Sunday Afternoon Reads - Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia"

This week we move to a contemporary playwright, Tom Stoppard. Also famous for such plays as "Jumpers" and the alternate story of Hamlet "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", "Arcadia" contains an equal if not superior amount of wit to these plays and provides really belly-aching laughs in a world of canned laughter and sitcoms.
The excerpt I included this week in "Literary Inspirations" comes from the early scenes of the book. Septimus is the tutor of young Thomasina, a precocious young girl who is extraordinarily scientifically gifted - a peculiar talent for a person of her age and gender in 1809. Even those who haven't read the play may be familiar with one of Thomasina's quotes:

If you could stop ever atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and though nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could.

The 1809 story line is a delicious mix of this simplistic stating of complex scientific theories (including the pudding bowl/second law of thermodynamics analogy) and hysterically funny interactions between the characters. Another layer of interest is laid on with the introduction of the parallel modern day story. The two storylines take place in the same location (a Derbryshire country house) but in different times. They explore similar things - search for understanding, search for truth, sex, heat - in the ways that the characters mix and relate with their time contemporaries. It is only in the final scene that the times truly collide in a poignant waltz depicting relationships that can never be - unrequited love forever.

This play is beautifully written and I would give my left arm/Care Bear Penguin/suede wedges to see it performed live, although I understand the thespian criticism that it is almost impossible to get an actress who can play the role of Thomasina to a convincing degree - you would need to find someone that looks young enough but is also a really old soul. Go out, buy, beg, borrow or steal (not that I'm condoning theft) this play and give it a read - you'll be entertained and in love, guaranteed!

5 stars out of a possible 5 (and I can promise you won't see this very often)


  1. BTW - can see that this post has something funky going on with the HTML but for the life of me don't know how to fix it :(

  2. Hey sweetie, just check to see if the html tag for the link is closed.

    also, that sounds really interesting! im not a huge play reader but i think i will pick this up!

  3. After that review I've definitely added it to my Amazon wishlist!