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Arcadia | Study Guide

Tom Stoppard

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Arcadia | Quotes


You cannot stir things apart.

Thomasina Coverly, Act 1, Scene 1

Thomasina Coverly explains the one-way direction of time that prevents going back to the past or undoing what has been done by putting something back together again. Time always moves forward no matter what.


The Byron gang unzipped their flies and patronized all over it.

Hannah Jarvis, Act 1, Scene 2

Hannah Jarvis complains about the chauvinistic attitude of the clique of male Byron scholars who criticized her last book.


What we let fall will be picked up by those behind.

Septimus Hodge, Act 1, Scene 3

Septimus Hodge explains the deep cycles of time with the theory that everything known will be forgotten and then rediscovered over and over throughout history.


[M]aths left the real world behind, just like modern art, really. Nature was classical, maths was suddenly Picassos.

Valentine Coverly, Act 1, Scene 4

Valentine Coverly talks about the development of the chaos and complexity theory in quantum physics and the discovery that subatomic particles do not behave according to the predictable, orderly laws of Newtonian physics. He alludes to the Cubist painter Pablo Picasso, whose works were abstracted and distorted through geometry.


It's the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.

Valentine Coverly, Act 1, Scene 4

Valentine Coverly explains what it is like to live through a scientific paradigm shift that changes humanity's way of understanding the world. There have been few major shifts in history; one is the development of quantum physics in the 20th century, which sought to study the movement of atoms and subatomic particles that do not follow any rules of motion.


If knowledge isn't self-knowledge, it isn't doing much, mate.

Bernard Nightingale, Act 2, Scene 5

This statement reflects Bernard Nightingale's romantic view that knowledge that provides insight into the human condition is more important than scientific knowledge.


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

Lady Croom, Act 2, Scene 6

During an entanglement of illicit sexual goings-on at Sidley Park, Lady Croom speaks about the tendency to desire people outside a relationship or who are unavailable.


Let them have the waltz, they cannot have the calculus.

Septimus Hodge, Act 2, Scene 7

Septimus Hodge refers to Isaac Newton's claim that German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz plagiarized his calculus. Both are credited with inventing calculus independently. Septimus is willing to credit the Germans with the invention of the waltz, a word of German derivation, a dance, but he will not give up calculus, the mathematical study of change.


It's wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we're going out the way we came in.

Hannah Jarvis, Act 2, Scene 7

Hannah Jarvis explains it is the desire to learn that sets humans apart from other beings.


This is not science. This is story-telling.

Septimus Hodge, Act 2, Scene 7

Incredulous Septimus Hodge questions Thomasina Coverly's essay about her heat exchange diagram that explains the theory of entropy.

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