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Literature Study GuidesArcadiaAct 2 Scene 6 Summary

Arcadia | Study Guide

Tom Stoppard

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Arcadia | Act 2, Scene 6 | Summary



The scene shifts to 1809. At 5:30 in the morning, Septimus Hodge enters after an apparent early morning rabbit hunt, surprised to find Jellaby looking for him. Jellaby, after a small bribe, informs him the house has been in an uproar, and Lord Byron, Captain Brice, and the Chaters have left. Septimus claims he missed the excitement because he slept in the boathouse but did see a carriage leave. Jellaby tells him Lady Croom ran into Mrs. Chater leaving Lord Byron's room just as her ladyship was entering it during the night.

Lady Croom confronts Septimus about the letters she has found in his room. Septimus explains the letters were written in case he was killed in the duel scheduled for dawn and should not have been opened. One letter is a love letter to Lady Croom, and the other is a message to Thomasina about her rice pudding observation. Lady Croom threatens Septimus with banishment, but when she claims Chater discovered the affair between Lord Byron and Mrs. Chater, Septimus deftly promises to get the truth from his friend Lord Byron, implying he could then reveal the truth to Lady Croom's husband, but not until Lady Croom sends him away. She accepts his manipulations and asks if he would like to follow the Chaters to the Indies, who have joined her brother, Captain Brice, on his expedition. She explains Mr. Chater will be the botanist cataloging the plants they find there. Septimus is genuinely surprised by this news, but Lady Croom explains how her brother pays to support Chater's efforts as a way of being near Mrs. Chater, whom he loves. Septimus convinces Lady Croom his own affair with Mrs. Chater was only a result of his being in such an aroused state from thinking about Lady Croom. Flattered, she invites him to her room to teach her about Latin philosophers.


Septimus Hodge reacts with surprise to Jellaby's news that the Chaters, Captain Brice, and Lord Byron left in the night, but it is most likely disingenuous. He would inevitably have noticed the parade of carriages leaving the estate, and when Chater and Captain Brice do not appear for the duel, he would have surmised something had happened. His jolly mood as he enters betrays his knowledge of their departure. Lady Croom demonstrates her power and vindictive streak with her swift ouster of anyone associated with Mrs. Chater. Septimus shows he understands her ego by the way he deftly manipulates her into keeping him on at the estate.

This short scene is the climax of the play in its modern time frame. Although the contemporary researcher Bernard Nightingale is still unaware, the mystery of what happened as a result of Ezra Chater's challenge is solved, revealing the truth that a duel never happened and why. Lord Byron does not kill Chater, as Bernard believes, but Septimus foreshadows Ezra Chater's eventual death as part of Captain Brice's expedition when he says, "I think, my lady, he would have Mr. Chater die for her." It also confirms that the poet and botanist are the same person.

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