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Arcadia | Study Guide

Tom Stoppard

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Arcadia | Symbols



In Arcadia the garden symbolizes the cultural and intellectual perspective of the age. The plan to transform the garden from the orderly, formal garden to the untamed, picturesque Gothic landscape represents the shift from rational thinking of the Enlightenment to the emotional, unrestrained attitudes of the romantic era. Lady Croom sums up this symbolism in Act 1, Scene 1. "Here is the Park as it appears to us now, and here as it might be when Mr. Noakes has done with it. Where there is the familiar pastoral refinement of an Englishman's garden, here is an eruption of gloomy forest and towering crag, of ruins where there was never a house, water dashing against rocks where there was neither spring nor a stone I could not throw the length of a cricket pitch. "

The garden also alludes to the archetype of the unspoiled, utopian gardens of mythology, such as Pan's home and the Garden of Eden, which represent humanity's original, unblemished state. In Act 1, Scene 1, Lady Croom describes the estate's garden as "nature as God intended." It is a symbol of perfection. The state of the garden can be seen as a measure of the human thought process. In Arcadia, the shift to the unrestrained landscape reflects the loosening of intellectual rigor.


A tortoise appears repeatedly in both time frames; Plautus belongs to Septimus Hodge, and Lightning belongs to Valentine Coverly. Tortoises are known for long lifespans and are, therefore, symbolic of longevity and continuity over time. The appearance of the tortoises is a reminder to the audience of the long patterns of time, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Both Septimus and Valentine seem to treat their tortoises as literal and metaphoric touchstones, unconsciously touching their tortoise or moving it when they are considering an idea. In Act 1, Scene 1, Septimus moves Plautus just as he is explaining determinism and free will, and Valentine picks up his tortoise while considering Bernard's request to do research at the estate in Act 1, Scene 2.

The names of the tortoises might reflect their places in time. Plautus is the name of a Roman playwright; Lightning is a natural phenomenon, sometimes dangerous and often appearing in romantic landscapes. It is also verbally ironic in that tortoises are slow moving and long enduring, whereas lightning is fast moving and instantaneous.


In Arcadia, heat is a symbol for passion and emotion, representing the characters' sexual and emotional energy. According to the second law of thermodynamics, heat is lost in any exchange between bodies until eventually all heat is lost; the loss of heat results in disorder and death. In the play as emotional and sexual exchanges among the characters increase, so does the chaos and breakdown of peaceful relationships.

Act 2, Scene 6 reveals the multiple, overlapping sexual affairs of the residents of Sidley Park have finally resulted in a complete breakdown of their little community. Lady Croom banishes Lord Byron, the Chaters, and her brother after she catches Mrs. Chater leaving the room of Lord Byron, Lady Croom's latest love interest. In the modern timeline, Bernard Nightingale's passions result in discord and disorder on the estate in Act 2, Scene 1. The existence of heat or passion seems to lead to a deterioration in analytical thinking as emotion overrules rational thought.

Questions for Symbols

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For the final writing assignment in this course, you will write a researched argumentative essay. As a first step, you will identify some possible topics of interest for research. By Saturday, October Questions: (Answer in short sentences) 1. What details give us a clue to the time in which the essay was written? Is the time necessary to the main p
essay on my hobby essay on corruption essay on over population
From the book Confessions written by Augustine, answer the following: What is Austine confessing, why, and to whom? What book by what author does Augustine read at age 18 that changes his life? What m
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