R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)

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R.U.R., often subtitled Rossum's Universal Robots in English (in the original the abbreviation stands for Rossumovi univerzální roboti), is a science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. It premiered in 1921 and is noted for introducing the term "robot".

The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called "robots." Unlike the modern usage of the term, these creatures are closer to the modern idea of androids or even clones, as they can be mistaken for humans and can think for themselves. They seem happy to work for humans, although that changes and a hostile robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race. After finishing the manuscript, Čapek realized that he had created a modern version of the Jewish Golem legend. He later took a different approach to the same theme in War with the Newts, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society.

R.U.R is dark but not without hope, and was successful in its day in both Europe and the United States.[citation needed]

Contents

Characters

Parenthesis indicate differences in translations.

  • Harry Domin (Domain) — General Manager, R.U.R.
  • Fabry — Chief Engineer, R.U.R.
  • Dr. Gall — Head of the Physiological Dept, R.U.R.
  • Dr. Hellman (Hallemeier) — Psychologist-in-Chief
  • Jacob Berman (Busman) — Managing Director, R.U.R.
  • Alquist — Clerk of the Works, R.U.R.
  • Helena Glory — President of the Humanity League, daughter of President Glory
  • Emma (Nana) — Helena's maid
  • Marius, a Robot
  • Sulla, a Robotess
  • Radius, a Robot
  • Primus, a Robot
  • Helena, a Robotess
  • Daemon (Damon), a Robot

Plot

Helena, the daughter of the president of a major industrial power, arrives at the island factory of Rossum's Universal Robots. She meets Domin, the General Manager of R.U.R., who tells her the history of the company. It started in 1920 when a man named Rossum came to an island to study marine biology and accidentally discovered a chemical that behaved exactly like protoplasm, except that it didn't mind being knocked around. The chemical was discovered in 1932. Rossum attempted to make a dog and a man and failed. His nephew came to see his Uncle, and the two argued nonstop, largely because Old Rossum only wanted to create animals to prove that there was not only no God necessary but no God at all, and Young Rossum only wanted to make millions. Eventually, Young Rossum locked his uncle in a laboratory to play with his monsters and mutants, while Young Rossum built factories, and cranked out Robots by the thousands. By the time the play is set (in the 1950s or 1960s, presumably), Robots are cheap and available all over the world. Robots are now becoming necessary, as it is revealed that things are now a fifth the cost because of Robots. Helena meets Fabry, Dr. Gall, Alquist, and Hallemeier, and reveals she is a representative of the League of Humanity, a human rights organization that wishes to "free" the Robots. The managers of the factory find this a ridiculous proposition, viewing the Robots as any other major appliance. One of the things Helena requests is that the Robots get paid so that they can buy things they like, but the Robots do not like anything. Helena is eventually convinced of what a waste of money the League Of Humanity is. Domin and Helena fall in love and are engaged to be married.

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