R. U. R.

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Čapek, Karel. R. U. R. 1921 (Czech). First English edn., Oxford UP, 1923. Frequently rpt., including in Of Men And Machines, q.v. under Anthologies. Also, P. Selver, trans. Adapted for English stage by Nigel Playfair. Harry Shefter, ed. New York: Washington Square-Pocket Books, 1973 ("enriched" edn.). R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). Claudia Novack-Jones, trans. 1989. In Toward the Radical Center. Peter Kussi, ed. Highland Park, NJ: Catbird Press, 1990. Initial productions: 25 Jan. 1921, National Theatre, Prague; 9 Oct. 1922, Theatre Guild, Garrick Theatre, New York; 29 March 1923, Theatre am Kurfürstendamm, Berlin; April 1923, St. Martin's Theatre, London.

Play. Rossum's robots — "androids" in current terminology—take over because they are, in many ways, superior to humans. This play gave us the word "robot" (Czech for "worker"). Discussed in TMG[1] in essays by W. Schuyler and B. Bengels (see under Literary Criticism). For textual issues, see M. Abrash, "R.U.R. Restored and Reconsidered," cited under Literary Criticism. R.U.R. was revived in the summer of 2000 by Jerome Guardino for Lonny chapman's Group Repertory Theater in the Los Angeles area; rev. Steven Leigh Morris, "Theater," LA Weekly for 7-13 July 2000, who distinguishes "robot" from "android" and rather neatly typifies the play as a 1920s "exotic variation on Frankenstein, a hybrid of Strindberg's symbolism and Jules Verne's whimsy" (41).

Images featuring robots from various early productions — along with the robot from METROPOLIS and more obviously irrelevant images — can be found online in a search for "R.U.R." images.[2] (Our thanks to J. J. Pierce for pointing out these old production photos.)

For quick reference, the excellent photo with the Wikipedia entry is here.[3]


In ch. 5, "From the Somme and Verdun to Hiroshima and Nagasaki" in his Voices Prophesying War, I. F. Clarke quotes one of what he calls "keynote speeches in the sacred book of liberty."

'I wanted to turn the whole of mankind into the aristocracy of the world', says the General Manager for Rossum's Universal Robots; and he goes on to speak his apologia for the labours of the scientists. 'An aristocracy nourished by millions of mechanical slaves. Unrestricted, free, and perfect men. In [...] R.U.R., the Czech dramatist seized on a noble ambition — 'to shatter the servitude of labour' — and pushed that obsession to the inescapable conclusion [151] of the play: the robots will take over from their creators, and the products of human inventiveness will prove more than a match for the human brain. The parable calls for the triumph of mechanism: 'The power of man has fallen,' says the robot commander. [...] A new world has arisen. The world of the Robots.' (pp. 151-52)

Discussed insightfully and in its historic context in Jessica Riskin's Restless Clock, chapter 9.

Note "Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s Bunt maschin [The Revolt of the Machines] (1924; [...] a free adaptation of Čapek’s R.U.R. [...]" produced during the Soviet era. — Mariano Martín Rodríguez's "Science Fiction Drama in the Age of Scientific Romance 101" (p. 39).

Cf. and contrast the ergs as robot rebels in O Master Caliban! (1976), by Phyllis Gotlieb.

{RDE, rev. 6Nov15 & 20Dec20, minor edit 20Sep18, photo link 25Jan20/26May21; 3Aug21; 12Jan23}