CARNAL EMBRACE, THE GARDEN OF EDEN, AND CYCLICAL HISTORY:
A CRITIQUE OF TOM STOPPARD’S ARCADIA
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I. INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD OF ARCADIA
II. CARNAL EMBRACE, THE GARDEN OF EDEN, AND CYCLICAL HISTORY III. WORKS CITED
INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD OF ARCADIA
The world of Arcadia was birthed by Tom Stoppard in 1993, and received
critical acclaim after being first performed on April 13th, 1993 at the Royal
National Theatre in London. It has gone one since to receive the 1993 Olivier
Award for Best play, the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award, the 1994
Laurence Olivier, BBC Award for Best New Play, and was nominated in 1995 for
an American Tony Award for Best Play. Tom Stoppard’s accolades for Arcadia do
nothing more than skim the surface of the magnanimity of the play and do not give
complete justice to its complexities. The title of Arcadia is in reference to the
pastoral idea of the Grecian province, the name of which is shared by the title. The
concept of Arcadia is also in reference to an enigmatic phrase that has been the
subject of academic discourse: “Et in Arcadia Ego.” The character Septimus,
gives the translation that “Even in Arcadia, there I am”- it is this idea of social
location that drives the play. Born out of the juxtaposition of past and present, the
world of Arcadia is one that negotiates the divide between Classicism and
Romanticism, Euclidean Geometry and Fractal Geometry of Chaos Theory.
Arcadia is a place in which history is “ a pattern of loss and recovery of objects
and ideas” (Rallo 5). Through Stoppard’s presenting two coinciding plots in which
the past provides the present’s conclusions, and it can be assumed that the
futurewill be a reiteration of discoveries lost and rediscovered.
Arcadia opens in 1809 in April during a lesson between student, Thomasina
Coveryly, and Tutor, Septimus Hodge, in the front room of an old estate owned by
Lord and Lady Coverly, in Derbyshire. It is a setting that is exemplary of
Euclidean Geometry and the classical thought of Classicism and the
Enlightenment. Septimus serves as an embodiment of the periods of the
Enlightenment and of Romanticism, conversely Thomasina, represents the trading
in of the thought processes of Classical Newtonian Deterministic Universe in
exchange for Romanticism exemplified through the Theory of Thermal Dynamics
and of Geometric Fractals. During the “present” portion of the play, The Coverly
Estate is inhabited by the ancestors of the Coverly’s of the 19th Century. The
people that inhabit Sidley Park during it’s contemporary setting are Hannah
Jarvis, Bernard Nightingale, and...
Cited: critical acclaim after being first performed on April 13th, 1993 at the Royal
National Theatre in London
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