Arcadia
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Arcadia

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  11,003 ratings  ·  513 reviews
Arcadia takes us back and forth between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging over the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life. Focusing on the mysteries—romantic, scientific, literary—that engage the minds and hearts of characters whose passions and li
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Paperback, 97 pages
Published September 24th 1994 by Faber & Faber (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Catie
This weekend I was looking at my almost seven year old daughter and marveling at how quickly she’s grown up. I thought: she’s still so young and she’s still so new. But then I thought: no, she’s not. Not really. The atoms and molecules that make up her body are actually billions of years old. Inside, she carries pieces of what are now distant stars. She carries pieces of the original humans. She carries pieces of me. She carries pieces of her children. And yet, there has never been and there wil...more
Kelly
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anne
Apr 16, 2008 Anne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Anne by: Sarah McLeod
The only play I've ever read that made me want to be an actor, however briefly--just for long enough to speak some of Stoppard's incredible lines. Witty, erudite, passionate, petty, catty, dry, elegant or vile, there's not a character who doesn't get off a zinger at least once per appearance, and usually oftener. Lady Croome alone barely walks into a room without puncturing egos left, right and center. Encountering a scene of midnight shenanigans in her country house, she tells the perps they're...more
Rob
Enough people love this play that it presumably has some good qualities. But I just couldn't get past the snide, obnoxious characters, and the facile, frequently inaccurate treatment of science and math, which panders to the "science is just the product of fallible human impulses and, like, we don't really know anything for sure anyway, man" attitude that has become the norm among intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who, for one reason or another, aren't interested in science.

As a presentati...more
John
I would like to make it clear, right out front, that I adore some of Tom Stoppard's work. But this is insufferable, elitist piffle. The fact that it is so highly praised in so many circles confirms, to my mind, that the arts, like the rest of our culture, are utterly degenerate.

Kurt Vonnegut once described the job of a writer as being "a good date." With "Arcadia," Stoppard wears too much cologne, won't stop talking about himself, blows smoke in our face, farts in the elevator, and seems to thin...more
Amber
I should have liked this more than I did, truly. I mean, I get that this is a play about how one goes about mapping emotional and physical complexity onto intellectual models and how it breaks down and breaks apart, in the same way that Romanticism signalled the end of the Enlightenment, or how the two had trouble coexisting in the same garden. (But they can be united! By fractals! And sex!)

My problems were thus:
1) I didn't like any of the characters. They were all so self-impressed, self-pleasi...more
Maree  ♫ Light's Shadow ♪
I listened to the audio version of this in the car and just loved it. It was a full ensemble, made easy by the fact that it's a play, so everything is spoken anyway. It's so clever, and keeps you on your toes trying to figure out the relationships and what's going on. It was sometimes a little tough to figure out the voices and who was speaking, but I'm pretty sure I got most of it.

The words and ideas in this are just so beautiful. It's a story about science concepts and historical dialogue, and...more
J.
Arcadia is a fatalistic farce, a comedy about the consequences of taking poetry and science seriously. It juxtaposes scenes from two different time periods, early 19th century and present day England. The scene is a Derbyshire country house. One time period is trying to predict the future the other trying to reconstruct the past.

In 1809 Septimus Hodge the tutor of Thomasina is helping her to make mathematical discoveries, Septimus has been discovered in a compromised position with the poet Ezra...more
Meg
Mar 25, 2011 Meg rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: drama
I read this first in a college course called The Scientist on Stage, which was a really wonderful class, definitely one of my desert island favorites. It was a version of the class Patton Oswalt describes in his "Physics for Poets" bit: we, the liberal arts students, learned big science concepts by reading plays that featured science and scientists. The class was taught by a quantum physicist who was clearly delighted by everything he got to teach us. He gave us concepts like they were stories,...more
Evanston Public  Library
Stoppard's wit and craftsmanship infuse every line. This is an absorbing exploration of the differences between the Romantic and Classical temperaments--between feeling and thought--as well as an investigation into the connections between science and literature, all shaken and linked by the unifying disruption of sex. It's a tour-de-force that requires your share of creative work, but also makes you laugh out loud. (Jeff B., Reader's Services)
K.m.
So close and yet so far. This had a lot of the ingredients that should have produced an awe-inspiring flourless chocolate cake of a play, but it just didn't come together for me. I enjoy plays that are able to play with historical characters and ideas and connect them to bigger themes, I enjoy the play of contrasting (or apparently contrasting) ideas like poetry and science, Romanticism and Enlightenment,etc especially when the author is able to complicate the black and white into gray and I enj...more
Bonnie
I LOVE THIS PLAY!!!!!!!!!!! Setting aside musicals (where Les Mis has my heart forever and ever), this is my absolute favorite play.

I saw this first, during the current (2011) revival in New York City. I go back and forth whether it was better to see it or read it first, but I think I liked seeing it first. I got to witness it brought to life and glimpsed the big picture before going back and reading the lines and seeing what I missed.

Everything takes place in the same room in the same house in...more
Dara Salley
Tom Stoppard and math! It sounds like a marriage made in heaven. Stoppard is excellent at taking obscure ideas, relating them to the meaning of life and then somehow turning them into a dramatic scenario. He throws so many facts and concepts at the reader that at times it felt like I was holding on for dear life. I tried my best to keep up but I may have to read this play a few more times to rehash some of the deeper philosophical ideas. Luckily it’s a pretty short read.

I have to say this was no...more
Margaret
My favorite play by Tom Stoppard, who’s often been referred to as one of the cleverest and most literate minds currently writing for the stage – or anywhere else, for that matter. His work is unfailingly intellectual in the best sense of the word, alive with the energy of a naturally brilliant and inquisitive mind constantly in motion: gleefully absorbing new information, delighting in the juxtaposition of unlikely ideas (philosophy and gymnastics, for example) and forever doubling back to chall...more
stephanie
my first introduction to stoppard, it remains my favorite. what can i say? any play that starts with a discussion of what "carnal embrace" means has won my heart.

this was the first play i had read in a long time that was so . . . intellectual, that trusted so much of its audience. there is no pandering to a "common intelligence" - as a viewer, as a reader, we are expected to be like thomasina - studious, learning, not knowing everything, but being a bright bubble. (of course, she was on a diffe...more
Anna
This play was incredibly boring. Again, I'm sure I was rather lost with it because I didn't understand it as well as I should. It seemed like there were a lot of "academic" references that I couldn't follow, and I didn't care enough to take the time to look them up. I didn't care about any of the characters (although it seemed Septimus was witty enough) and I sure didn't care about the plot (whatever that was...something about researching whether Byron really has ever been in that city and if Ch...more
Torben
"All over the place" is the most fitting description I can think of after reading Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. It isn't inherently bad or uninteresting, sometimes even genuinely funny, but overall I felt like wasting my oh-so precious time.

Though I am actually interested in seeing the actual play, since Stoppard used some really interesting directions for the staging and the interplay of both timelimes. Especially the last scene with the timelines seemingly colliding or rather playing parallel side b...more
Janh55
I wondered how the reviews of this as a "brilliant, brilliant play" "a masterpiece" a play of "consummate theatricality, of sophisticated entertainment and or heartache for a time never to be regained" could possibly be true.

But just reading it has been a complete pleasure, let alone seeing it performed on stage. It's clever, witty and economic, switching back and forth between centuries forever contrasting the classic against the romantic, involving science, maths, theoretical physics and litte...more
Jens
Reviewing this play is both trivial as well as impossible for me.
If you venture to Arcadia's Wiki page you'll find right at the top:
it (Arcadia) has been cited by many critics as the finest play from one of the most significant contemporary playwrights in the English language.

, summing up the unquestionable brilliance of the play. I was blown away by the successful attempt by Stoppard to intertwine many highly complex topics (view spoiler)...more
Leslie
Hmmm... lots to think about in this two act play! Despite Stoppard's wonderful touch with the one-line quips and ripostes, this play isn't really a comedy. Within the humor there are some serious ideas regarding how academics interprete artifacts to construct a version of the past and whether the world/universe is determinate or chaotic.

I would love to see a production of this!
Jenny (Reading Envy)
It has been too long, I need to read it again.

“Septimus: When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning, we will be all alone, on an empty shore.

Thomasina: Then we will dance....”
Sue
Oct 24, 2009 Sue added it
Stoppard again weaves philosophy, science, history and literature into a drama. Although the play is really about the second law of thermodynamics (which says that the universe is gradually becoming more, not less, diffuse and chaotic), we get a merry dose of literature (Byron). There is an oblique nod to Lady Ada Lovelace, Byron's daughter, who worked with mathematician Charles Babbage in developing the theory of the programmable computer. That nod is manifest as the budding genius Thomasina, w...more
Taylor
Considering I was very against reading this at all, I quite enjoyed it.

Arcadia has an incredibly interesting concept: two interconnected plots going on at the same time, with over 100 years in time between the two. One is the story of the residents of Sidley Park in 1809, the other the story of the residents in about the 1990s. The modern residents are researchers studying the 1809 residents, who seem to have a fascinating history after the part of their story the readers see.

The characters are...more
Karen Powell
Two time periods 180 years apart are spliced together to share one stage and several props. In an aristorcratic household in the early 19th century, teenager Thomasina is on the cusp of a great mathematical discovery well before her time as her witty and amorous tutor Septimus fends off (true) charges of adultury with failed poet Mr. Chater's wife Charity. In the late 20th century, two scholars descend upon the same house in the quest for answers to different questions. Bernard believes that Sep...more
Dottie
I think this was one of the earliest of the few plays which we have read as a group on CR over the years and I LOVED it -- I love reading plays and hadn't read any for a while -- this was a delightful return to the genre. And I knew what a ha-ha was when we got to Waterloo because of this play!

remarks by moi in the original CR discussion of this one:
The entire point is that we don't know. We don't know a
far, far greater amount than we do know.

Did I mention yet how much I loved reading this play...more
Rachel C.
In my experience, things that are both smart and funny tend to be cynical. It takes great skill to author a work that is intelligent, humorous and *also* rich with emotion. Tom Stoppard's best works (including "Arcadia") achieve this feat.

The play is set in an English country house in the present and also in the early 1800s. The contemporary inhabitants, a writer and a professor of literature, piece together the happenings of the past involving, among others, a wunderkind named Thomasina Coverl...more
Leigh
Tom Stoppard is the wisest of us all:

HANNAH: You musn't give up.
VALENTINE: Why? Didn't you agree with Bernard?
HANNAH: Oh, that. It's all trivial - your grouse, my hermit, Bernard's Byron. Comparing what we're looking for misses the point. It's wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we're going out the way we came in. That's why you can't believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe
...more
Samantha
I am not the type of person to read anything more than once (at least not without years in between readings), but I have read this play at least five times since I first discovered it in 2005. It is only 97 pages long, yet it is one of the most enthralling, frustrating, imaginative, and amazing books I have ever come across. Even while competing with Harry Potter and my childhood favorites, this play always comes out in the top five of my favorite books of all time. Not only is it intellectually...more
Rachel
I loved this extremely, and would do much for the chance to see it performed - the shifts of time with the same furniture, the same apple and tortoise. The tiny victories, like the sketch at the end, and the huge tragedies(view spoiler)...more
Ben Mcfarland
This is really a play review, but I read it as a book so I'll review it like a book.


Like most Stoppard plays, Arcadia jams a lot in and seems to be a bit like Pontius Pilate, "always asking what the truth was and never waiting for an answer." (Bill Mallonee's lyrics) After the end, you can provide your own answers, so I have no problem with that, but it's that aspect that keeps this from the top of the list.


The play is set in a single room in an English estate, with half the scenes in the early...more
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Eclectic Readers: Arcadia 1 6 Aug 15, 2013 07:18PM  
Circle of Books: Who was Lord Byron? 2 6 Jul 03, 2012 09:29AM  
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  • The History Boys
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  • Translations
  • The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
  • In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
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  • Buried Child
  • The Homecoming
  • Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches
  • The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade
  • Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Stop...
More about Tom Stoppard...
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“It is a defect of God's humor that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them.” 523 likes
“We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?” 57 likes
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