from
Arcadia
by
Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard

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Arcadia

Category:

Drama

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Arcadia

Copyright © 1993 by Tom Stoppard

Act One

Scene One

Thomasina:
When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backward, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before. Do you think this is odd?

Septimus:
No.

Thomasina:
Well, I do. You cannot stir things apart.

Septimus:
No more you can, time must needs run backward, and since it will not, we must stir our way onward mixing as we go, disorder out of disorder into disorder until pink is complete, unchanging and unchangeable, and we are done with it forever. This is known as free will or self-determination.

Topics:

Free will

Time

Chater:
[...] You insulted my wife in the gazebo yesterday evening!

Septimus:
You are mistaken. I made love to your wife in the gazebo. She asked me to meet here there, I have her note somewhere, I dare say I could find it for you, and if someone is putting it about that I did not turn up, by God, sir, it is a slander.

Lady Croom:
Mr Chater, you are a welcome guest at Sidley Park but while you are one, The Castle of Otranto was written by whomsoever I say it was, otherwise what is the point of being a guest or having one?

Septimus:
You must not be cleverer than your elders. It is not polite.

Thomasina:
Am I clever?

Septimus:
Yes. Much.

Thomasina:
Well, I am sorry, Septimus. Mrs Chater came to the music room with a note for you. She said it was of scant importance, and that therefore I should carry it to you with the utmost safety, urgency, and discretion. Does carnal embrace addle the brain?

Scene Three

Septimus:
The new Broadwood pianoforte, madam. Our music lessons are at an early stage.

Lady Croom:
Well, restrict your lessons to the piano side of the instrument and let her loose on the forte when she has learned something.

Topic:

Music

Scene Four

Valentine:
[...] It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing. People were talking about the end of physics. Relativity and quantum looked as if they were going to clean out the whole problem between them. A theory of everything. But they only explained the very big and the very small. The universe, the elementary particles. The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives, the things people write poetry about – clouds – daffodils – waterfalls – and what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in – these things are full of mystery, as mysterious to us as the heavens were to the Greeks. We’re better at predicting events at the edge of the galaxy or inside the nucleus of an atom than whether it’ll rain on auntie’s garden party three Sundays from now. Because the problem turns out to be different. We can’t even predict the next drip from a dripping tap when it gets irregular. Each drip sets up the conditions for the next, the smallest variation blows prediction apart, and the weather is unpredictable the same way, will always be unpredictable. When you push the numbers through the computer you can see it on the screen. The future is disorder. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.

Valentine:
[...] You’ve never asked about him. You get high marks here for good breeding.

Hannah:
Yes, I know. I’ve always been given credit for my unconcern.

Act Two

Scene Five

Bernard:
If knowledge isn’t self-knowledge it isn’t doing much, mate. Is the universe expanding? Is it contracting? Is it standing on one leg and singing ‘When Father Painted the Parlour’? Leave me out. I can expand my universe without you. ‘She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, and all that’s best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes.’ There you are, he wrote it after coming home from a party.

Hannah:
Sex and literature. Literature and sex. Your conversation, left to itself, doesn’t have many places to go. Like two marbles rolling around a pudding basin. One of them is always sex.

Bernard:
Ah well, yes. Men all over.

Hannah:
No doubt. Einstein – relativity and sex. Chippendale – sex and furniture. Galileo – ‘Did the earth move?’ What the hell is it with you people?

Hannah:
Don’t let Bernard get to you. It’s only performance art, you know. Rhetoric. they used to teach it in ancient times, like PT. It’s not about being right, they had philosophy for that. Rhetoric was their chat show.

Topic:

Rhetoric

Scene Six

Lady Croom:
It is a defect of God’s humour that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them.

Scene Seven

Chloë
That’s what I think. The universe is deterministic all right, just like Newton said, I mean it’s trying to be, but the only thing going wrong is people fancying people who aren’t supposed to be in that part of the plan.

Valentine:
Ah. The attraction that Newton left out. All the way back to the apple in the garden.

Topic:

Love

Valentine:
It may all prove to be true.

Hannah:
It can’t prove to be true, it can only not prove to be false yet.

Valentine:
Just like science.

Topic:

Science

Valentine:
Oh, Hannah. Fiancée. Have pity. Can’t we have a trial marriage and I’ll call it off in the morning?

Topic:

Marriage

Hannah:
[...] It’s wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we’re going out the way we came in. That’s why you can’t believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe in angels if you like, but not in the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views. If the answers are in the back of the book I can wait, but what a drag. Better to struggle on knowing that failure is final.

Topic:

The Afterlife

Lady Croom:
You surely do not supply a hermitage without a hermit?

Noakes:
Indeed, madam –

Lady Croom:
Come, come, Mr Noakes. If I am promised a fountain I expect it to come with water. What hermits do you have?

Noakes:
I have no hermits, my lady.

Lady Croom:
Not one? I am speechless.

Noakes:
I am sure a hermit can be found. One could advertise.

Lady Croom:
Advertise?

Noakes:
In the newspapers.

Lady Croom:
But surely a hermit who takes a newspaper is not a hermit in whom one can have complete confidence.

Topic:

Advertising

Note (Hal’s):
It is perhaps worthwhile to explain that in the following portion of the scene, although the characters occupy the same room, Thomasina and Septimus are conversing nearly two centuries earlier than Hannah and Valentine.

— end note

Valentine:
[...] A film of a pendulum, or a ball falling through the air – backwards, it looks the same.

Hannah:
The ball would be going the wrong way.

Valentine:
You’d have to know that. But with heat – friction – a ball breaking a window –

Hannah:
Yes.

Valentine:
It won’t work backwards.

Hannah:
Who thought it did?

Valentine:
She saw why. You can put back the bits of glass but you can’t collect up the heat of the smash. It’s gone.

Septimus:
So the Improved Newtonian Universe must cease and grow cold. Dear me.

Valentine:
The heat goes into the mix.

Thomasina:
Yes, we must hurry if we are going to dance.

Valentine:
And everything is mixing the same way, all the time, irreversibly . . .

Septimus:
Oh, we have time, I think.

Valentine:
. . . till there’s no time left. That’s what time means.

Septimus:
When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning, we will be alone, on an empty shore.

Thomasina:
Then we will dance.

Topics:

Dancing

Mortality

text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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