Cover of first edition
|Written by||Tom Stoppard|
|Date premiered||13 April 1993|
|Place premiered||Lyttelton Theatre
Royal National Theatre
|Subject||History, science, philosophy, mathematics, love, death|
|Setting||A Derbyshire country estate in both the past (1809, 1812) and "the present"|
Arcadia is a 1993 play by Tom Stoppard concerning the relationship between past and present and between order and disorder and the certainty of knowledge. It has been cited by many critics as the finest play from one of the most significant contemporary playwrights in the English language.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Characters
- 3 Genre
- 4 Style
- 5 Language
- 6 Themes
- 7 Title
- 8 Contextual information
- 9 Productions
- 10 Reception
- 11 Awards and nominations
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Arcadia is set in Sidley Park, an English country house, and takes place in both 1809–1812 and the present day (1993 in the original production). The activities of two modern scholars and the house's current residents are juxtaposed with the lives of those who lived there 180 years earlier.
In 1809, Thomasina Coverly, the daughter of the house, is a precocious teenager with ideas about mathematics well ahead of her time. She studies with her tutor Septimus Hodge, a friend of Lord Byron (who is himself an unseen guest in the house). In the present, a writer and an academic converge on the house: Hannah Jarvis, the writer, is investigating a hermit who once lived on the grounds; Bernard Nightingale, a professor of literature, is investigating a mysterious chapter in the life of Byron. As their investigations unfold with the help of Valentine Coverly, a post-graduate student in mathematical biology, the truth about what happened in Thomasina's lifetime is gradually revealed.
The play's set features a large table, which is used by the characters in both past and present. Props are not removed when the play switches time period, so that the books, tortoise, coffee mugs, quill pens, portfolios, and laptop computers appear alongside each other in a blurring of past and present.
The play opens on 10 April 1809 in a garden front room of a country house in Derbyshire. Septimus Hodge is trying to distract his 13 year-old pupil Thomasina Coverly from her enquiries as to the meaning of a "carnal embrace" by challenging her to prove Fermat's Last Theorem so he can focus on reading the poem 'The Couch of Eros', a piece written by Ezra Chater, a guest at the house. Thomasina starts questioning why the jam in rice pudding can never be unstirred, which leads her on to the topic of determinism, beginning to develop a theory regarding the chaotic shapes of nature. This, however, is interrupted by Mr. Chater himself who is shortly revealed to be angry that his wife, Mrs. Chater, was caught engaging in "carnal embrace" in the gazebo with Septimus, and has come intending to challenge Septimus to a duel. Septimus attempts to defuse the situation by heaping oleaginous praise on "The Couch of Eros", a tactic that works, as at this point Chater doesn't realise that it was Septimus who had previously negatively reviewed an earlier work of his, "The Maid of Turkey". Landscape architect Noakes enters, shortly accompanied by Captain Brice and Lady Croom, who then proceed to discuss the proposed modifications to the gardens, with Thomasina drawing a picture of an imaginary hermit (in the biblical style of John the Baptist) onto Mr. Noakes's picture of the garden (with its fantasy hermitage) as he sees it in the future.
The setting shifts to the present day, with Hannah Jarvis researching about the house, garden and specifically the hermit, for a study centring on hermits and the romantic imagination. Bernard Nightingale enters, escorted by Chloe Coverly, who fails to impart to Hannah the true identity of Bernard, as he gave Hannah's last book a poor review. Chloe's brother, Valentine Coverly, is doing research into the population biology of the grouse in the surrounding grounds, based on data from the historical "game books". When eventually Bernard's identity is revealed after a verbal misstep by Chloe, Hannah initially reacts angrily but regardless she agrees to share the research material he requested, allowing him to propose his theory that one of the 1809 inhabitants, Mr. Ezra Chater, was killed in a duel by Lord Byron. Bernard notes that records of Chater disappear after 1809; the only other notable Ezra Chater is a botanist.
The third scene reverts to the initial timeframe, again in a tutorial session between Septimus and Thomasina, this time in Latin translation. Again the focus of the lesson diverts somewhat, here on to the destruction of the Alexandrian Library, which upsets Thomasina, who mourns the loss of the knowledge contained there, though Septimus's response is that all that is lost will eventually turn up again. The discussion is once again interrupted by Mr. Chater, who once again challenges Septimus to a duel, having finally realised, learning off-stage from Lord Byron, that Septimus was behind the negative reviews of his work.
Hannah rediscovers Thomasina's primer containing her ideas on iteration and chaos theory, recalling the previous scene's assertion that what is lost is eventually rediscovered. Valentine reacts with interest to this, as his own research in the present day centres on similar areas and concepts.
In the first scene of act 2, Hannah, Valentine and Chloe are given a preview of Bernard's lecture detailing Byron's supposed role in what he believes was Chater's murder. Bernard becomes agitated when Hannah and Valentine challenge the solidity and logic of his argument, responding by launching into a diatribe about the irrelevance of science, before departing to share the lecture in the capital and make promotional appearances in the media. Hannah meanwhile begins to suspect that the hermit of Sidley Park, who was reportedly obsessed with algebra and the heat death of the universe, the theory suggested in Thomasina's diagram, and who was also born in the same year, could have been Septimus.
Reverting to 1809, scene 6 reveals that the duel never occurred, with the Chaters instead having departed for the West Indies along with Captain Brice; Mr. Chater is accompanying the expedition as a botanist, and Mrs. Chater as Captain Brice's paramour. Byron has left also. Septimus has killed a rabbit for Thomasina. Septimus returns to find Lady Croom searching for him, after finding two letters that Septimus had written in case he was killed by Chater, one a love letter addressed to herself and the other, written to Thomasina, regarding rice pudding. Lady Croom then invites Septimus to an amorous rendezvous.
The seventh scene takes place in both 1812 and the present day, with the action of each in the shared setting effectively running concurrently. Furthermore, in the present day, some of the characters are in fancy dress for a party, meaning that the clothes and appearance of both casts are to some extent similar. Chloe is reading newspaper reports on the Byron murder theory as proposed by Bernard, before talking about determinism with Valentine, in a conversation echoing the one between Septimus and Thomasina earlier; Chloe, however, believes that sex is the force throwing off the universe's ordered plan. Valentine uses his computer to further advance the ideas proposed by Thomasina, and discusses the concept of entropy, and whether or not it was Thomasina or Septimus who was the genius behind the theories. Hannah and Valentine mention that "the girl" died in a fire on the eve of her seventeenth birthday.
Meanwhile, Thomasina (who is approaching her seventeenth birthday at this point) asks Septimus to teach her to dance. Lady Croom enters, complaining to Mr. Noakes about the noise of his steam engine, before Thomasina explains that the machine operates under the laws of entropy (not yet propounded at the time) which proves that the universe is winding down. In the present, Bernard arrives at the house where he is met by Hannah, who has discovered evidence, a letter showing the true cause of Mr. Chater's death, that totally discredits his argument and vindicates Lord Byron. While Septimus waits for appropriate music for a dance lesson that Thomasina has asked for, he examines the picture she made to illustrate the irreversibility of heat, an action mirrored in the present setting with Valentine and Hannah also looking at the same diagram and discussing its significance. Bernard is forced to depart having been caught in a compromising position with Chloe. Eventually a waltz starts. Septimus dances with Thomasina, their relationship of teacher and pupil increasingly complicated by hints of romance. Gus—Valentine and Chloe's brother, who has remained silent for the entire course of the play, gives Hannah Thomasina's drawing of Septimus and the tortoise together. This development confirms Hannah's belief that the hermit, who owned a tortoise called Plautus, is Septimus; after the death of Thomasina, and faced with her challenge to the laws of the universe as propounded by Newton, he had become the hermit obsessed with applying "honest English algebra" to the question of the future of the universe.
Characters of 1809
- Thomasina Coverly: The 13 year-old (later 16-year-old) daughter of Lord and Lady Croom, Thomasina is a precocious young genius. She comes to understand chaos theory and theorises the second law of thermodynamics, before either is officially recognised and established in mathematical and scientific communities. Stoppard "apparently based" the character on Ada Lovelace (Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace), daughter of Lord Byron. Ada was an English mathematician who conceptualised how Charles Babbage's Analytical engine could be used.
- Septimus Hodge: Thomasina's tutor and the academic colleague and friend of Lord Byron (an unseen but important character in the play). While teaching Thomasina he works on his own research, and has affairs with the older women of the house. When she is older, he begins to fall in love with her, and after her death it is implied that he becomes the "hermit of Sidley Park", working on the young girl's theories until his own death.
- Jellaby: The Crooms' butler at Sidley Park. His chief functions are to spread gossip and deliver letters.
- Ezra Chater: An unsuccessful poet staying at Sidley Park. His wife's affairs lead him to challenge Septimus to a duel. Later, it is revealed that he is the same person as a Mr. Chater, the botanist who dies of a monkey bite in Martinique (after he has travelled there with his wife and Captain Brice).
- Mrs. (Charity) Chater: Though she never appears on stage, Mrs. Chater and her affairs play a vital role in the conflict of the story. She sleeps with Septimus, and the repeatedly cuckolded Mr. Chater challenges him to a duel. She sleeps with Lord Byron and gets him, her husband, Captain Brice, and herself essentially kicked out of Sidley Park.
- Richard Noakes: Mr. Noakes is Lady Croom's gardener. Throughout the play he is working on transforming the classical, Arcadia-like landscape of Sidley Park into the Gothic style popular at the time (an idea that Lady Croom begrudgingly agrees to). He is key in discovering and exposing Septimus and Mrs. Chater's affair.
- Lady Croom: Thomasina's mother, who rules the Coverly estate with an iron fist. There is a good deal of flirtation between her and Septimus (as well as other gentlemen) through the play. A second Lady Croom, Chloe's mother in the modern half of the play, never appears on stage.
- Captain Brice: The brother of Lady Croom (of 1809) is a sea captain who falls in love with Mrs. Chater. He takes her and her husband to the West Indies at the end of the play. After Mr. Chater's death, Captain Brice marries Mrs. Chater.
- Augustus Coverly: Augustus is Thomasina's trouble-making younger brother, who appears in only a few brief scenes. Gus and Augustus are played by the same actor, and span the gap between past and present.
Characters of the present
- Hannah Jarvis: The author of a popular best-seller on Byron's mistress Lady Caroline Lamb, Hannah is researching the elusive hermit of Sidley Park, who lived in the hermitage there in the early 19th century. Hannah collaborates (sometimes warily) with Bernard (and also with Valentine), though she rejects the romantic advances of both to focus on her work.
- Chloe Coverly: At 18, Chloe is the modern day equivalent of Thomasina (likewise, she is the daughter of the modern Lady Croom). Like Thomasina, Chloe is very perceptive and intelligent. She proposes a theory that the Newtonian universe does not work because of sex and the problems that it causes between people. Chloe initially tries to set up Hannah and Bernard, but later ends up sleeping with him herself.
- Bernard Nightingale: A don at a modern university, Bernard comes to Sidley Park hoping to work with Hannah on his theory about Lord Byron staying at the estate. Foolishly, he disregards searching for further proof of his theories, and, hoping for fame, he announces on TV his theory that Lord Byron killed Ezra Chater in a duel. At the end of the play, Hannah proves him wrong, much to his chagrin.
- Valentine Coverly: A graduate student of mathematics, Valentine is Chloe's older brother. After poring over several old documents, he comes to acknowledge Thomasina's genius.
- Gus Coverly: Gus is Valentine and Chloe's younger brother, who has been mute since the age of five. Gus helps to pass several important props from past to present, and helps connect key moments in the play. Gus and Augustus are played by the same actor, and span the gap between past and present.
The genre of Arcadia is, at the surface, a drama in the specialised, modern sense of being somewhere between a tragedy and a comedy. It involves some elements of classical tragedy—"noble" characters and the audience's knowledge of Thomasina's impending death—but the predominant element is comedy, in the way that the characters interact with each other and their witty, epigrammatic dialogue.
Stoppard scholar Jim Hunter writes that Arcadia is a relatively realist play, compared to Stoppard's other works, although the realism is "much enhanced and teased about by the alternation of two eras". The setting and characters are true-to-life, without being archetypal. It is comprehensible: the plot is both logical and probable, following linear series of events. Arcadia's only true deviation from this definition is the inclusion of two separate, though interrelated, plotlines: both follow a linear structure along parallel lines. An example of this comes after we see the historical Thomasina deriving her mathematical equations to describe the forms of nature; we later see Val, with his computer, plotting them to produce the image of a leaf.
In its simplest form, the language of Arcadia switches between the colloquialisms of early 19th century England and those of modern England. Although Stoppard uses language reflective of his periods—historical or modern speech patterns and lexicons in keeping with his characterisations—this is a stylised dialogue used to convey "look and feel" according to the perceptions of the modern audience. The stylisation, however, allows sufficient latitude in register to make plain the relationships between the characters. For example, Septimus, after failing to deflect a question from Thomasina with a joke, bluntly explains to his thirteen-year-old pupil the nature of "carnal embrace", but this is far removed from the bluntness with which he repudiates Chater's defence of his wife's honour, which "could not...be defended with a platoon of musketry". With Lady Croom, for whom Mrs Chater is a "harlot", Septimus delicately admits that "her passion is not as fixed" as a suitor might wish.
In the modern sequences the dialogue is more realistic, but Bernard consciously assumes some stylisation of language: he not only tries out his forthcoming public lecture using heightened, flamboyant rhetoric, but also engages in a polemical piece of "performance art" to diminish Valentine's belief in the supremacy of scientific thought: not through spite, but merely as a "recreation". The scientific aspects of the play are set out in its historical sections, but Thomasina's precocious (or even anachronistic) references to entropy, the deterministic universe and iterated equations are delivered in an artless, throwaway, manner. The counterpoint in the modern era is when Valentine explains to Hannah the significance of Thomasina's rediscovered notebook with detail that reflects Stoppard's careful research in the scientific basis of his play.
There are conscious textual echoes, across the time frames, of phrases throughout the play. The most notable is when Chloë asks Valentine if, "the future is all programmed like a computer", is she the first to think that the theory is discredited, "all because of sex". Thomasina had been there before her: "Am I the first person to have thought of this? ...If you could stop every atom in its position and direction...you could write the formula for all the future". The difference is significant: Chloë's version allows for the effects of chaos, thus illustrating Stoppard's theme of interdependence of science and art.
Arcadia explores the nature of evidence and truth in the context of modern ideas about history, mathematics and physics. It shows how the clues left by the past are interpreted by scholars. The play refers to a wide array of subjects, including mathematics, physics, thermodynamics, computer algorithms, fractals, population dynamics, chaos theory vs. determinism (especially in the context of love and death), classics, landscape design, romanticism vs. classicism, English literature (particularly poetry), Byron, 18th century periodicals, modern academia, and even South Pacific botany. These are the concrete topics of conversation; the more abstract philosophical resonances veer off into epistemology, nihilism, the origins of lust and madness.
The themes presented within Arcadia are based in a series of dichotomies. The most prominent of these is the idea of chaos versus order, presented through Stoppard's discussion of chaos theory within the play. The action of Arcadia and the characters within it reflect this theory; everything is gradually dispersing into a state of chaos and entropy (represented by the final scene), and yet within that chaos, order can be found. Valentine summarises this idea: "In an ocean of ashes, islands of order. Patterns making themselves out of nothing." Within the chaos that develops over the course of the play—through the overlap of time periods, through increasingly complicated ideas that are presented, through the variances between what is correct and what is assumed—connections and order can still be recognised. The characters attempt to define the order of the world through their ideas and theories, and they are continually overturned (as with Bernard's theory).
The table which collects props from both time periods throughout the play is a strong example of the chaos/order dichotomy. In Science in Hapgood and Arcadia Paul Edwards, professor of English and History of Art at Bath Spa University, explains what this represents: "At the end of the play, the table has accumulated a variety of objects that, if one saw them without having seen the play, would seem completely random and disordered. Entropy is high. But if one has seen the play, one has full information about the objects and the hidden 'order' of their arrangement, brought about by the performance itself. Entropy is low; this can be proved by reflecting that tomorrow night's performance of the play will finish with the table in a virtually identical 'disorder'—which therefore cannot really be disorder at all."
A secondary theme within Arcadia is the dichotomy of Classicism versus Romanticism. It is exemplified primarily through the argument between Lady Croom and Mr. Noakes over the changes being made to the garden. This shows a direct shift between the tidiness and order of Classic style to the rugged, Gothic appearance of the Romantic. This dichotomy is also presented through Septimus and Thomasina, as she argues her new theories and ideas that refute classic Newtonian ideals while he defends them. Hannah's search for the poetic meaning behind the hermit of Sidley Park also remarks on this theme. She passionately exclaims to Bernard, "The whole Romantic sham, Bernard! It's what happened to the Enlightenment, isn't it? A century of intellectual rigour turned in on itself. A mind in chaos suspected of genius...The decline from thinking to feeling."
Another theme of the play, which falls under the category of chaos, is the irreversibility of time. This is examined scientifically through Thomasina's remarks on Newtonian equations, which work both backwards and forwards. And yet in reality, things, like Thomasina's rice pudding (which inspires these remarks), cannot be "unstirred." Heat flows in only one direction. The idea of heat (and the second law of thermodynamics) is thus represented through the actions of the characters. They burn bridges in relationships, they burn letters, candles burn, and in the end, it is revealed that Thomasina will burn to death. The finality of things is always present.
Thomasina's insights into thermodynamics and heat transfer, and the idea that the universe is cooling, echo the poem Darkness by her "real life" contemporary, Lord Byron. Written in 1816—the "Year Without a Summer" caused by atmospheric volcanic ash from the Mount Tambora eruption in the Dutch East Indies—"Darkness" depicts a world grown dark and cold because the sun has been extinguished.
The end of the play brings all of these dichotomies and themes together, showing that though things may appear to contradict—Romanticism and Classicism, intuition and logic, thought and feeling — they can exist, paradoxically, in the same time and space. Order is found amid the chaos.
The title is an abbreviation of an initial, pre-publication, title: "Et in Arcadia ego" (with Arcadia referring to the pastoral ideal of Arcadia), a phrase most commonly interpreted as a memento mori spoken by Death. The phrase translates as "and in Arcadia I am", frequently rendered as "I [Death] too am in Arcadia" or "Even in Arcadia I [Death] am", although the meaning of the phrase is enigmatic and the subject of much academic discourse.
Discussing paintings of pleasant landscapes, Lady Croom mistranslates the phrase as "here I am in Arcadia", on which Thomasina drily comments, "Yes Mama, if you would have it so". Thomasina's tutor Septimus notices; later, knowing that she will appreciate the true meaning, he offers the translation "Even in Arcadia, there am I". He is right: "Oh, phooey to Death!" she replies. Although these brief exchanges are the only direct references in the work to the play's title, they presage the fates of the two main characters: Thomasina's early death and Septimus's voluntary exile from life. Stoppard originally wanted to make this connection plainer by using Et in Arcadia Ego for the title but "box office sense prevailed".
In a more obvious sense, the title also alludes to the ideal of nature as a rustic paradise, with the landscaping of the estate to give a less stylised, irregular form as a major theme in the play. This serves as a recurring reference to the different ways in which "true nature" can be understood, and as a pragmatic parallel to Thomasina's theoretical method of describing the structure of the natural world using mathematics.
In Arcadia, Stoppard presents his audience with several highly complicated mathematical and scientific concepts. Stoppard uses these theories and ideas within the play to illuminate relationships between characters that otherwise would not be conveyed as poignantly.
One of the main thematic concepts in the show is chaos theory. Two authors describe this extremely complicated concept within the context of Arcadia.
The first of these is Paul Edwards in his essay "Science in Hapgood and Arcadia" in the Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard. "Chaos mathematics is about the recovery of information from apparently chaotic and random systems where entropy is high... It is 'asymmetric' (unlike the equations of classical physics), yet it finds regularities that prove to be the regularities of nature itself. Strikingly, this mathematics can generate patterns of amazing complexity, but it also has the power to generate seemingly natural or organic shapes that defeat Newtonian geometry. The promise, then, (however questionable it is in reality) is that information, and by extension, nature itself, can overcome the tendency to increase in entropy" (p. 181).
The second is an excerpt from the chapter on Arcadia in John Fleming's book Stoppard's Theatre: Finding Order amid Chaos. "Deterministic chaos deals with systems of unpredictable determinism, but the uncertainty does not result in pure randomness but rather in complex patterns. Traditionally, scientists expected dynamic systems to settle into stable, predictable behavior. However, deterministic chaos has shown that as many of these systems respond to variations in input... Surprisingly, within these random states, windows of order reappear... 'There is order in chaos—an unpredictable order, but a determined order nonetheless, and not merely random behavior...'"
Further scientific and mathematical concepts covered in Arcadia are the second law of thermodynamics, and in relation to it, entropy. Fleming describes these two principles. "Entropy is the measure of the randomness or disorder of a system. The law of increase of entropy states that as a whole the universe is evolving from order to disorder. This relates to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that heat can flow in only one direction, from hotter to colder. Since these equations, unlike Newton's laws of motion, do not go backward and forward, there is an 'arrow of time' that points toward the eventual 'heat death' of the universe"
By using all of these concepts within Arcadia, Stoppard exposes how "there is an underlying order to seemingly random events." The characters in the play discuss these topics while their interactions reflect them.
Some ideas in the play recall Goethe's novella Elective Affinities: Stoppard's characters "Thomasina" and "Septimus" have parallels in Goethe's "Ottilie" and "Eduard", and the historical section of the play is set in 1809, the year of the novella.
Arcadia first opened at the Royal National Theatre in London on 13 April 1993 in a production directed by Trevor Nunn and featuring Rufus Sewell as Septimus Hodge, Felicity Kendal as Hannah Jarvis, Bill Nighy as Bernard Nightingale, Emma Fielding as Thomasina Coverly, Alan Mitchell as Jellaby, Derek Hutchinson as Ezra Chater, Sidney Livingston as Richard Noakes, Harriet Walter as Lady Croom, Graham Sinclair as Captain Brice, Harriet Harrison as Chloe Coverly, Timothy Matthews as Augustus Coverly and Gus Coverly and Samuel West as Valentine Coverly. It won the 1993 Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play.
The first New York production opened in March 1995 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. It was again directed by Trevor Nunn, but the entire cast changed. It starred Billy Crudup as Septimus, Blair Brown as Hannah, Victor Garber as Bernard, Robert Sean Leonard as Valentine and Jennifer Dundas as Thomasina. This production was the Broadway debut of Paul Giamatti, who played Ezra Chater. The other actors were Lisa Banes (Lady Croom), Richard Clarke (Jellaby), John Griffin (Gus/Augustus), Peter Maloney (Noakes), David Manis (Captain Brice, RN) and Haviland Morris (Chloe). This production won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, and was nominated for the 1995 Tony Award for Best Play, losing to Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion!.
On 27 May 2009, the latest London production, directed by David Leveaux, opened at the Duke of York's Theatre starring Dan Stevens (Septimus Hodge), Samantha Bond (Hannah Jarvis), Jessie Cave (Thomasina Coverly), Nancy Carroll (Lady Croom), Trevor Cooper (Richard Noakes), Sam Cox (Jellaby), Lucy Griffiths (Chloë Coverly), Tom Hodgkins (Captain Brice), Hugh Mitchell (Augustus/Gus Coverly), Neil Pearson (Bernard Nightingale), George Potts (Ezra Chater) and Ed Stoppard (Valentine Coverly). The production recouped its production costs and closed on 12 September 2009.
The show returned to Broadway, at Ethel Barrymore Theatre, on 17 March 2011, with closing scheduled on 19 June 2011, again directed by David Leveaux. The cast includes Margaret Colin (Lady Croom), Billy Crudup (who played Septimus in the original Broadway production, now playing Bernard Nightingale), Raúl Esparza (Valentine Coverly), Glenn Fleshler (Captain Brice), Grace Gummer (Chloë Coverly), Edward James Hyland (Jellaby), Byron Jennings (Richard Noakes), Bel Powley (Thomasina Coverly), Tom Riley (Septimus Hodge), Noah Robbins (Gus Coverly/Augustus Coverly), David Turner (Ezra Chater), and Lia Williams (Hannah Jarvis). The production was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
The Times, reviewing the first production in 1993, praised the "perfect marriage of ideas and high comedy", but for some the ideas overwhelmed the comedy: "...too clever by about two-and-three-quarters. One comes away instructed with more than one can usefully wish to know..." noted The Daily Mail. The play's West End transfer, after an eight-month run at the National, gave an opportunity for re-appraisal and The Daily Telegraph commented: "I have never left a play more convinced that I had just witnessed a masterpiece".
Vincent Canby of The New York Times described the play as "Tom Stoppard's richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and, new for him, emotion" but many New York reviews were mixed or unfavourable, citing anachronisms and a lack of realism in Stoppard's conception.
The London revival of 2009 prompted more critics to laud the play as "Stoppard's finest work". Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian that "[The] play gets richer with each viewing ... there is poetry and passion behind the mathematics and metaphysics." Johann Hari of The Independent speculated that the work would come to be recognised "as the greatest play of its time".
The 2011 Broadway production, directed by David Leveaux, met with a mixed reception. Ben Brantley of The New York Times called it "a half-terrific revival of Mr. Stoppard's entirely terrific Arcadia", noting that "several central roles are slightly miscast", and "some of the performances from the Anglo-American cast are pitched to the point of incoherence." Similar concerns over the production's casting and performances were also raised by critics from the New York magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, Time Out New York and Bloomberg News.
Awards and nominations
- 1995 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play
- 1995 Tony Award for Best Play
- 2006 Arcadia was voted onto the shortlist for the Royal Institution award for "the best science book ever written". The winner, announced on 19 October 2006, was The Periodic Table by Primo Levi.
- 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play
- Fleming 2008, p. 1.
- http://www.tomw.net.au/arcadia.txt, Gale Edwards, 1994, Director of "Arcadia" for the Sydney Theatre Company
- Emmer, Michele. Mathematics and Cinema in Emmer, Michele, ed. (2005). The Visual Mind II (PDF). MIT Press. pp. 572–3. ISBN 0-262-05076-5.
- Fleming 2008, p. 45.
- Hunter, Jim (2000). "Arcadia". Tom Stoppard. Faber Critical Guides. London: Faber. p. 155. ISBN 0-571-19782-5.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 49.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 62.
- Fleming 2008, p. 95.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 4.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 9.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 95.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 70.
- Stoppard 1993, pp. 80–82.
- Fleming 2008, p. 64.
- Edwards, Paul (2001). Kelly, Katherine E, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 178–183. ISBN 0-521-64592-1.
- Stoppard 1993, pp. 56–63.
- Fleming 2008, pp. 48–51.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 97.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 66.
- Fleming 2008, pp. 65–66.
- Fleming 2008, pp. 57–58.
- Cohen, J.M.; Cohen, M.J. (1960). The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books.
- Panofsky, Erwin; quoted in Knowles, Elizabeth (Ed.) (2004). The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations:Arcadia. Oxford University Press.
- Stoppard 1993, p. 13.
- Fleming 2001, pp. 193–194.
- Fleming 2001, p. 194.
- Wilson 2003, pp. 59–66.
- Evening Standard Award Retrieved on 8 October 2009
- Canby, Vincent (31 March 1995). "Theatre Review: Arcadia; Stoppard's Comedy Of 1809 and Now". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
- Rose, Lloyd (20 December 1996). "Stoppard's Coolly Clever ‘Arcadia’". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
- The production was produced by Sonia Friedman and transfer to Broadway in 2010 is planned.Arcadia Recoups Production Costs, Finishes Run Sept 12
- "Crudup, Esparza, Williams & More to Star in ARCADIA; Begins at Barrymore Theatre on 25 Feb.". Broadwayworld.com. 29 December 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
- "2011 Tony Nominations Announced; Book of Mormon Earns 14 Nominations". Playbill. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
- Nightingale, Benedict (14 April 1993). "Ideas meet their comic match". The Times (London).
- Tinker, Jack (14 April 1993). "Another lesson in whims and conceit at the knee of too-clever Mr Stoppard". The Daily Mail (London).
- Spencer, Charles (26 May 1994). "Stoppard's thrilling workout". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Fleming 2008, p. 82.
- Bosanquet, Theo. "Critics Hail Stoppard's Arcadia". Review Round-up. Whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 1 December 2010. "confirms the status of the play as Stoppard's "finest work"."
- Billington, Michael (5 June 2009). "Review: Arcadia". The Guardian (London).
- Hari, Johann (22 May 2009). "Is Tom Stoppard's Arcadia the greatest play of our age?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 1 December 2010. "Standing above them all, making the case for the entire genre [of 'plays of ideas'], is perhaps the greatest play of its time: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard."
- Brantley, Ben (18 March 2011). "Theater Review; The 180-Year Itch, Metaphysically Speaking". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "Broadway Review Roundup: ARCADIA". BroadwayWorld.com. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- Randerson, James (21 October 2006). "Levi's memoir beats Darwin to win science book title". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 17 February 2007.
- Kelly, Katherine E., ed. (2001). The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-64592-8.
- Fleming, John (2001). Stoppard's Theatre: Finding Order amid Chaos. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-72533-1.
- Fleming, John (2008). Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia". Modern Theatre Guides. London: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-9621-8.
- Rush, David (2005). A Student Guide to Play Analysis. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-2609-9.
- Stoppard, Tom (1993). Arcadia: A Play in Two Acts. Samuel French. ISBN 978-0-573-69566-7.
- Wilson, Raymond J., III (2003). "Gardens in Stoppard, Austen and Goethe". In Tymieniecka, Anna-Teresa. Analecta Husserliana 78. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic. pp. 59–66. ISBN 978-1-4020-0858-0.
- Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia, L.A. Theatre Works Audio Theatre Collections, radio play (2009). Full-cast performance featuring: Kate Burton, Mark Capri, Jennifer Dundas, Gregory Itzin, David Manis, Christopher Neame, Peter Paige, Darren Richardson, Kate Steele, Serena Scott Thomas, and Douglas Weston. ISBN 978-1-5808-1596-3. (Available as e-audiobook through OverDrive.)
- Arcadia at the Internet Broadway Database
- A list of Arcadia-related articles and other links
- Chaos, Fractals, and Arcadia, written by Robert L. Devaney from Boston University.