Sue's Reviews > Arcadia

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
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's review
Oct 24, 2009

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, who works out theromodynamics and chaos theory (in the early 19th Century!) as the landscape gardeners outside gradually follow romanticism and turn her mother's manicured garden into a more natural (read chaotic) environment.

The real surprise comes when the the early 19th century scene is invaded by 20th century characters who are trying to piece together exactly what happened here nearly 200 years previously. A doomed enterprise, Thomasina could have told them. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says you cannot recapture the past.
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07/03/2016 marked as: read

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