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The Invention of Love

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,275 ratings  ·  67 reviews
It is 1936 and A. E. Housman is being ferried across the river Styx, glad to be dead at last. The river that flows through Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love connects Hades with the Oxford of Housman’s youth: High Victorian morality is under siege from the Aesthetic movement, and an Irish student named Wilde is preparing to burst onto the London scene. On his journey the ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published August 10th 1998 by Grove Press (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,751)
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Kelly
The second Stoppard play that I've read that obsesses on the nature of man's quest for knowledge, examines the motives of the industries (if you want to call them that) of people who are paid to do it, and tries to make the audience answer, really, what the benefit is of knowing obscure bits of knowledge that have little to no impact on how you balance your checkbook or design a house.

I do think that Arcadia stated the issue more simply and beautifully and poignantly, from the brief elegance of,
...more
Meredith
Every time I read a play by Tom Stoppard, I feel reborn.
Jim Coughenour
Unexpectedly moved (it was late) by a recent poem of the week, I've been reading the new Penguin edition of A. E. Housman, and (in turn) its introduction by Nick Laird prompted me to dig out The Invention of Love. I missed Stoppard's play when it premiered at ACT in 2000 – why? I don't remember, but I'm ashamed.

As usual with Stoppard, the drama is a dazzling bricolage of biography and literary quotation. If I hadn't read Laird and Richard Ellmann's matchless biography of Wilde, I would have miss
...more
Moira Russell
Even better than 'Arcadia,' and that's really saying something.

***

(from a 2004 blog post)

Damn, that is a smashin' play. The circularity of it all got a little tiresome towards the end ("Mr. Stoppard doesn’t borrow other dramatists’ plots. He has no need. He has no plots" -- John Heilpern in the Observer), and was the most annoyingly-Stoppardian thing about it, but I loved the long monologues about literary scholarship and Latin love poetry, real prose structures, and most of AE's lines direct fr
...more
Leigh
Basically, let us summarize my rhapsodizing thus: I want Tom Stoppard to write my life.

HOUSMAN: Scholarship... [is] where we're nearest to our humanness. Useless knowledge for its own sake. Useful knowledge is good, too, but it's for the faint-hearted, an elaboration of the real thing, which is only to shine some light, it doesn't matter where on what, it's the light itself, against the darkness, it's what's left of God's purpose when you take away God. It doesn't mean I don't care about the poe
...more
Letitia
Though true to his usual loquacious brilliance, Stoppard is a bit indulgent in this work. I found myself rolling my eyes after fourteen obscure literary references and nineteen syllable words. All right Tom, we know you're brilliant. Quit showing off. Just write us a thought-provoking story.
Sarah
This is my favorite Stoppard play (though The Real Thing and Jumpers come close), mainly because I used to be a Classics nerd and already appreciated Housman's contributions to that field and to poetry in general. This play has all the classic Stoppard ingredients: good banter, beautifully-stylized language, and emotional truth. I'm a sucker for a good, unconventional unrequited love story, and Stoppard communicates Housman's longing for his straight friend Moses beautifully.

Housman himself (by
...more
Michael Alexander
Here is where I say that if you saw me reviewing like a maniac on my Anne Carson kick recently (If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho and Autobiography of Red), you have probably noticed by now that I have a thing for my memories of high school Latin, and for classicism in general. You will if you are some creepy expert on me (or actually know me in real life) also know that I'm a total sucker for Arcadia: A Play, which is honestly more hilarious and well-crafted and heartbreaking than any other p ...more
Rachel
Funny, whimsical and moving - and literally about the invention of love, the word, the poetry, the meaning. Tom Stoppard is just so clever, and knows so much, yet presents it in such a light and careless way. "Oh yes, I know scads about AE Housman's life of literary criticism - don't you?" Not to mention it was about boylove, and Oxford, two subjects very dear to my heart.

Housman I will take his secret to the grave, telling people I meet on the way. Betrayal is no sin if it's whimsical.

DID I MEN
...more
Julia
Dec 13, 2014 Julia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
my senior year high school english teacher recommended this to me, because of The Classics (and indeed the moment a line of vergil about the styx was spoken aloud i knew i was Home), but little did she know that this play is in fact an assemblage of all i've ever loved: classics! aesthetics! homosexuality! pretentiousness! pretentious homosexuality in oxford! delicate meditations/vignettes on youth, death, and scholarship! oh god this play is my happy place. and i should maybe be ashamed that wh ...more
Mike Jensen
This seems like lesser Stoppard, to me, but I freely admit to having little interest in the real-life figures who are the subject of this play. I'll be curious to learn if those more invested feel differently. The story here is more linear, for Stoppard seems to divest some of the complicated layers that make his best work so rich, plays such as TRAVESTIES, HAPGOOD, ARCADIA, and THE COAST OF UTOPIA trilogy, though the one extra really solid layer here is closer to the characters hearts than Stop ...more
Magda
Kissing girls is not like science, nor is it like sport. It is the third thing when you thought there were only two.
Marina
I don’t feel even remotely wise or eloquent enough to review this play. Just for you to get an idea, I’ll admit to not knowing who A.E. Housman was when I started reading this. Pretty dumb, eh, considering HE IS IN THE COVER?!

The plot: A.E. Housman dies an old man, and in his way to the Underworld (ferried through the Styx/Thames), he sees scenes of his life in Oxford pass before him… Literally. His friends (including the love of his life), his teachers (John Ruskin!), the famous & disreputa
...more
John
I love some of Stoppard's work, but not all of it. This is an instance in which his erudition descends into tedious self-indulgence. I think it's safe to say that any play which incorporates copious quotations in both Latin and Greek, as well as obscure references to the academia of Victorian England, is performing a disservice to its audience. (In support of this assertion, it should be noted that a 30-page reference booklet was provided to audiences for the initial New York production.) Natura ...more
Dani Peloquin
I had read this play a couple of years ago but was unable to finish it because of time constraints. However, I soon realized that I may have cast the book aside not because of time constraints but because the play was just not good! In fact, it has taken me almost a week to even write this review because I have been conflicted on how to describe it and how to phrase my reactions to the story.

The Invention of Love tells the life story of the poet A.E Housman as seen from his eyes after he has die
...more
Jee Koh
Poet or Scholar

Singapore Jade had been insisting that I read this Stoppard play for quite some time, and finally made it impossible for me to put her off by giving me a copy the other day. Plays don't come alive to me until I see them performed, and The Invention of Love struck me, on first reading, as more brainy than acute, more showy than moving. But Stoppard's Housman and Wilde came back to me again and again in the last few days, while I was waiting for the bus, or listening to a friend's c
...more
Kelda Anderson
Feb 09, 2015 Kelda Anderson rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kelda by: English Teacher
Im really not a fan of this book, the concept of it is wonderful and had the potential to be really impressive but unfortunately it isn't. I tried to enjoy it, and hoped that it would get better all the way through, even hoping for an extravagant ending to bring it all back and change my point of view on it, but no such luck. This is not a book that I would recommend to anyone unless you are looking for a book to help send you to sleep at night as that is exactly what it did to me.
John
I honestly would never have imagined that Tom Stoppard could top what I have long considered to be his masterpiece, The Real Thing, but The Invention of Love quite possibly does just that. A densely allusive belly laugh of the brain from beginning to end, intensely tragic and gloriously uplifting at once, ultimately a journey (with Charon no less) to gaze into Nietzsche’s abyss with the dead AEH — and the abyss gazes back with at least a little bit of a smile. No matter how pointless life may be ...more
*heartrl*
UPDATE: In retrospect I am giving this play 4 stars- It is esoteric and a nod to the knowing- but it left me thinking quite a bit, looking a lot of things up and learning- what more can you ask for from a piece of art. I still think it's slightly pretentious, but that is transcended by it's beauty.

Great, and beautiful play- esoteric and slightly indulgent, but beautiful and sad. I think a lot of it was lost on me and I would really need to see a good production of it. I did really enjoy parts of
...more
stephanie
Jul 08, 2008 stephanie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to stephanie by: mr. hackling
i heard this was coming to broadway (years ago now) and thought to myself, i really don't know how they are going to pull that off - because, well, there isn't really a lot of action in the play. through a twist of fate my sister and i got tickets to the opening night of previews for dirt cheap and met robert sean leonard after. i confessed to him my initial skepticism and he agreed he felt the same way - but this was stoppard, after all.

i think i benefited from reading it a few times before i
...more
Korri
Reading a play instead of seeing it performed is always a shame because actors and production designers create another world on the stage, something beyond what the written words convey. It is definitely a shame that I read this play instead of seeing it performed because Housman's repressed emotions and academic concerns can seem somewhat lifeless and dull on the page even though I see the dramatic potential. I love intellectual pursuits as much as the next person, and yes, A.E.H. and other cha ...more
Mike Jensen
What the heck, didn't I just add this to goodreads a week or two ago? I did, but I found the play so uncharacteristically unsatisfying that I read it again about a week later. It was still pretty good, but less satisfying than most of Stoppard's other work.
Eli


This is a brilliant and occasionally frustrating script that juxtaposes passions of the heart against passions of the mind, morals against aesthetics, classicism agains modernity. Of course the language radiates brilliance in every line. Seen onstage in the right hands, Hous's sublimated emotions would be electrifying, even if I would probably spend the entire time internally yelling at him for being such a doofus about Mo. I liked Wilde better when he was the offstage flamboyant genius people
...more
Rachel
Hilarious and intelligent and yet moving dialogue, themes and subject matter that make me feel like it was written just for me (because who else would like all of that?), characters that make me feel stupid in comparison--yay, it's a play by Tom Stoppard, my very favorite playwright.






No one I've ever gone to see a Stoppard play with has ever agreed with me that it was the best thing ever or that they loved it, but this one I only read, so there was no one sulking on the way home. Unfortunately,
...more
Chris
I saw the opening of this in SF with James Cromwell as Auden.

I was in the penultimate row on the ground floor. At the conclusion of the play, the cast was taking their bows, and one of the cast shouted, "Ladies and gentlemen! The writer!" A spotlight swung to me, and my heart stopped. I turned around and caught a glimpse of Stoppard flying out the door. Apparently, the guy was watching his own play right behind me. I later saw him on a side street smoking a cigarette and signing autographs. I d
...more
Caro Joy
After reading three other Stoppard plays in the past couple of months or so, I've finally understood the real power of modern drama. I've loved some plays before, of course, but never like this. I want to keep reading Stoppard even though the class assigning it is ending in a couple of weeks.

This play was extremely tender and heartfelt, with some beautiful lines on love I won't soon forget. It even brought a little tears to my eyes; poor, poor Houseman. But it was intelligent and complex, too,
...more
Jennifer
My favorite play. Follows A.E. Housman and Oscar Wilde at Oxford, takes several historical liberties. The lines are quotable and very clever.
Roya
I have a feeling that had I been better-educated, I would have given it either a five or a two. But now it's a four. It's a four alright.
Carolyn
My favorite play. Saw it performed twice and read it. Stoppard isn't casual theater, but oh, the feels! I want to hug this play.
David Dean-Jones
A production of this book brought tears to my eyes....
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Stop...
More about Tom Stoppard...
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“They loved, and quarreled, and made up, and loved, and fought, and were true to each other and untrue. She made him the happiest man in the whole world and the most wretched, and after a few years she died, and then, when he was thirty, he died, too. But by that time Catullus had invented the love poem.” 22 likes
“Success in life is to maintain this ecstasy, to burn always with this hard gemlike flame.” 22 likes
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