Byron in Arcadia
Even though Byron does not actually appear in the play Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, he portrays a very important role. Throughout the play, he links many characters together and is directly responsible for many different events that occur.
The intricate connections between Byron and many other characters are essential to Arcadia. Let's look at the connection between Byron and Septimus Hodge,(the tutor of Thomasina Coverly). Both attended the school Harrow and at the school they were academic rivals.
Byron was the basis of the relationship between Bernard
Nightingale and Hannah Jarvis, two literary researchers. Although Bernard
claimed he was researching Chater, a poet of the early 19th century, he
was much more interested in Lord Byron. Hannah, for her part, wrote a book
about Caroline Lamb, with whom Byron had an affair. This book she wrote
not only set a hostile tone in the relationship between the two, but defined
their personalities. Where Hannah was more interested in obscure characters
of history and studies their own contributions as significant, Bernard
was more interested in the main historical figures and looked for people
that could help him in the finding of these historical people which could
lead to attention for him.
The duel that was supposedly fought between Byron and Chater was the basis of Bernard's published work. Later on in the play, the truth about the duel ruins Bernard's credibility. As it turned out, Byron was an instigator of the duel, which actually occured between Septimus and Chater. After Septimus cleverly calmed Chater down, Byron brought up Septimus's degrading book reviews of Chater's work. This rekindled Chater's anger and leads to the planning of a duel.
The book reviews also caused some confusion with Bernard because he believed they were written by Byron. Yet the copy of Couch of Eros that Byron possessed previously belonged to Septimus Hodge. This furthered debate on this confusing issue.
Bernard has a difficult job of discovering the truth throughout the play. There is little information and many inferences are made. It was known that Byron left the country but his reasons were unknown. His only proof was an old newspaper article stating:
"'If the consequences of my leaving England were ten times as circumstances which render it absolutely indispensable, and quit the country I must immediately.'"
Editor's note: "'What Byron's urgent reasons for
leaving England at this time has never been revealed.'"
Byron's role in Arcadia, although confusing, is very important. Characters in both time periods are connected through Byron. His influence created many of the underlying complexities that make the play interesting.
Edited by: Katharine Ellingson