PLAYING WITH TIME: TOM STOPPARD’ s ARCADIA Ani Kazan Yeditepe University
Tom Stoppard is regularly cited as one of England’s greatest playwright. When asked once about the source of Arcadia, Tom Stoppard replies that he has been reading James Gleick’ s book, Chaos. A 1989 article in Vanity Fair magazine mentioned that Stoppard had just finished reading Gleick’s book, and felt that chaos theory would seed a new play (Schiff, 212). Arcadia, a typically postmodern play by Tom Stoppard is set in Sidley Park, an English country house of Croom Family. The action takes place in the same room, alternating between two time periods: 1809 and the present (1993). Stoppard depicts dichotomy between Classic and Romantic period. At first, scenes represent both periods developing seperately but in the final scene the two periods intermingle with each other and the characters appear on the stage together. Characters of past: Thomasina Coverly; the daughter of the Croom family, Septimus Hodge; Thomasina’ s tutor, Lady Croom; Thomasina’s mother, Ezra Chater; an unsuccesful poet, Mrs Chater; Mr Chater’s wife, Richard Noakes; Lady Croom’s gardener and Jellaby; the butler of the house. Characters of past: Hannah Jarvis; an author, Chloe Coverly; modern day equivalent of Thomasina, Valentine Coverly; Chloe’s older brother, Bernard Nightingale; a university don and Gus Coverly, Chloe’s younger brother. In past scene, Thomasina, a young genius studies with her tutor Septimus on several scientific researches. In the present scene, Hannah Jarvis is looking for information of Sidley hermit with the help of Valentine Coverly, and Bernard Nightingale is searching for evidence to prove his theory about Lord Byron. The house is surrounded with very beautiful, idyllic landscape. Landscaping and gardening are crucial points in the play, both because the connection of the title Arcadia and the connection between Classic to Romantic periods. Most remarkable theme in the play is searching for knowledge. Most of the characters of the play are in pursuit of several knowledge such as scientific knowledge, sexual knowledge and historical knowledge. Renowned as ‘’a master of words, ideas and entertainment alike, Stoppard writes history and theory into theater of possibility – drawing ‘style from the chaos’ of facts and philosophy’’ (McGerr 54).
Quest for Sexual Knowledge From the very beggining of the play, we are inroduced to curiosity of Thomasina. She asks her tutor, Septimus what carnal embrace means. (Arcadia,1) The two are studying seperately, Thomasina however is too occupied to think about carnal embrace since she has overheard that Mrs Chater has been found in gazebo in carnal embrace. While Thomasina is actually interrogating sexual knowledge, she is supposed to find a proof for Thermat Last Theorem. She insists on learning exact meaning of carnal embrace from Septimus who explains carnal embrace as a practice of throwing one’s arm around a side of beef. (Arcadia,1) Heat is very crucial motif in the play since it is connected to sex. In both time periods it is discussed: THOMASINA: Mama is in love with Lord Byron
THOMASINA: I saw them together in the gazebo. Lord Byron wa reading to her from his satire, and mama was laughing, with her head in her best position. (Arcadia,36) Similarly, in present setting Valentine says that her mother fancying Bernard: My mother’s lent him her bicycle. Lending one’ s bicycle is a form of safe sex, possibliy safest there is. My mother is in a flutter about Bernard, and he’ s no fool. He gave her a...
Cited: Fleming, John, (2002), Stoppard’s Theatre: Finding Order Amid Chaos. University of Texas Pres. Austin, USA
Gleick, James, Chaos: Making a New Science: New York: Penguin, 1987
McGerr, Katherine. “A Dramaturgical Resource for Arcadia by Tom Stoppard.” Chatauqua
Theater Company. Web. 2009.
Nadel, Ira 2002: Double Act: A Life of Tom Stoppard. London: Methuen.
Schiff, Stephen. “Full Stoppard.” Vanity Fair 52.5: 1989. In Tom Stoppard in Conversation, ed. Paul Delaney. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.
Sirwah, Khaled, (2005), Irreconcilable Opposites: A Study of Tom Stoppard’s Theatre. Phd Dissertation, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, 2005, Egypt.
Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia. London: Faber and Faber, Inc., 1993.
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