Tom Stoppard was of Czech-English descent and grew up in Singapore before moving to England where he became a journalist, critic and later a play writer. Stoppard was known for his diverse and provocative ideas and technics that he articulates into his work to draw on emotion and drama. This unique and intellectual style of drama can be seen in Stoppard most renowned work Arcadia. Arcadia is a romantic tragedy/comedic play that is set in an estate during two quite distant time periods 1809 and 1989 were juxtaposed and the whole play revolved around a series of antitheses classicism and romanticism, art and nature, order and chaos, determinism and free will. In this question, I will show how the central themes of the play identify the relationships between desire, knowledge and disorders. Tom Stoppard Arcadia is a difficult play to label and covers various themes, one of the most central to the play is the themes of time and knowledge, how the future is directly impacted by our past or how we interpret the past and how the past often holds the answer to the future. Arcadia conveys this theme beautifully by jumping from past to present numerous times during the play. knowledge is another vocal theme that impacts the play, the play can be partly described as a detective story were a number of the main characters are trying to unravel the past to discover knowledge, knowledge and time are directly connected in the play, the knowledge discovered in both time periods overlaps with each other. In the play present time characters can often be related back to the past characters, for example, Thomasina and Hannah both experience simpler traits and faults. Other themes such as Enlightenment vs. Romanticism are common occurrences in the play, this is seen early on with the idea of changing the garden design in Sidney Park from emotion and intuition that were viewed as more valuable than the mental processes. Noakes’s transformation of the Sidley Park gardens from the simple, classical forms of nature into the fanciful, supernatural ideals of the Romantic mind-set symbolizes this historical transformation.
Desire plays an important role in teaching us about the characters in the play, all the characters have desires to learn about their interests if that be Thomasina desire to learn about mathematical equations or Hannah’s interest to learn the identity of the Sidney’s park hermit and Bernard interest in the past and trying to find out about the relationship between Enza charter and Lord Byron. Desire differs slightly from both time periods during the 19th-century desire takes the form of sexual and sentimental and in 20th-century desire is more for historical and mathematical knowledge. In the play we see most of the characters pursuing a desire for knowledge. Along with the desire to learn, there is sexual desire that many of the characters also pursue, the characters sexual desire often come in completion with close family members, such as Thomasina and her mother’s interest in Septum’s and Gus and valentine interest in Hannah. This adds to the complicated world that the characters find themselves trying to make out, this also adds to Stoppard point that humans are imperfect that there is a disorder in everyone which in the ends faults them. The character sexual desires relating to love can be broken into two parts ‘heavenly love’ and ‘common love’. We see instances of both during the two time periods. Heavenly love can be seen in the relationship between Thomasina and Septimus, Thomasina often asks Septimus question sexual related but often question that prompt learning and wisdom. This kind of love is identical to the love Pluto’s talks about in his works which he describes part of heavenly love being when People offer something good in terms of wisdom but not sexual desire. This type of desire and love is different from the of Septimus and Thomasina mother which is common love purely based on sex and has no other value to the characters in it than that. We see this type of love in the present time period of the play when Bernard criticizes Hannah’s book on Lord Byron and wants to have sex with her, his sexual desire and love shows no indication of learning or obtaining anything other than sexual fulfilment. The common love that Bernard is experiencing is a disorder in the play, his sexual desires are eating away at his pursuit of knowledge, many people compare this disorder to the teaching of queen Elizabeth who felt that love storeys work the idea that love brings conflicts is often referenced in the play by the characters, with Valentine saying things cannot work with sex. Desire is impacted over time in both periods, as we see the main characters such as Thomasina and Hannah grow and understand the world there living in better we see their desires grow and change as they gain knowledge.
Knowledge and the gaining of it is an important theme in the play as stated already, we see the desire of knowledge to learn generally and learn to love. Both can be considered to be up against one another. The characters such as Septimus and Hannah avoid love during the start of the play, love seems to be feared by both at the beginning preferring to concentrate on their works and interest. The pursuit of learning brings up many metaphors and debates in the play, the debate humanities vs sciences arises out of the pursuit of learning. However as Stoppard reveals different things to the audience, it allows them to make up their mind as to whether or not knowledge can truly be pieced back together due to the mistakes that Bernard particularly makes about Byron.
Disorder is a theme which shapes the ideas of the character in the play, one of the key disorders that occur in the play in that of time and how over time we lose energy and deteriorate. We see an example of this in the play during act one scene one when Thomasina say’s “when you stir your rice pudding Spetimus the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas, but if you stir backwords the jam will not come back together again, indeed the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just like before, do you think this is odd?” this question describes the analogy that is occurring in the play between the two time periods, what Thomasina is describing is how structure begins to deteriorate over time, kind of like how a battery loses energy all the time and never gains it. We see this analogy play out in the structure of the story, at the beginning we see that the time periods are structured with one scene being fixed with Regency-era Arcadia and the next contemporary Arcadia. This, however, changes as time goes on and both eras become more disjointed and both time periods follow one another in quick succession. The metaphor can be understood by making 1809 scenes the rice pudding and 1993 scenes the jam as the play is affected by time they become more and more connected like the rice pudding and in the last scene of the play were both couples are waltzing in Sydney house we see the connection complete almost identical during both time periods.
Tom spotted play Arcadia plays out some of the most depth metaphors around and is considered to by many to be one of the finest plays of the last century. The play suggests that we are forever re-enacting the patterns of the past with mild variations or, in other words that the human heart beats to an iterated algorithm. The ideas of desire, knowledge and disorders all blend together perfectly to create a compelling and provocative story. An article in the Independent described the process of the creation of the story by saying “It’s a moment that shows the power of the play of ideas to fuse together concepts and characters into a theatrical grenade. This final scene is the waltz that takes place inside all of us – of our ancestors dancing with our present, of reason dancing with irrationality, and of hope dancing with despair, as the roaring, crackling sound of the heat-death draws ever closer