The Invention of Love  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Invention of Love is a 1997 play by Tom Stoppard portraying the life of poet A.E. 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 towards the end of his life and contains many classical allusions. Considered by many to be Stoppard's finest play, it has been called "esoteric". In fact, to demystify the play's many historical and academic references, the New York production team provided the audiences with a 30-page booklet on the political and artistic history of the late-Victorian period.


The play begins with A.E. Housman, dead at age 77, standing on the bank of the river Styx. Dreaming that he is boarding his boat for the afterlife – captained by a petulant Charon – Housman begins to remember moments from his life, starting with his matriculation to Oxford University, where he studied Classics. The play unfolds as a collection of short scenes that trace, primarily, Housman's relationship with Moses Jackson, the man for whom Housman harboured a lifelong, unrequited love. The scenes also explore the late-Victorian artistic ideals as well as Housman's intellectual growth into a preeminent Latin textual scholar. Throughout the play, the older Housman comments on and occasionally talks to the characters on stage, including his younger self.

Production history

The play premièred at the Cottesloe Theatre in the Royal National Theatre, London, on 25 September 1997, moved later into the larger Lyttelton Theatre, and then transferred to the Haymarket Theatre in 1998. The old Housman was played by John Wood and the young Housman by Paul Rhys. The director was Richard Eyre. The production won the 1997 Evening Standard Award for Best Play.

The play's Broadway run was at the Lyceum Theatre. It opened on March 29, 2001, starring Richard Easton as the older Housman and Robert Sean Leonard as the young Housman. Both actors won Tony Awards for their performances, Easton winning Best Actor in a Play, Leonard winning Best Featured Actor in a Play.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Invention of Love" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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