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R.U.R. : (Rossum's Universal Robots) by…
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R.U.R. : (Rossum's Universal Robots) (original 1921; edition 2017)

by Karel Čapek, Núria Mirabet (Traductor)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6551821,849 (3.63)36
Member:Eliorb
Title:R.U.R. : (Rossum's Universal Robots)
Authors:Karel Čapek
Other authors:Núria Mirabet (Traductor)
Info:Barcelona : Editorial Males Herbes, setembre 2017
Collections:Your library, Lectura, Llegits
Rating:*****
Tags:Teatre, Lit. Txeca

Work details

R.U.R. by Karel Čapek (1921)

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    Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Explores the societal implications of replacing humans with artificial labor.
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English (17)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This play, written in 1920 is famous for the first mention of word ‘robot’. Earlier works that had what we now call robots existed but they used other terms, chiefly automaton. It was surprising for me that robots in the play are more like clones or androids, they are biological creatures grown as a superior version of humans, who in the same time are slaves to the mankind.
The story is fine, there are some themes from the author’s later works, like the war with newts. The minus for me is too turgid final with biblical allusions. The play can be of interest for the people, who are interested in the 20s period in the literature or in the history of SF.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |



Here are ten philosophical insights embedded in the extended prologue to this highly inventive 1920 science fiction three-act play by Czechoslovakian author Karel Čapek. And, yes, this play marks the very first appearance of the term “Robot” as in R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots – mass produced, human-like machines to perform manual labor and function as servants.

1. Old man Rossum was a biologist who failed to create actual humans in his laboratory; engineer son Rossum invented the living labor machine, the Robot, a natural progression of production (son) following discovery (father). After all, as the present central director of R.U.R. states: “If you can’t do it faster than nature, what’s the point?” Let’s not forget this is 1920, the engineer is king and speed, machines, factories and efficiency are all the rage. Speed and machines even made headway in the world of art some year prior, especially among the Italian Futurists such as Mainetti, Boccioni and Bella.

2. The central director continues: “Production should be as simple as possible and the product the best for its function.” And “The creation of an engineer is technically more refined than the product of nature.” The spirit of these statements was captured magnificently in the film “Modern Times” with Charlie Chaplin. Since the prologue is peppered alternately with satire, comedy and black humor, it’s as if the creators of that Chaplin film mined a number of ideas from Čapek’s play.

3. Young Rossum started with twelve-foot Superrobots but they kept falling apart so he began manufacturing Robots of normal human height and respectable human shape. Curiously, when Robots mimic human dimensions, there is something inexplicably appealing about their physical presence. For example, witness the computer generated American football playing Robot one of the large commercial stations uses in their broadcasts – the Robot signals a first down, spikes the ball and even does a little dance after scoring a touchdown – all very charming for football fans – just Robot enough to be fantasy; just human enough to seemingly possess human emotions and feelings.

4. A recent arrival to the R.U.R. factory, Helena, a sensitive young lady converses with the central director and mistakes the director’s beautiful secretary, a Robot named Sulla, for a real person. Oh, no, no! Helena is quite upset and initially refuses to belief such a gorgeous woman, just like herself, isn’t human. Ah, there’s something so very compelling about a woman’s beauty – we refuse to believe a young woman with such beauty lacks heart and feeling – case in point, the 2015 film “Ex Machina.”

5. The way they are constructed, Robots never think up anything original. As the director notes: “They’d make fine university professors.” Did I mention Karel Čapek’s infusion of satire and black humor? Such a nice touch – not too much satire to sound preachy but enough to let us know much in his society and culture, all the flummery about “progress” and the eventual perfection and purification of mankind through scientism, is so much smoke and mirrors.

6. Turns out Helena has traveled to the R.U.R. factory on behalf of the League of Humanity in order to incite and liberate the Robots. All the factory directors in the room, all six men, laugh and tell Helena everybody from the outside who comes to the factory wants to do good by the Robots and set them free. As the central director, Harry Domin, informs Helena: “It would amaze you to know how many churches and lunatics there are in the world.” Churches and lunatics . . . you gotta love it! As events unfold beginning in Act One, Helena’s words take on stinging irony.

7. Helena wants to know if you can show the Robots a bit of love. Impossible, retorts the directors, since Robots are made for one and only one purpose: work. For Robots have no sense of taste nor do they ever smile. Considering how many 21st century factory Robots have been successfully constructed for nonstop work, this passage takes on a particular resonance. And, God forbid, if there is work where Robots can’t replace humans, there is always the opportunity to move your factory to a third world country and corral the poverty-stricken into your sweat-shop for next to nothing. Much of the themes of R.U.R. are as relevant today as they were in 1920.

8. But, but, but . . . there is a chink in the armor. As one director sadly states: “Occasionally they go crazy somehow. Something like epilepsy, you know? We call it Robotic Palsy. All of a sudden one of them goes and breaks whatever it has in its hands, stops working, gnashes its teeth – and we have to send it to the stamping mill. Evidently a breakdown of the organism.” Sound like trouble? Such breakdowns prove to be big trouble.

9. Powerful economic forces are at work. One of the directors pronounces how their Robots have cut the cost of labor, so much so that non-Robot factories are going belly-up. Many are the zingers the playwright hurls at a society reduced to the forces of supply and demand where the requirement to produce profits for shareholders takes top priority at the expense of humanity. Money, money, money . . . the lifeblood of the modern world then and now.

10. Harry Domin proclaims how no longer will mankind have to destroy his soul doing work he hates; people will live to perfect themselves. Considering the modern phenomenon of the couch potato and numerous other mind-numbing addictions, unfortunately there is substantial evidence the vast percentage of the population is far from “perfecting itself” given time free from work.

So, Act One, Act Two, Act Three take place at the R.U.R. factory ten years after the prologue. It's Robots vs. humans. I encourage you to read the play to find out what happens. And I highly recommend this Penguin edition which includes a most informative introductory essay by Czeck writer Ivan Klima.
( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
It’s fascinating to me that R.U.R. was written in 1920, and is highly relevant nearly one hundred years later, with the very real concerns of robots replacing human workers and Artificial Intelligence posing a possible threat to the human race in the news. In addition to using the play to make comments about humanity, and the dehumanizing effects of science and mass manufacturing, Karel Čapek was clearly ahead of his time. Right up there with his masterpiece ‘War With The Newts’, and very enjoyable. ( )
1 vote gbill | May 9, 2018 |


Here are ten philosophical insights embedded in the extended prologue to this highly inventive 1920 science fiction three-act play by Czechoslovakian author Karel Čapek. And, yes, this play marks the very first appearance of the term “Robot” as in R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots – mass produced, human-like machines to perform manual labor and function as servants.

1. Old man Rossum was a biologist who failed to create actual humans in his laboratory; engineer son Rossum invented the living labor machine, the Robot, a natural progression of production (son) following discovery (father). After all, as the present central director of R.U.R. states: “If you can’t do it faster than nature, what’s the point?” Let’s not forget this is 1920, the engineer is king and speed, machines, factories and efficiency are all the rage. Speed and machines even made headway in the world of art some year prior, especially among the Italian Futurists such as Mainetti, Boccioni and Bella.

2. The central director continues: “Production should be as simple as possible and the product the best for its function.” And “The creation of an engineer is technically more refined than the product of nature.” The spirit of these statements was captured magnificently in the film “Modern Times” with Charlie Chaplin. Since the prologue is peppered alternately with satire, comedy and black humor, it’s as if the creators of that Chaplin film mined a number of ideas from Čapek’s play.

3. Young Rossum started with twelve-foot Superrobots but they kept falling apart so he began manufacturing Robots of normal human height and respectable human shape. Curiously, when Robots mimic human dimensions, there is something inexplicably appealing about their physical presence. For example, witness the computer generated American football playing Robot one of the large commercial stations uses in their broadcasts – the Robot signals a first down, spikes the ball and even does a little dance after scoring a touchdown – all very charming for football fans – just Robot enough to be fantasy; just human enough to seemingly possess human emotions and feelings.

4. A recent arrival to the R.U.R. factory, Helena, a sensitive young lady converses with the central director and mistakes the director’s beautiful secretary, a Robot named Sulla, for a real person. Oh, no, no! Helena is quite upset and initially refuses to belief such a gorgeous woman, just like herself, isn’t human. Ah, there’s something so very compelling about a woman’s beauty – we refuse to believe a young woman with such beauty lacks heart and feeling – case in point, the 2015 film “Ex Machina.”

5. The way they are constructed, Robots never think up anything original. As the director notes: “They’d make fine university professors.” Did I mention Karel Čapek’s infusion of satire and black humor? Such a nice touch – not too much satire to sound preachy but enough to let us know much in his society and culture, all the flummery about “progress” and the eventual perfection and purification of mankind through scientism, is so much smoke and mirrors.

6. Turns out Helena has traveled to the R.U.R. factory on behalf of the League of Humanity in order to incite and liberate the Robots. All the factory directors in the room, all six men, laugh and tell Helena everybody from the outside who comes to the factory wants to do good by the Robots and set them free. As the central director, Harry Domin, informs Helena: “It would amaze you to know how many churches and lunatics there are in the world.” Churches and lunatics . . . you gotta love it! As events unfold beginning in Act One, Helena’s words take on stinging irony.

7. Helena wants to know if you can show the Robots a bit of love. Impossible, retorts the directors, since Robots are made for one and only one purpose: work. For Robots have no sense of taste nor do they ever smile. Considering how many 21st century factory Robots have been successfully constructed for nonstop work, this passage takes on a particular resonance. And, God forbid, if there is work where Robots can’t replace humans, there is always the opportunity to move your factory to a third world country and corral the poverty-stricken into your sweat-shop for next to nothing. Much of the themes of R.U.R. are as relevant today as they were in 1920.

8. But, but, but . . . there is a chink in the armor. As one director sadly states: “Occasionally they go crazy somehow. Something like epilepsy, you know? We call it Robotic Palsy. All of a sudden one of them goes and breaks whatever it has in its hands, stops working, gnashes its teeth – and we have to send it to the stamping mill. Evidently a breakdown of the organism.” Sound like trouble? Such breakdowns prove to be big trouble.

9. Powerful economic forces are at work. One of the directors pronounces how their Robots have cut the cost of labor, so much so that non-Robot factories are going belly-up. Many are the zingers the playwright hurls at a society reduced to the forces of supply and demand where the requirement to produce profits for shareholders takes top priority at the expense of humanity. Money, money, money . . . the lifeblood of the modern world then and now.

10. Harry Domin proclaims how no longer will mankind have to destroy his soul doing work he hates; people will live to perfect themselves. Considering the modern phenomenon of the couch potato and numerous other mind-numbing addictions, unfortunately there is substantial evidence the vast percentage of the population is far from “perfecting itself” given time free from work.

So, Act One, Act Two, Act Three take place at the R.U.R. factory ten years after the prologue. It's Robots vs. humans. I encourage you to read the play to find out what happens. And I highly recommend this Penguin edition which includes a most informative introductory essay by Czeck writer Ivan Klima.


( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Influential, sure. Imo - obsolete now. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karel Čapekprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hallwachs, Hans PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klíma, IvanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Novack-Jones, ClaudiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Playfair, NigelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schmidt, HeinerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Selver, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Uhlen, SusanneEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vázquez de Parga, ConsueloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyllie, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
First words
The central office of the Rossum's Universal Robots factory.
Quotations
DOMIN: The Robots will wash the feet of the beggar and prepare a bed for him in his own house. Nobody will get bread at the price of life and hatred. (27)
ALQUIST: I'm not very fond of progress and these newfangled ideas.
HELENA: Like Emma?
ALQUIST: Yes, like Emma. Has Emma got a prayer book?
HELENA: Yes, a big, thick one.
ALQUIST: And has it got prayers for various occasions? Against thunderstorms? Against illness?
HELENA: Against temptations, against floods --
ALQUIST: And not against progress?
HELENA: I don't think so.
ALQUIST: That's a pity. (47)
HELENA: Doctor, has Radius a soul?
DR. GALL: I don't know. He's got something nasty.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486419266, Paperback)

Great play, that introduced the word "robot" into English, looks to a future in which all workers are automatons. They revolt when they acquire souls (i.e., when they gain the ability to hate) and the resulting catastrophe make for a powerful and deeply moving theatrical experience. Paul Selver translation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Based on a pair of comic dramas from ancient Rome, The Comedy of Errors presents a spectacle of pure farce in the spirit of utmost fun and ? as the title suggests ? hilarious confusion. Two sets of identical twins provide the basis for ongoing incidents of mistaken identity, within a lively plot of quarrels, arrests, and a grand courtroom denouement. One of Shakespeare's earliest dramatic efforts, the play abounds in his trademark conceits, puns, and other forms of fanciful wordplay. It also foreshadows his later and greater comedies, offering students and scholars a valuable key to the playwright's development.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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