Arcadia Arcadia Takes Us Back And Forth Between The Nineteenth And Twentieth Centuries, Ranging Over The Nature Of Truth And Time, The Difference Between The Classical And The Romantic Temperament, And The Disruptive Influence Of Sex On Our Orbits In Life Focusing On The Mysteries Romantic, Scientific, Literary That Engage The Minds And Hearts Of Characters Whose Passions And Lives Intersect Across Scientific Planes And Centuries, It Is Stoppard S Richest, Most Ravishing Comedy To Date, A Play Of Wit, Intellect, Language, Brio And Emotion It S Like A Dream Of Levitation You Re Instantaneously Aloft, Soaring, Banking, Doing Loop The Loops And Then, When You Think You Re About To Plummet To Earth, Swooping To A Gentle Touchdown Of Not Easily Described Sweetness And Sorrow Exhilarating Vincent Canby, The New York Times

Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright.Born Tom Straussler.See

➺ [Reading] ➼ Arcadia By Tom Stoppard ➯ –
  • Paperback
  • 97 pages
  • Arcadia
  • Tom Stoppard
  • English
  • 14 November 2019
  • 9780571169344

10 thoughts on “Arcadia

  1. says:

    This weekend I was looking at my almost seven year old daughter and marveling at how quickly she s grown up I thought she s still so young and she s still so new But then I thought no, she s not Not really The atoms and molecules that make up her body are actually billions of years old Inside, she carries pieces of what are now distant stars She carries pieces of the original humans She carries pieces of me She carries pieces of her children And yet, there has never been and there will never be her exact configuration of all of these pieces She will only exist for a fraction of the blink of an eye in the history of the universe She s eternal, and she s so terribly finite And I guess that is the main thing that blazed out at me from the pages of this play I may have missed the point I may have missed several points But overall, Stoppard made me think a lot about how we are both eternal and momentary Nothing is guaranteed Maybe there is a formula which could take into account the exact position and direction of every atom at a single moment and predict the future But there will always be an element of the unpredictable There will always be a theorem too long to transcribe or a letter gone astray or a candle left burning You might die on the eve of your seventeenth birthday You might live out decades of solitude and regret You only get this brief lifetime to make new discoveries and fail spectacularly and learn to waltz Our lives are one long chain of entropy trade offs until we finally have nothing left to trade and become dust and ash But then again, we live on in memories, however false in our children in the very soil Even things that we think are lost irrevocably have a tendency to turn up again and again and again if only we had the perspective to see it happening We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind The procession is very long and life is very short We die on the march But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again These are just a small fraction of the thoughts which were awakened to vivid clarity in me by this deceptively short, two act play Stoppard weaves together two generations with history, coincidence, and conjecture In the past, young student Thomasina and her tutor Septimus discuss geometry, thermodynamics, and carnal embraces during an eventful period at Sidley Park Manor In the future, gutsy academic Bernard tries and mostly fails to decipher the past and stir up some scandal about Lord Byron, while the level headed Hannah plays the voice of reason The two generations bleed into and out of each other Into this circular timeline Stoppard flawlessly integrates Fermat s last theorem, fractal geometry, Newtonian physics, chaos theory, botany, adultery, and fatal monkey bites I know that all sounds monumentally intellectual but please don t be scared away This play is above all, witty, entertaining, and profoundly meaningful.Perfect Musical PairingChopin Waltz Op 64 No 2 Bonus Flannery s pick Brad Mehldau Exit Music For a Film After reading this play I now have two things to add to my bucket list 1 Learn to Waltz2 See Arcadia performed on stage.Also seen at The Readventurer.

  2. says:

    Enough people love this play that it presumably has some good qualities But I just couldn t get past the snide, obnoxious characters, and the facile, frequently inaccurate treatment of science and math, which panders to the science is just the product of fallible human impulses and, like, we don t really know anything for sure anyway, man attitude that has become the norm among intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who, for one reason or another, aren t interested in science.As a presentation of math and science to a lay audience, the play is a failure It feels as though Stoppard read James Gleick s Chaos or a similar popular text , misunderstood it, forgot half of it, and then wrote the play on this basis of what remained When Stoppard tries to write about chaos theory, he fails to mention the central concept sensitive dependence on initial conditions the famous butterfly effect and its appearance even in simple systems and instead only tells the audience that chaos has something to do with iterated maps.He mentions that iterated maps can produce fractals that look very much like realistic mountains, leaves, ferns, etc., and implies that the failure of 18th 19th century dreams of predictability has something to do with the failure to use these realistic, fractal models of objects in physics calculations One of the characters proleptically quotes Mandlebrot Mountains are not cones, clouds are not spheres This, of course, raises the question if we do have fractals now, is predictability no longer doomed The answer is no, because almost all interesting physical systems exhibit sensitive dependence on initial conditions but Stoppard does not clarify this An audience member unfamiliar with the material will leave the play under the impression that physicists like Newton and Laplace were overly optimistic about prediction because they did not know about iterated maps, which somehow are supposed to make prediction harder Since the idea of an iterated map is very simple indeed, it is explained in the play , this makes these geniuses look rather stupid.Of course, they actually did know about iterated maps One of the most famous iterated maps is called wait for it Newton s method They didn t appreciate the unpredictability of very simple systems, but that unpredictability is a subtle issue, and Stoppard s play doesn t begin to get into it.There are other errors, too, and they too uncoincidentally serve to make early physicists look dumb or oblivious For instance, at one point one of the characters Thomasina, a precocious child who is learning physics reads a paper which, given the date and the description of its content, must be Fourier s paper on the heat equation This paper is famous for introducing Fourier series, but Thomasina seems to think it is remarkable for another reason She exclaims that Fourier s equations are not like Newton s equations, for they specify a direction of time, while Newton s equations are reversible This claim comes as quite a surprise, since the heat equation studied by Fourier is simply a continuous version of an equation called wait for it Newton s Law of Cooling Presumably by Newton s equations Thomasina specifically means Newton s three laws of motion But even there, she s wrong although in some special cases Newton s laws are reversible, they can also describe irreversible forces, and indeed Newton himself believed that the most fundamental forces were likely to be irreversible This would explain the fact that many real life phenomena, like stirring milk into coffee, seem to be irreversible another case where Stoppard seems to imply that early physicists simply ignored something obvious The play views the march of science with an amused sneer oh, look at these funny plodding people, convinced that they know so much, yet battered this way and that by their culture, swelling with utopian ambition in the Enlightenment, inventing lurid tales of heat death in the age of Romanticism, and once the 20th century rolls around they create jazzy math and lose faith in the old verities Now, I m not denying that scientists are fallible human beings, but Stoppard s sneer is unearned The issues involved in the development of theoretical physics are esoteric, irreducibly mathematical, and mind bendingly subtle This is serious shit Really, really smart people have been working very, very hard on it for centuries I m sure that Stoppard and some parts of his audience would like to imagine themselves as Thomasina, instantly spotting the errors of those grim old scientists and dispatching them with a light, witty touch Would that that were possible But science is really hard when our predecessors have made mistakes they tend to be subtle, recondite ones Try to catch the masters making obvious blunders and you will just fall on your face, as Stoppard has done.And Thomasina gripes about having to plot simple mathematical curves like parabolas, because they don t look like real natural forms Never mind that simple curves are tremendously important in science anyway Never mind that facts like this are precious and remarkable precisely because they are surprising if science always conformed to our intuitions about, say, which shapes are important it wouldn t have much value No, Tom Stoppard s audience just remembers its own confusion and displeasure over math in high school and would like its prejudices confirmed Maybe all those funny curves we had to draw as children really were meaningless Take that, school Now let s go home from the theater and never think about math again Also love sex is the attraction that Newton left out Seriously I know it s just a joke but it s an awful, cringe inducingly cutesy one I have a high cutesiness tolerance and this play is too much even for me.

  3. says:

    The Waltz of TimeReading Iain Pears brilliant novel Arcadia just now, I wondered how it might have been influenced by Tom Stoppard s 1993 play of the same title, which has been described in the article I shall cite below as maybe the greatest play of our age Answer very much, and yet hardly at all Stoppard casts his play of ideas as a drawing room comedy or rather two comedies alternating in the same room, the one beginning in 1809, the other in 1990 Pears infuses his ideas into a melange of fantasy, sci fi, and dystopian fiction, with a few other genres thrown in But many of them are the same ideas as Stoppard s principally, the notion that the past and future are inextricably connected, and that science may be simultaneously our prison and our key to escape.Among the many ideas and images in this play, two in particular stand out One is symbolized by the changes wrought in the gardens of Sidley Park between 1809 and 1812 What had been a carefully constructed Arcadian landscape of classical balance is turned into a romantic fantasy Where there was the pastoral refinement of an Englishman s garden, here is an eruption of gloomy forest and towering crag, of ruins where there was never a house, of water dashing against rocks where there was never spring nor a stone Order versus passion, facts versus feeling, the aesthetic dilemma of the late 18th century, and I suppose our own.Stoppard s parallel image is mathematical Thomasina Coverly, the heroine of the earlier period, a teenage genius, is being taught scientific principles by her young tutor, Septimus Hodge, along classical Newtonian lines But she has two insights One is to recognize that where most equations are reversible, those of thermodynamics are not heat will always give way to cold In other words, math as the calculus of our inevitable demise The other is the realization that mathematics need not deal only with the perfection of man made objects, but can describe the random properties of nature as well She does not not have the computing power to develop her instinctive algorithm, but another Coverly descendant 180 years later, using a laptop computer, can do so easily it is called chaos theory.In preparing for this review, I read an article by Johann Hari from the Independent of Thursday 21 May 2009 It is a brilliant and comprehensive piece that I recommend to everyone, but which has left me with little to say of my own Except to quote Hari s last paragraph, describing the ending of the play, when characters from the two centuries stumble onstage together It s a moment that shows the power of the play of ideas to fuse together concepts and characters into a theatrical grenade This final scene is the waltz that takes place inside all of us of our ancestors dancing with our present, of reason dancing with irrationality, and of hope dancing with despair, as the roaring, crackling sound of the heat death draws ever closer The rest of the article is that good the play is even better Plays are meant to be seen on the stage, so why read them on paper It s easier for me, I suppose, because I am a director by profession, and scripts are our raw material, like reading the score rather than attending the concert You can play it out in your own time You can pause to savor witty lines like As her tutor, you have a duty to keep her in ignorance You can feel the genuine emotion welling up through all the clever wordplay And, an unexpected bonus, you can revel in Stoppard s delightfully off hand stage directions He takes a chair She remains standing Possibly she smokes if so, perhaps now A short cigarette holder sounds right, too Or brown paper cigarillos Tom Stoppard in friendly conversation with his director, Trevor Nunn, quite willing to leave such details to him But where it matters, in his control of characters and ideas, his touch is masterly A great, great play.

  4. says:

    I first encountered this play my freshman year of college, and here I am in my final semester, reading it once If you have read this play yourself, you might see the beauty and significance in that duality Nevertheless, I adore this play so, so much Tom Stoppard is a complete genuis.The play follows two time periods, the early 1800 s and a contemporary setting, both in the same exact location, an English manor house In the 1800 s we observe Thomasina, a 13 year old intellectual, and her tutor, Septimus Hodge They re both quick witted and banter throughout the play which is wonderful In the present day we follow some descendants of the manor house s family, Chloe, Gus, and Valentine, as two scholars, Hannah and Bernard, are researching information about the people who lived and visited the manor in the 1800 s Stoppard plays with the convention of having the set stay the same throughout the play, no matter the time period, as well as the accumulation of objects from both periods on the table in the center of the stage It addresses themes of relationships, time and entropy, and arts and sciences All good things at the center of a really good play Of course plays are mostly meant to be seen and not read, but if you are going to read any play, I really recommend this one It s one that has heavily influenced my thinking and my approach to drama, and one that will stick with me for a long time.

  5. says:

    The only play I ve ever read that made me want to be an actor, however briefly just for long enough to speak some of Stoppard s incredible lines Witty, erudite, passionate, petty, catty, dry, elegant or vile, there s not a character who doesn t get off a zinger at least once per appearance, and usually oftener Lady Croome alone barely walks into a room without puncturing egos left, right and center Encountering a scene of midnight shenanigans in her country house, she tells the perps they re lucky a lifetime s devotion to the sporting gun has halved my husband s hearing to the ear on which he sleeps Even the stage directions are good, including in the props list a turtle sleepy enough to serve as a paperweight The play itself is farcical, heartbreaking, hysterical, intellectual, romantic, dramatic, serious and silly, and if you ever see a gifted company perform it, it ll be one of the best nights of theater possible I was fortunate in that I saw it at the Denver Center the same week I first read the script, and the uniformly excellent cast and the flawless production made it the version all others must live up to But just reading it can perfectly well blow your mind anyway Arcadia is, at its simplest, two stories that of young prodigy Thomasina Coverly and her tutor Septimus Hodge in the early 19th century, and that of Hannah Jarvis and Bernard Nightingale, contemporary academics researching the Romantic period of English literature or less by rifling through Thomasina s things Physics, mathematics, poetry, botany , music, romance, plain ol nooky, all make an appearance in this exuberant yet concise play Stoppard doesn t beat around the bush and he doesn t wait for you to catch up if you didn t catch the bit about thermodynamics or chaos theory he s not going to repeat himself, so pay attention Most of the characters are so brilliant or academic, so immersed in their intellectual pursuits that you d expect to be bored to tears but Stoppard makes them engaging, endearing, human and hysterical without turning them into caricatures There s a big pile of science in it coupled with raw, unanswerable emotion, and it s an amazing combination I have a copy but you d have to pry it from my cold dead hand.

  6. says:

    Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew Stellar writing, just a spot under fed I would ve appreciated bulk, fury some Sturm und Drang Alas a two tiered production featuring landed aristocracy, precocious children and the ribald aura of Lord Byron Ruminating over these historical effects almost 200 years later in the same room are a rasher of academics, including a physicist There are some stunning lines here I simply wanted .

  7. says:

    See full sized image here When I announced that I wanted to study both Bio Chem and English at A Level, I was met with a flood of snide comments from various supercilious adults That s a bit of a divergence, isn t it Whatever do you intend to do with that combination Well, having come out the other side relatively unscathed I can testify completely that the Sciences and the Arts are actually perfectly compatible in many ways just don t tell Annabella Milbanke, aka ex Lady Byron and when anyone points a finger at me in accusation, I just point them to Arcadia THOMASINA Septimus, what is carnal embrace SEPTIMUS Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one s arms around a side of beef.God, I wish I d written this I think this may just be the wittiest, most hilarious play out there Don t believe me Here are some of the highlights But can I just clarify that they ve neglected to include the funniest bits probably something to do with keeping it PG Arcadia is a play of breathtaking scope and so masterfully structured Stoppard makes some incredible didactic statements about the entropy of time and legacy whilst keeping his drama engaging and compelling The cerebral language and algorithms can be quite challenging, but the splendour of Arcadia is so much accessible on a reread so I strongly urge you to give it a second go if the first time left you a bit baffled A blisteringly clever tearjerker with fantastic characters including a fictional avatar of Ada Lovelace, hence the nod to Kate Beaton s cartoons and a relatively simple but brilliant premise the inhabitants of Sidley Park in the 20th century are trying to figure out what exactly happened to the inhabitants from the 19th century when Lord Byron came to stay

  8. says:

    This is another wonderful play by Stoppard This story takes place in two separate time periods, many decades distant from each other, and the events in the earlier period are being studied and referenced by the characters in the latter.The play captures the often violent dance of art and science, beautifully arranged in waltz time It delves into chaos theory and questions how much our knowledge is limited by the time we have and the speed at which we can process information It asks the question what is trivial and what is important and may cause you to re examine your previous opinions on the matter it certainly had me looking at things in a new light There s even a love story tucked away in amongst all the brain wrenching bits, so that s nice.Being a Stoppard play, it is obviously very clever and full of wordplay OK, and some quite groan worthy puns, but I m a sucker for a good pun.Most importantly of all, there are two tortoises or is it the same tortoise Or is it, dare I say it, tortoises all the way down Buddy read with Sunshine Seaspray.

  9. says:

    My favorite play by Tom Stoppard, who s often been referred to as one of the cleverest and most literate minds currently writing for the stage or anywhere else, for that matter His work is unfailingly intellectual in the best sense of the word, alive with the energy of a naturally brilliant and inquisitive mind constantly in motion gleefully absorbing new information, delighting in the juxtaposition of unlikely ideas philosophy and gymnastics, for example and forever doubling back to challenge and test its own conclusions Add to that his irresistible, infectious delight in the possibilities of language including a gift for epigram that Oscar Wilde would envy and a flair for witty, original metaphor and you have a playwright who rewards an audience s commitment and attention richly than any I can think of Though he s sometimes been criticized for being too intellectual, even self consciously so, and therefore not capable of engaging an audience s emotions, in ARCADIA I think he achieves an artistic equilibrium that no one can question, creating a kind of thinking person s romance, a play that is both intellectually stimulating and deeply moving Balancing modern chaos theory against a young girl s awakening sexuality, the birth of Romanticism against the absolute end of the universe, with excursions along the way into English literary history, landscape gardening, the nature of genius, and the tendency of history to shape shift depending on who s interpreting it, for me this is the most complex and lyrical work in his very distinguished and still expanding canon Stoppard himself considers it the most successful of his plays from the storytelling standpoint, and it s perhaps also the most successful at making its cleverness intrinsic to character The historical characters, contemporaries of Jane Austen, are witty because they live in a time when conversation is the arena for virtually every human interaction and a quick wit is valued accordingly the contemporary characters are clever because they re so highly educated academics all, they are almost flamboyantly articulate In both cases, their cleverness is a function of who they are, and not of who Tom Stoppard is But we do catch glimpses of the author in several of his creations in the critic Bernard Nightingale, his overactive brain careening from one hypothesis to another in the scholar Hannah Jarvis, with her belief that our humanity is defined by our restless curiosity about the universe It s wanting to know that makes us matter even in the hilarious hack poet Ezra Chater, complaining about the inner circle of critics who so cavalierly dismiss his work as trivial while promoting their own prot g s But the truest voice of Tom Stoppard may belong to Thomasina Coverley, the 13 year old math prodigy, radiant with the prospect of all there is to know, passionate with grief over knowledge already squandered, all the possibilities of life both intellectual and emotional still before her It says a great deal, I think, about Stoppard that this should be so, because in another sense ARCADIA is a play that could really only be written in middle age, evoking the magical optimism of youth with the hard won wisdom of maturity and a wry compassion for human fallibility It is both vernal and autumnal, equal parts hope and rue, not quite a comedy, but not quite a tragedy either very much like life A poignant and exhilarating play.

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