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Four Plays: R. U. R., The Insect Play, The Makropulos Case, The White Plague (World Classics) Paperback – 1 May 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: A&C Black 3PL (1 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0413771903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0413771902
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"There was no writer like him. . . prophetic assurance mixed with surrealistic humour and hard-edged social satire: a unique combination"--Arthur Miller

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Sutton on 2 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
I have NO idea why CAPEK isn't part of the 'plays eveyone does' cannon... but they should be. these are extraordinary works which are not only fantastic stories, but fantatstic plays that feel so completely contemporary.
maybe this is because of a very good translation, but all the plays in this volume (particualy R.U.R and THE WHITE PLAGUE) are really works that need further thought and production.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Check out this Czech 18 Jun 2000
By "od_ghoti" - Published on
Format: Paperback
Be prepared to enter another world. The Capek's (for many of the plays are actually written by Karel and his brother - and expressionist artist - Joseph) speak to us today loud and clear from a realm linked to ours but slightly askew. Their perceptions are insightful and their vision resonates still. Whether exploring the inhumanity of man or the humanity of the machine, the futility of labour or the glory of the prolitariate, Capek demands consideration.
The translation of the four plays contained in this volume are engaging in their use of the contemporary idiom, though show a little excess due to hindsight ( especially in R.U.R. ). It is however good to have a new version of these pieces, Selvers translation ( which is available in other editions )being used since 1921, though good, has not the clarity necessary for the current century.
Thanks must go to the publishers for bringing these plays back into the public domain. I for one hope to see further volumes so a new audience can truely grasp the bredth and depth of both Karel and Joseph Capek's creative vision.
I love the book! 17 Mar 2014
By Larisa Maizelman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think K. Capek is a visionary! The plays were written a while ago, but they will be modern in hundreds years from now.
Haunting and Prescient -- Tragic and at the Same Time Perversely Comforting 16 July 2013
By Faterson - Published on
Format: Paperback
[This is a review of _The White Plague_ only.] The perverse comfort comes from realizing Čapek did not live long enough to see his worst fears realized -- yes, the Munich Treason of 1938 and its consequences were extremely bad, but they were followed by the hell of World War II. Čapek, though, died of pneumonia on Christmas Day of 1938, aged only 48; only one year after penning the disquietingly prescient _The White Plague_. Was that better, perhaps, than the fate of his brother and fellow writer and artist, Josef Čapek, who had to spend years in Nazi concentration camps, only to die there of typhoid in 1945, a single month before World War II was over? Such somber deliberations only serve to reinforce the stark mood that must come over anyone perusing _The White Plague_, or watching it live.

The era of Czech history when Čapek wrote _The White Plague_, was as inauspicious as one could possibly imagine; and the play is drenched with that atmosphere. One might call the play thoroughly misanthropic; because even the two supposedly hopeful characters of the young "governmental" son and daughter, exhibit some disturbing or ambivalent traits of their characters, at least in suggestions. The play ends tragically, and the rays of hope are minimal, if there are any. It goes to Čapek's credit that despite the play's tragic subject matter, he manages to infuse some stark, bleak humor throughout the dialogues; it's as gruesome humor as you're likely to encounter anywhere. Most of the characters in the play are thoroughly despicable persons; yet whenever they say something funny, you can't help smiling, despite yourself. That is great art: making ghoulish characters appear endearing in one small way or another.

The character of the Marshal is a good example of the "split personality". It will be very difficult to portray for an actor, preserving the tragic conflict within the Marshal's person without sliding into the ridiculous, especially in his loud declamations given such prominence in the play, mainly in the final third act. Yes, the Marshal is the force of Evil in the play -- yet there are "angelic" traits in his personality, too. It seems -- and the ending suggests -- as if only a slight nudge would suffice, to turn this person from the path of evil to the path of greatest universal blessing: a divine path. And Čapek seems to suggest it's the young generation that is most likely to change the Marshal's mind about this ("I feel so different in your company," says the Marshal to the young couple). But, ultimately it's the egoistic fear of his own disease, his own death, and not any personal or philosophic considerations, that lead the Marshal to change his mind, and change his ways (even though too late). And, Čapek is extremely critical of the young generation, too; in fact, Čapek is extremely critical and condemnatory about absolutely every social class and personality type in _The White Plague_, regardless of their age or status. The society as a whole seems in an utterly hopeless state -- which may not have been far from the reality of Czechoslovakia of 1937. Čapek points out poignantly that it is frequently the young people who are the most fervent supporters of the war-besotted dictator. And as to the "common folks"? No rescue there, either -- see the thoroughly despicable characters of the father (Baron's accountant) and his (ultimately murderous) son.

The play features an important foreword by Čapek, with a remarkable elucidation of the dilemma of his own era that, however, can be seen as an *eternal* dilemma for everyone, even today in 2013. Namely, the need for the "good" to become "bad", in order to "fight the bad"; what difference is there, really, then, between the two "bad" sides? It's fashionable nowadays to be cynical and say: "There's no difference! Everyone is just as bad as everyone else." Yet Čapek clearly distances himself from such a cynical view; while he admits that *both* sides of the conflict *are* "bad" -- he passionately takes side with the "traditional, European" *democratic* movement; the one holding the rights of each and every *individual* sacred; while clearly distancing himself from any "collective-driven", "nation-first" movements. For this reason, it is difficult to imagine Karel Čapek's fate, had he lived long enough, would have been anything different from that of his brother Josef; for Karel Čapek, it would have been either betraying the Truth, or being deported to the Nazi concentration camp; and there is little doubt as to what would have been his preference.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Margwrit 30 Oct 2009
By Margaret Horn - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While these plays by Karel Capek were written decades ago, they are still timely and are still being produced to this day. I was fortunate enough to have seen "Vec Makropulos" live in Prague Theater and it was widely enjoyed by the audience. Many of Capek's works question our existence and even though he uses insects as characters, they are not science fiction in the usual way of aliens come to earth, but more as a way of questioning why we are here and what is to become of the human race. Capek coined the word "robot" to serve as machines that morph into beings that begin to take over their human creators.
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