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4.19  ·  Rating details ·  16,351 Ratings  ·  769 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 l ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published September 24th 1994 by Faber Faber (first published 1993)
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Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Anne by: Sarah Foree
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
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own-it, drama, 2015
I first encountered this play my freshman year of college, and here I am in my final semester, reading it once more. If you have read this play yourself, you might see the beauty and significance in that duality. Nevertheless, I adore this play so, so much. Tom Stoppard is a complete genuis.

The play follows two time periods, the early 1800's and a contemporary setting, both in the same exact location, an English manor house. In the 1800's we observe Thomasina, a 13 year old intellectual, and her
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?

Stellar writing, just a spot under-fed. I would've appreciated more bulk, more fury -- some Sturm und Drang . Alas a two-tiered production featuring landed aristocracy, precocious children and the ribald aura of Lord Byron. Ruminating over these historical effects almost 200
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another wonderful play by Stoppard. This story takes place in two separate time periods, many decades distant from each other, and the events in the earlier period are being studied and referenced by the characters in the latter.

The play captures the often violent dance of art and science, beautifully arranged in waltz time. It delves into chaos theory and questions how much our knowledge is limited by the time we have and the speed at which we can process information. It asks the questi
Roger Brunyate
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Waltz of Time

Reading Iain Pears' brilliant novel Arcadia just now, I wondered how it might have been influenced by Tom Stoppard's 1993 play of the same title, which has been described [in the article I shall cite below] as "maybe the greatest play of our age." Answer: very much, and yet hardly at all. Stoppard casts his play of ideas as a drawing-room comedy—or rather two comedies alternating in the same room, the one beginning in 1809, the other in 1990. Pears infuses his ideas into a mel
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Philosophy vs science progress. What is more important to mankind? What makes us happy? The play Arcadia (1993) is complex. Stoppard explores many different themes and contrasts such as past and present, and order and disorder. They melt together and show that everything is connected.

The play is set in a country house, Sidley Park, in Derbyshire, and follows the lives of people living there in the 1800's and present day. This is a rich play with more questions than answers. It involves philosoph
May 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
THOMASINA: Septimus, what is carnal embrace?
SEPTIMUS: Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one's arms around a side of beef.

Oh my god, I wish I'd written this. The wittiest, most hilarious play out there. Don't believe me? Here are some of the highlights:
(For some reason they neglect to include the funniest bits. Why??!)

Blisteringly clever with fantastic characters and a simple but brilliant premise: the inhabitants of Sidley Park in the 20th centur
Sep 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-adult
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
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
The minority report once more, alas. Although reading a play, rather than seeing it in a theater (especially with the quality of actor and actress that Tom Stoppard's work usually brings onstage), is like judging food made with only half the ingredients of the recipe. This is a work half-set in an England about to begin its Regency period, with lots of nineteenth romantic bravura--precocious and doomed genius, trysts in the gazebo, sailing to gather specimens, and dueling, into which Lord Byron ...more
Sep 17, 2016 added it
Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, one of the finest dramatic works of our time, manages simultaneously to be audacious, complex, thought-provoking, poignant, and hilarious. It shows no evidence of failing to pass the test of time because its themes are so perennial and its conception and execution so striking.

The action of the play takes place in two periods of time but the same setting, an English country house in 1809 and the present. Scenes alternate between these periods, a fresh set of character
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays, library
I think the intricacies of this play are best enjoyed through performance not reading, especially the last acts when centuries cross. There were several laugh out loud lines I rather enjoyed. However, the plot lines of sexual interference, science and math theory, and Lord Byron were just too twisted within the time warp for me to keep straight. I'd much rather see this on stage. I think I'd highly praise its unique direction.
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays, fiction
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
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
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
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)
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
Brilliant. I'd had no idea. (I mean, I had an idea of Stoppard's genius, but why'd I wait so long to read this play?) Erudite and multi-leveled: Enlightenment rationality and science (chaos, Newtonian geometry, English gardens) against/with Romantic literature and art (Lord Byron, high emotion, beauty, sex, and wild nature). Indelible characterization. And so, so funny.
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
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!
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm not typically a large fan of plays, but this is written quite excellently. It reads as easily as a novel and had my attention. There are many smart references to literature, history, and the arts. This will easily be one I read again...definitely a novelty for me when it comes to plays.
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Like a 4.5 right now but I might like it more in a few days when it's sunk in.
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dara Salley
Jul 26, 2012 rated it liked it
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
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright.

Born Tomáš Straussler.

More about Tom Stoppard...
“It is a defect of God's humor that he directs our hearts everywhere but to those who have a right to them.” 565 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?” 108 likes
More quotes…