Title: Arcadia is an ideal and idyllic pastoral setting of beauty and peacefulness. Sidley Park represents this meaning. See footnote 1 on 1022. (Also see references, pp 1032,1073 ) Arcadia also refers to a tombstone inscription signifying death. Allusion to the Garden of Eden - introduce sin--disorder/loss of innocence.
Structure: Act 1 (Scenes 1-4); Act 2 (Scenes 5-7). Think of the relationship between these two acts and how the play alternates between 1809 (Romantic period) and the present day. Scenes 4 and 5 are set in the present; the last scene combines both time periods (in the same room).
General Introduction: See NA, Vol F, p 26, first paragraph under "Drama." Also, see p 28 about Stoppard.
Overview of the play's issues
The main conflict in the play is how the peacefulness/tranquility
of Arcadia is upset (see intro to the play/references to Aracadia) by the
research into the past by Hannah and Bernard. Both characters
try to order the past by discovering gaps in information about the past:
Hannah--history of landscape gardening (hermit of Sidley Park)/Bernard--who killed Chater (discovery about
Byron). But what happens is that their research (quest for knowledge)
doesn't lead to clear answers. Their research raises more questions:
movement from order to disorder and the incomplete view of the past with
research based solely on reason or solely on intuition. As readers we
see the past and then how characters in the present try to understand (and
order) that past. And both Septimus (logic-driven classical view of
the world) and Thomasina (who intuitively senses the limits of this view as she tries to prove its validity mathmatically) wrestle with their views
of the world looking ahead to the future that they don't know .
This is why landscaping garden (see handout) and views of sciences
(see handout) are important. Each focuses on this idea of order/chaos,
Romantic/classical, past/present. The final act brings these ideas
Landscape Garden: Classical/18th Century (order) to Romantic (Gothic) (disorder):
pp 1030-32. Also, see handout I gave you. Theories of gardening also reinforce the movement from reason/logic to feeling/emotion.
See handout - social/political ideas represented by landscape (garden)
Landscape Garden: Classical/18th Century (order) to Romantic (Gothic) (disorder): pp 1030-32. Also, see handout I gave you. Theories of gardening also reinforce the movement from reason/logic to feeling/emotion. See handout - social/political ideas represented by landscape (garden)
Science: Opposition between order and disorder.
- Order: Newtonian science: laws explain cause and effects--deterministic universe--pp 1026, 1072-74
- Disorder - entropy: pp 1025-26--Thomasina and pudding/Other examples: pp 1048, 1055-56/tea getting cold--pp 1076-77
From the laws of thermodynamics, which help explain changes in energy (e.g., heat) and the availability of energy for work in closed or isolated systems.
- 1st law: Total energy of the universe is constant; energy is neither created or destroyed.
- Energy gained in one place must have been lost in some other place. Energy lost by one system must appear as an energy gain in somewhere else.
- 2nd law: Entropy of a closed system increases with time or remains unchanged. Entropy is the measure of a system's degree of disorder on a molecular scale. Increase in entropy: greater inability for work, disorder, chaos, randomness. Probability dictates that a spontaneous change will move from an ordered state to a disordered state.
Chaos Theory--see handout I gave you. Deterministic chaos--ordered randomness--consider the final scene--two sets of characters, from two time periods, in the same room, dancing together. See pp 1087--to the end.
Key passages: act/scenes 1.4 (pp 1054-56), scene 2.5
(pp 1060-63; p 1065), scene 2.6 (pp 1070-73)
Characters in the play search for knowledge that leads to disorder and uncertainty rather than order and understanding. The past cannot be fully recovered. Nightingale (reference to Keats) is wrong about Byron (Chater is killed by a monkey) and Jarvis has the feeling that Septimus is the Sidley Park hermit, but her knowledge of the landscape of Sidley Park remains incomplete. Limits to what documents can reveal about the past. What about the human beings involved in the past/history? Hannah relies on intuition to discover the identity of the hermit, not logic--although she can't prove it (see scene 7, when Gus finally does bring her the proof). Bernard's pursuit of Byron is driven by vanity and ego as much as intellectual inquiry. Thomasina speculates about mathematics as well as sex, love, and dancing.
Additionally, discussions of science and sex reveal this tension: Genius (in history, science, literature) requires reason and feeling. And the desire for knowledge is what makes us human.
Another question to consider: How does Arcadia use humor? What does humor reveal?
In the end, there is some sense of underlying order: symmetry and order of dancing/search for knowledge--see Hannah Jarvis's comment on pp 1074-75.