Arcadia Plot Summary..

The following information is a brief plot outline. The summary will be categorized by scenes.


Scene 1

The audience is immediately immersed into the world of Arcadia through the characters Septimus Hodge and Thomasina Croom. Characters in Arcadia . The two characters are discussing the meaning of carnal embrace, which proves to become a significant topic. Thomasina has overheard that Mrs. Chater was found in carnal embrace with someone in the gazebo. Septimus, as her tutor, tries to shield the truth from her and tells her that carnal embrace has to do with meat. However, Thomasina soon discovers that carnal embrace is really "sexual congress." Furthermore, the audience realizes that Septimus is the person that is caught in "carnal embrace" with Mrs. Chater. Characters in Arcadia . She is intensely curious about hearing further information, but Septimus skillfully attempts to divert her concentration to the application of Fermat's Last Theorm. Fermat's Last Theorem (and proof) . While Septimus is giving Thomasina her lesson, they are interrupted by Jellaby, Characters in Arcadia . who has a message from Mr. Chater. Minutes later, Mr. Chater Characters in Arcadia. enters into the scene furious because he believes that Septimus insulted his wife by denying her attractiveness. The quarrel takes an unexpected twist because Septimus diverts Mr. Chater's attention to discussing his new book, "The Couch of Eros." Septimus heavily flatters Chater and Mr. Chater ends up writing an important inscription in Septimus's copy of the book. This inscription aids in future developments of the play. The two men are interrupted by the entrance of Lady Croom, Brice and Noakes Characters in Arcadia. into the room. The entrance is very comical because Lady Croom is overheard by Septimus and Mr. Chater gossiping about the recent events in the gazebo. Once Lady Croom has been established into the scene she begins to discuss plans for her garden with Noakes. Her curiosity about his plans becomes apparent because what was once elegant beauty and refined English gardens is now ruins and towering forests. The first reference to the title Arcadia is made. "Et in Arcadia ego," properly defined means "Even in Arcadia, there am I." Virgil's Pastoral Poems. Lady Croom's fear that her beautiful garden representing Arcadia might be lost with Noake's new plans. The curtain comes down with the popping of distant gunshots in the hunting fields and the foreshadowing of new characters to come.
Analysis Questions for Scene 1.
A Short Selection from Scene 1.



Scene 2

The second scene introduces the characters Hannah Jarvis, Chloe Coverly and Bernard Nightingale. Characters in Arcadia. In addition, the play also changes time periods and the characters are now in the present time, instead of the 1800's. It is vital to note that everything remains the same including the setting and props. For example, the theodolite and Thomasina's practice books from the first scene are still situated on the table. Bernard is visiting Sidley Park because he is researching the mystery surrounding the supposed death of the character Mr. Chater from the 19th century and he wishes to speak with Hannah, who is also doing research on the garden and specifically the hermitage located in Sidley Park. Chloe welcomes Bernard and goes in search of finding Hannah for him. While Bernard is waiting he encounters Valentine who is looking for the commode. His search becomes extremely confusing because Bernard believes Valentine is looking for the commode, as in a toilet. Whereas, Valentine is actually searching for the cabinet with the game books in it. This dialogue demonstrates the overall confusion between characters that occurs throughout the majority of the play. Bernard is extremely interested in establishing a connection with Hannah Jarvis and her research because her discoveries will aid in his process of uncovering the truth. Through Hannah and Bernard's conversation, we gain some insight and understanding about other characters. Valentine, Gus and Lady Croom and Noakes are described in further detail. Eventually, Hannah divulges her findings about the events at Sidley Park during the 1800's. Hannah has discovered that Septimus's pupil was the Croom's daughter. However, there is still confusion surrounding the hermit . When the hermitage was opened after the death of the hermit, piles of paper were discovered. This finding was important because it demonstrated that the hermit was possibly mentally and emotionally frustrated. In essence, he was a "genius in chaos." This scene is basically a discussion between and Hannah and Bernard where they try to piece the various information together in hopes of aiding both their research topics.
Analysis Questions for Scene 2.


Scene 3

Septimus, Thomasina and Jellaby are all situated in the schoolroom. The copy of "The Couch of Eros" is placed on the table. Once again demonstrating the overlap between periods and characters. Thomasina is practicing her Latin with an attitude of boredom. Thomasina becomes angry with Septimus because he begins to outsmart her with his Latin abilities. As a result, she brings up the possibility that her mother, Lady Croom, is interested in Lord Byron. Characters in Arcadia. This information apparently upsets Septimus because he makes grand attempts to change the conversation topic. The audience is introduced to Thomasina's math revelations for the first time in the play. Basically, it is suggested by both characters that nature is possibly written in numbers. The conversation becomes too controversial for Septimus and he tries to revert back to the Latin lesson. at the mention of her lesson, Thomasina becomes upset about the prospect of great authors, works, etc. becoming lost in time. Septimus reassures her by stating that he believes that these things are never extinct. They eventually reveal themselves. They might not be in the same form, language or initial state but they consist of the initial concept. Thomasina leaves the room in a mad fury and Captain Brice Characters in Arcadia. and Mr. Chater enter the room. They have come to discuss Mrs. Chater and her relationship with Septimus. Mr. Chater is extremely angry at the idea that Septimus has insulted and emotionally injured his wife. Lady Croom disrupts the confrontation with her entrance. Lady Croom proclaims that she will not let Lord Byron leave Sidley Park and it is Septimus' job to keep him on the grounds. Lady Croom exits the room as disruptly as when she came and Septimus and Brice finish their conversation. The two men agree to have duel to end the argument.
Analysis Questions for Scene 3.


Scene 4

In this scene we re-enter into the present day. Hannah and Valentine have discovered Thomasina's math lesson booklet. Valentine demonstrates his obvious amazement at the problems that Thomasina had been attempting. He realizes that she had been creating iterated algorithms. Specifically, every time she works out a value for y, she then uses that answer as her next x value and continues the pattern. The reason why Valentine is so impressed by her logic was because it was so revolutionary for her period. After all, this equation had only been around for 20 years previous to Valentine. The world had been doing the same type of math for thousands of years before Thomasina and for nearly a century after. However, in the midst of everything, Thomasina was creating the new patterns. The audience learns that Valentine is using the same ideology to study the population changes in biology and specifically the grouse population. However, he has found that it is extremely difficult to find accurate data because of the constant "noise," or interference in the grouse data. Hannah is very confused about Thomasina's discovery and the importance surrounding it. Valentine explains that her algorithms make it possible to intertwine the unpredictable factors in nature with the predictable variables. Within moments, Bernard enters the room in a state of high excitement because he has just discovered the copy of "The Couch of Eros." Hannah has also found something very vital to the plot, a note from Lady Croom to her husband about her brother, Captain Brice, and his recent marriage to Mrs. Chater. The two conclude that this is the same Mrs. Chater that was married to Mr. Chater, the author of "The Couch of Eros." Consequently, they concluded that Mrs. Chater must have been widowed. Bernard begins to make many assumptions surrounding the death of Mr. Chater. He adamantly states that Lord Byron, who was a friend of Septimus and a guest of the Crooms at Sidley Park, attempted to seduce Mrs. Chater and as a result there was a duel between Mr. Chater and Lord Byron Characters in Arcadia. Mr. Chater was killed and Byron fled the scene. The rules of the duel, etc. Hannah refuses to take any credit for this discovery because she still believes there are still too many discrepancies in the story. For example, the idea that there is no proof that Lord Byron ever visited Sidley Park. This argument was shattered by Valentine's statement that Byron was actually in the game book. This signaled that Lord Byron was in fact on the premises. Hannah continues to stand firm with her suspicions. In fact, Hannah is still consumed with Thomasina's mathematical equations to argue with Bernard about it. She refuses to dismiss what might have been Thomasina's reasoning behind the continuation of the iterations and what possessed her initial discovery.
Analysis Questions for Scene 4.


Scene 5

This scene opens with Bernard's passionate speech that he has written with his information. He is practicing in front of Chloe, Gus and Valentine. His main point was that Sidley Park was not a place about beautiful gardens and architecture. It was about sex and literature. During his speech, Hannah enters the room and disrupts numerous times. Hannah and Valentine begin to question Bernard's logic. For example, on page 59, Hannah tells Bernard, "You've left out everything which it doesn't fit." Chloe makes vast attempts to help Bernard fill in the holes by making assumptions about what occurred. The argument eventually evolves into a conversation about personalities versus scientific progress. Bernard's opinion is that what really matters is scientific progress and overall knowledge, not the people who actually made the discoveries. Valentine leaves the room because he is frustrated with Bernard's logic and Hannah and Bernard are left alone to engage in another quarrel. Bernard is preparing to leave to catch his taxi to the airport. The two eventually say their good-byes and Valentine re-enters the room occupied with Hannah alone. Valentine has discovered the key to the entire hermit mystery. The letter that Valentine has found gives the hermit's date of birth and death. Hannah realizes that they are the same as the tutor, Mr. Hodge. In her words, "The genius of Sidley Park living on in a hermit's hut." This is the epitome of irony because Bernard has just left to deliver a speech about what happened at Sidley Park and his information is now void with this new finding.
Analysis Questions for Scene 5.


Scene 6

Scene six begins as Jellaby welcomes Septimus into the house after an early morning hunting experience. Septimus enters the room and immediately takes a dead rabbit out of his coat which he says is intended for Thomasina. Jellaby takes little notice of the rabbit and proceeds to question Septimus about his whereabouts the night before. Septimus responds by telling Jellaby that he had slept in the boat-house, and it was from there that he had seen a carriage leaving the park. To his surprise, Septimus then learns that this carriage belonged to Captain Brice and had carried Mr. and Mrs. Chater with Lord Byron on his horse following soon after. With some convincing on Septimus' part, Jellaby begins to tell him about the event which had lead to this sudden dismissal. He says that Lady Croom and Mrs. Chater had run into each other outside Lord Byron's room. Then in the midst of his story, Jellaby is interrupted by Lady Croom's entrance. At this point Jellaby leaves and conversation continues between Septimus and Lady Croom, who is holding two mysterious letters. Both letters had been written by Septimus, one addressed to Lady Croom and the other to her daughter, Thomasina. Lady Croom goes on to express her disapproval for both letters and her anger towards Septimus. She requests that Septimus follow the other four people who had left Sidley park the night before. While re-telling the story of the previous night, Lady Croom is interrupted as Jellaby enters the room with another letter. This one is written by Lord Byron and is intended for Septimus. Not knowing its contents, Lady Croom doesnt approve of this letter as it is written by someone who isn't welcome in her house. Septimus doesnt argue but instead slowly sets fire to the un-opened envelope -- "a letter by Lord Byron never to be read by a living soul." Then Septimus agrees to leave Sidley Park as soon as possible. Lady Croom expects that he would follow Mrs. Chater who was headed for the Indies with Captain Brice and Mr. Chater, but Septimus says that he had no previous knowledge of this expedition. The scene ends as Lady Croom asks Septimus how he could write such a intimate letter to her, while also having "sexual congress" with Mrs. Chater. To her surprise, Septimus says that Mrs. Chater had forced herself on him, and in the midst of the passion, his only thoughts were the imagination of Lady Croom's body in Mrs. Chater's place. Feeling flattered and unsure how to respond, Lady Croom goes on to invite Septimus to her room. The scene ends as she leaves the room and Septimus burns the two letters he had written.
Analysis Questions for Scene 6.


Scene 7

ONLY READ THIS PORTION IF YOU ARE PREPARED TO KNOW HOW THE PLAY ENDS!

Scene seven is the most confusing and the hardest scene to understand. This is primarily because Stoppard constantly alternates between the two time periods and intermixes dialgoue from both. With the use of multiple conversations, the main objective of this scene is to show the viewer the connection between the characters of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century. Click here to read further about scene seven


Analysis Questions

Scene 1
  1. How is the first scene concerning carnal embrace important to the scene and the play as a whole?
  2. What is the significance of Thomasina's discovery of the jam in the rice pudding?
  3. The first reference to the title, Arcadia is made in the first scene. Does Lady Croom feel that Sidley Park is a good representation of this definition? Explain.

  4. Go to scene two summary


Scene 2
  1. Explain the differences between the setting and characters in scene one and scene two.
  2. Why does Bernard come to Sidley Park?
  3. How does Hannah react to Bernard's presence? How do her feelings change when she realizes who he really is?

  4. Go to scene three summary


Scene 3
  1. What does Thomasina use the apple leaf for?
  2. Explain Septimus' theory concerning "recycled possessions and ideas."
  3. How are Thomasina's math discoveries important to the play?

  4. Go to scene four summary


Scene 4
  1. Explain the discovery made by Valentine and Hannah.
  2. What is the significance of "noise" in this scene?
  3. What is the significance of the couch of eros?

  4. Go to scene five summary


Scene 5
  1. What does Bernard say in his speech? Why is this important?
  2. What is the significance of Bernard and Valentine's discussion concerning personalities and scientific progress?
  3. What is Hannah's major discovery?

  4. Go to scene six summary


Scene 6
  1. Who is forced to leave Sidley Park and for what reason?
  2. What are Lady Croom's initial feelings about the letters written by Septimus?
  3. How does Lady Croom react to Septimus' flattering comments?

  4. Go to scene seven summary


Scene 7
  1. What is an important discovery made by the characters in the present concerning the characters from the nineteenth century?
  2. How does Stoppard tie the two centuries together?
  3. What is the overall meaning of the play?


Page by Kara Lidell and Katie Woll

Picture of the gardens at Stour
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