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RUR


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AT: R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) A: Karel Čapek Pf: 1921, Prague Pb: 1920 Tr: 1923 G: Drama in 3 acts and a prologue; Czech prose S: A remote island, in the future C: 9m, 4f, extrasHelena Glory, the daughter of the company president, visits one of his factories on a remote island. The manager Harry Domin explains that the success of the undertaking is due to the robots invented by a scientist called Rossum and speaks of a future in which humans will be free of all drudgery. Helena, surprised at how lifelike the robots are, confuses humans and robots. Domin proposes to her and she accepts. Ten years later the robots have become so threatening that Domin gives her a gunboat as an anniversary present. Helena, discovering that the robots are killing all humans, destroys the formula for creating robots, but it is too late. The robots exterminate everyone but the old engineer Alquist. He continues to serve the robots, but they become increasingly desperate when they realize that they are unable to procreate. However, a male and female robot enter, and Alquist recognizes that they have developed human feelings and are in love with each other. Addressing them as Adam and Eve, Alquist is reassured that ‘Life will not perish’.

AT: R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) A: Karel Čapek Pf: 1921, Prague Pb: 1920 Tr: 1923 G: Drama in 3 acts and a prologue; Czech prose S: A remote island, in the future C: 9m, 4f, extras

From Georg Kaiser's Gas Trilogy to Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey the idea that machines may rebel and overcome humans was a major preoccupation of the 20th century. The colossal international success of RUR is due largely to this concern: the characters are not developed; the action tends towards the melodramatic (the last chance is to negotiate by offering the robots the formula – but Helena has destroyed it); the ending is saccharine. Yet a play that added the word ‘robot’ to the languages of the world can still exert a curious fascination.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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