-This play is very much structured like a symphony.
-Iteration over time is a major philosophical question within the play.
-Became kind of an obsessed anglophile, sort of more British than the British.
-Most people know him best from Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are dead, where he somewhat tried to do
-Stoppard is a philosophical playwright, participates in what is called the play of ideas.
-Stoppard’s approach to Beckett: see handout
He’s also interested in finding order within chaos, all the questions Beckett was interested.
Stoppard doesn’t want to decide that inhabiting this universe is always a bad thing, is not as
absolutely pessimistic as Beckett. Just because the world is indecipherable shouldn’t be dejecting,
it just stimulate our intellectual curiosity.
-A lot of the action in this play is filling in gaps in a world that doesn’t seem to make sense, Thomasina and
the Latin passages. Sometimes you can fill in gaps with things that aren’t true, but there is a kind of
adventure to it.
--Plot of the Play
Two time periods
I: 1809- A series of characters at an enormous country house and garden. There are a series of romantic
liasons. There is a bad poet named Ezra Chater on the premises. Has a wife named Mrs. Chater, and she’s a
bit of a whore. She jumped Septimus in the gazebo. Septimus is not the only person she’s slept with, also
Bryce? (head of Sibley park’s brother) as well as Lord Byron. Ezra is the author of a very bad play and a
very bad poem. Septimus is Thomasina’s tutor (the daughter of Lady Crew) and eventually her love—they
fall in love. Lord Byron is hanging around in the background. Byron as known sort of less as a poet and
more as a celebrity. We’re lead to believe that Thomasina was potentially a genius who died before her
work could have recognized, knew scientific and other developments ahead of her time.
II: Present (1993)- The descendants of Lady Crew: Chloe, Valentine. Lord Augustus is also part of the
Crew family with a descendant named Gus who doesn’t talk. Attention is principally devoted to 2 academic
characters: Hannah and Bernard. Our sense of why Bernard could be at Sibley park is that he’s trying to
demonstrate there are 2 Ezra Chambers, the poet and the botanist, and that Byron killed the first one and
fled. He wants to be a famous academic, and is making a lot of intuitive leaps. Hannah’s project is that she
is writing about a hermit who is living in Sibley park and died in 183(4)? She knows there was a hermitage
(people paid hermits to live in them). Hannah wants to see the hermit symbolically, not sure who he is, but
suspects that this guy represents the failure of the romantic imagination to her. Romanticism, according to
Hannah, which is so opposed to reason eventually gave way to insanity. She found out this hermit was
perceived to be insane. Hermit as a symbol of madness, what happens when you give up reason in favor of
-We see a relationship between time period I and II. People in II are continually guessing about what
happened in I, sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.
-Play opens with a famous line: pun of carnal embrace. Septimus is trying to lead her into the wrong
interpretation of something. Not entirely incorrect, but leading her on the wrong track. The play also starts
with a question about sex, which is very important. Sex in the book is very hard to classify.
-Page 8: You can interpret in multiple ways. What is Septimus saying about the example of rice pudding.
She sees it as a problem that you can’t reverse the stirring. He doesn’t see it as a loss of order, but as a
lighthearted demonstration of free will.
Q in Homecoming: Why are these men so angry
Q here: How do we anticipate disorder? -Newton likes an orderly universe. Thomasina doesn’t care about free will, she cares about disorder.
-Thomasina is saying there may be a formula for things that don’t seem like they should have a formula.
She’s asking if there is a way of predicting disorder that people haven’t thought of, and would this pattern
to disorder give us comfort?
-This play is sort of a machine for manufacturing images of order vs disorder, chaos vs control.
One example is landscape architecture. An architect is coming to make the garden more chaotic.
-his pg 10: Noakes has drawings of the gardens, with transparent drawings of present and future.
--pages 18-19: The garden as it is now is the bowl of porridge before being stirred, carefully ordered. The
version after is the chaotic version.
-Photo of Shepherds hanging around a gravestone.
-Meaning of Arcadia: thought of as a utopian paradise or garden. Symbolic importance as a place of
innocence where shepherd’s gather. The statement means I too am in paradise, however the I is death. Lady
Croom misspeaks here, saying she likes it in paradise, but she undermines herself because bad things are in
paradise too. Something difficult and dangerous in paradise.
-Photo of Netwon shaping earth with right angels as God.
-In Arcadia, all of the stuff introduced at the very beginning, the jam, the picturesque, Newton vs chaos,
Arcadia vs death in garden, determinism vs free will, all are oppositions.
-When we finally meet Hannah and Bernard, we know they have specific beliefs about how to go about
research. Each would champion one garden over another, for example Hannah would like that orderly
garden, doesn’t have much patience for the romantic imagination. Bernard believes that coming to
understand the past has a lot more to do with intuition.
-Why does Stoppard arrange this masterpiece of oppositions based in this of orderly and disorderly.
-Stoppard trying to show how you move from an orderly universe where things go according to plan vs a
picture of the universe where all kinds of inexplicable things happen.
-Valentine talking about the loss of heat over time.
-Emotional concerns that accompany a loss of order over time. What they’re freaking out emotionally is
that things get irretrievably lost, things can’t go back to the way they were