    Tom Stoppard

Fifty-five crystal spheres geared to God’s crankshaft is my idea of a satisfying universe. I can’t think of anything more trivial than quarks, quasars, big bangs and black holes.
    Tom Stoppard

He’s never known anything like it! But then, he has never known anything to write home about, so this is nothing to write home about.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

I began my talk by saying that I had not written my plays for purposes of discussion. At once, I felt a ripple of panic run through the hall. I suddenly realised why. To everyone present, discussion was the whole point of drama. That was why the faculty had been endowed — that was why all those buildings had been put up! I had undermined the entire reason for their existence.
    Tom Stoppard – “Tom Stoppard”, profile by Kenneth Tynan, The New Yorker (19 December 1977)

I don’t think I can be expected to take seriously any game which takes less than three days to reach its conclusion.
    Tom Stoppard

I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead.
    Tom Stoppard – The Real Thing (1982)

I had no idea Gwendolen knew any foreign languages, and I am not sure that I approve. It’s the sort of thing that can only broaden a girl’s mind.
    Tom Stoppard – Travesties (1974)

I know the British press is very attached to the lobby system. It lets the journalists and the politicians feel proud of their traditional freedoms while giving the reader as much of the truth as they think is good for him.
    Tom Stoppard – Night and Day (1978)

I shall have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love, love, love, above all. Love as there has never been in a play. Unbiddable, ungovernable, like a riot in the heart and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture.
    Tom Stoppard

I should have the courage of my lack of convictions.
    Tom Stoppard

I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.
    Tom Stoppard – “Tom Stoppard”, profile by Kenneth Tynan, The New Yorker (19 December 1977)

I will take his secret to the grave, telling people along the way. Betrayal is no sin if it is whimsical.
    Tom Stoppard – The Invention of Love (1997)

I write plays because dialogue is the most respectable way of contradicting myself.
    Tom Stoppard – “Tom Stoppard”, profile by Kenneth Tynan, The New Yorker (19 December 1977)

If an idea’s worth having once, it’s worth having twice.
    Tom Stoppard

If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.
    Tom Stoppard

If you took away everything in the world that had to be invented, there’d be nothing left except a lot of people getting rained on.
    Tom Stoppard

It is a defect of God’s humor that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them.
    Tom Stoppard – Arcadia (1993)

It is better to be quotable than to be honest.
    Tom Stoppard

It is not hard to understand modern art. If it hangs on a wall it’s a painting, and if you can walk around it it’s a sculpture.
    Tom Stoppard

It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing…. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.
    Tom Stoppard – Arcadia (1993)

It takes character to withstand the rigours of indolence.
    Tom Stoppard

It was precisely this notion of infinite series which in the sixth century BC led the Greek philosopher Zeno to conclude that since an arrow shot towards a target first had to cover half the distance, and then half the remainder, and then half the remainder after that, and so on ad infinitum, the result was, as I will now demonstrate, that though an arrow is always approaching its target, it never quite gets there, and Saint Sebastian died of fright.
    Tom Stoppard – Jumpers (1972)

It would have been nice to have had unicorns.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

It’s no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst.
    Tom Stoppard

It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.
    Tom Stoppard – Jumpers (1972)

It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter.
    Tom Stoppard – Arcadia (1993)

Junk journalism is the evidence of a society that has got at least one thing right, that there should be nobody with the power to dictate where responsible journalism begins.
    Tom Stoppard – Night and Day (1978)

Left to themselves people are noble, generous, uncorrupted, they’d create a completely new kind of society if only people weren’t so blind, stupid and selfish.
    Tom Stoppard – The Coast of Utopia: Salvage (2002)

Life in a box is better than no life at all, I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking: Well, at least I’m not dead.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Life is a gamble at terrible odds; if it was a bet you wouldn’t take it.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

My whole life is waiting for the questions to which I have prepared answers.
    Tom Stoppard – Lord Malquist and Mr Moon (1966)

No matter how imperfect things are, if you’ve got a free press everything is correctable, and without it everything is concealable.
    Tom Stoppard – Night and Day (1978)

Nowadays, an artist is someone who makes art mean the things he does.
    Tom Stoppard – Travesties (1974)

Pirates could happen to anyone.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Public postures have the configuration of private derangement.
    Tom Stoppard – The Real Thing (1982)

Revolution is a trivial shift in the emphasis of suffering.
    Tom Stoppard – Lord Malquist and Mr Moon (1966)

Since we cannot hope for order let us withdraw with style from the chaos.
    Tom Stoppard – Lord Malquist and Mr Moon (1966)

Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.
    Tom Stoppard – Artist Descending a Staircase (1972)

Success in life is to maintain this ecstasy, to burn always with this hard gemlike flame.
    Tom Stoppard – The Invention of Love (1997)

The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

The colours red, blue and green are real. The colour yellow is a mystical experience shared by everybody.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

The media. It sounds like a convention of spiritualists.
    Tom Stoppard – Night and Day (1978)

The names for things don’t come first. Words stagger after, hopelessly trying to become the sensation.
    Tom Stoppard – The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck (2002)

The National Gallery is a monument to irrationality! Every concert hall is a monument to irrationality! And so is a nicely kept garden, or a lover’s favour, or a home for stray dogs! You stupid woman, if rationality were the criterion for things being allowed to exist, the world would be one gigantic field of soya beans!
    Tom Stoppard – Jumpers (1972)

The results of the divorce between truth and human beings can be most graphically observed in politics.
    Tom Stoppard

The truth is always a compound of two half-truths, and you never reach it, because there is always something more to say.
    Tom Stoppard

The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is.
    Tom Stoppard – Arcadia (1993)

Theater is a recreation. It can be much more, but unless it’s recreation, I don’t see the point of it.
    Tom Stoppard

There must have been a moment, at the beginning, were we could have said no. But somehow we missed it.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

They loved, and quarreled, and made up, and loved, and fought, and were true to each other and untrue.
    Tom Stoppard – The Invention of Love (1997)

Traitors hoist by their own petard? Or victims of the gods? We shall never know!
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Wake me up for breakfast, if I’m not dead.
    Tom Stoppard – The Coast of Utopia: Salvage (2002)

War is capitalism with the gloves off and many who go to war know it but they go to war because they don’t want to be a hero. It takes courage to sit down and be counted.
    Tom Stoppard – Travesties (1974)

We are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

We must be born with an intuition of mortality.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march.
    Tom Stoppard – Arcadia (1993)

We’re actors — we’re the opposite of people.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

We’re more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They’re all blood, you see.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

We’ve traveled too far, and our momentum has taken over; we move idly towards eternity, without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation.
    Tom Stoppard

What a fine persecution — to be kept intrigued without ever quite being enlightened.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

What are a friend’s books for if not to be borrowed?
    Tom Stoppard – Arcadia (1993)

When people discuss his plays, he says that he feels like he’s standing at customs watching an official ransack his luggage. He cheerfully declares responsibility for a play about two people, and suddenly the officer is finding all manner of exotic contraband like the nature of God and identity, and while he can’t deny that they’re there, he can’t for the life of him remember putting them there. In the end, a play is not the product of an idea; an idea is the product of a play.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.
    Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966)

You are an over-excited little man, with a need for self-expression far beyond the scope of your natural gifts. This is not discreditable. Neither does it make you an artist.
    Tom Stoppard – Travesties (1974)

You can persuade a man to believe almost anything provided he is clever enough, but it is much more difficult to persuade someone less clever.
    Tom Stoppard

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