Arcadia (play)

From Academic Kids

Arcadia is a play by Tom Stoppard which first opened at the Royal National Theatre in London on 13 April 1993 and has played at many theatres since. It impressed the critics: the London Daily Telegraph's critic wrote "I have never left a new play more convinced that I'd just witnessed a masterpiece." The play's title is a reference to the Latin phrase Et in Arcadia ego, and underscores the seriousness of its comedy.

Arcadia is set in an English country house at two periods, 1809 and 1989, switching back and forth between them. It takes an acid look at academic research by juxtaposing the interpretations of modern historians with the clues they interpret, which we see being left by the inhabitants of the earlier time. Arcadia explores the nature of evidence and truth in the context of modern ideas of mathematics and physics. The play questions the power of modernity and mocks the motives behind postmodernity, climaxing in one character's spirited soliloquy defending the beauty and wholeness of Aristotle's universe.

The play showcases Stoppard's trademark bravura allusiveness, essaying confidently into each of its myriad scattered foci — mathematics, physics, thermodynamics, computer algorithms, chaos theory, fractals, classics, landscape design, romanticism vs. classicism, English literature (particularly poetry), Byron, 18th century periodicals, modern academia, and even South Pacific botany — which pile up for the audience like the books, coffee mugs, portfolios, laptop computers, and tortoise that accrue on the great table that forms the centrepiece of the set. These are the concrete topics of conversation; the more abstract philosophical resonances start from there and keep going — apart from those suggested in the previous paragraph we might begin by mentioning epistemology, nihilism, the origins of lust, madness. The jokes pile upon each other too, ranging from the subtlest literary innuendos to the broadest sexual ones.

External Links

  • ArcadiaWeb (http://teachers.edenpr.org/~rolson/ArcadiaWeb|), from Eden Prairie High School.
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