Arcadia

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Septimus Hodge Character Analysis

22 years old at the play’s beginning, tutor of Thomasina Coverly. Septimus has a clever, wry sense of humor only really matched by Thomasina, though she is actually smarter than he is. He studied science at Cambridge, alongside Lord Byron. He’s always looking for love, from his famous carnal embrace with Mrs. Chater to his crush on Lady Croom, but ultimately, Thomasina has his heart. After her death at 16, he’ll become the Sidley hermit, and live out the rest of his days trying, but failing, to express her mathematical theories.

Septimus Hodge Quotes in Arcadia

The Arcadia quotes below are all either spoken by Septimus Hodge or refer to Septimus Hodge. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Arcadia published in 1994.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Thomasina: Tell me more about sexual congress.
Septimus: There is nothing more to be said about sexual congress.
Thomasina: Is it the same as love?
Septimus: Oh no, it is much nicer than that.

Related Characters: Septimus Hodge (speaker), Thomasina Coverly (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

As the play begins, the differences between Thomasina and Septimus couldn't be more obvious. Thomasina is a young, naive girl (barely a teenager), while Septimus is her older, more confident tutor. Curiously, Stoppard doesn't immediately convey Septimus's knowledge of the world by showing him to know math or poetry; instead, he characterizes Septimus as an authority figure by making it plain that he knows about sex--that, not Septimus's academic training, is what separates him from his pupil (who, it's quickly shown, is more than his mach in intelligence). Septimus also comes across as a distinctly modern kind of character, someone who's fairly frank about sex and sexual pleasure--an important kind of character in a play that flashes back and forth between the Romantic and contemporary eras.

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When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backward, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before. Do you think this is odd?

Related Characters: Thomasina Coverly (speaker), Septimus Hodge
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Thomasina is very young, but she notices that she can't "unstir" her pudding; that is, she can make her bowl of pudding more and more disorderly, but she cannot recreate order in a "natural" way. Thomasina has stumbled upon an idea that's at the core of modern mathematics and science: the principle of entropy. The total entropy (i.e., disorder, heat energy) of a system is always increasing: thus, Thomasina can increase the entropy of her pudding, but she can't decrease it again. Thomasina's idea has been known since ancient times, (it was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said "you can't bathe in the same river twice," often interpreted as an observation about entropy), but as we'll learn by the end of the play, Thomasina is actually a mathematical prodigy. Furthermore, the concept of entropy could be interpreted in a more philosophical way, in that life itself tends towards disorder and decay, and it is only through human will and action that we cling to our senses of meaning and order.

Brice (to Septimus): As her tutor, it is your duty to keep her in ignorance.
Lady Croom (to Brice): Do not dabble in paradox, Edward, it puts you in danger of fortuitous wit.

Related Characters: Lady Croom (speaker), Captain Edward Brice, R. N. (speaker), Septimus Hodge
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

In this amusing passage, Thomasina has given some sign that she understands what sex ("carnal embrace") is: a fact that distresses her mother, Lady Croom, and her uncle, Captain Brice. Lady Croom scolds Septimus for teaching Thomasina about such adult matters. And yet she seems more irritated with her brother for trying to sound clever: she tells him to avoid paradox, because he might say something clever without intending to. The way Croome scolds her brother is also interesting because it highlights the word "fortuitous" (i..e, Edward might accidentally say something smart). The concept of accident and randomness is an important theme of the play; the universe's randomness is always increasing, to the point where implausible events are actually likely to happen.

Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?

Related Characters: Thomasina Coverly (speaker), Septimus Hodge
Related Symbols: The Apple and Its Leaf
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important section, we see the novelty of Thomasina's thinking. Thomasina has learned so much about mathematics from Septimus that she begins to think in terms that eclipse the intellectual dogma of her era (and her teacher). Thomasina has learned how to model curves like a bell curve or a circle; but now she wants to discover the curve that can model the shape of a leaf or a rose. In short, Thomasina wants to use mathematics to discover the source of the beauty of the natural world.

Where do we situate Thomasina in the Enlightenment-Romanticism binary? Perhaps Thomasina's example shows us that it's really not a binary at all. Like the Romantics, Thomasina embraces the link between mind and nature; at the same time, she seems to want to use mathematics to break down nature into a series of rigorous patterns, not unlike the Enlightenment thinkers. In general, Thomasina's project goes beyond anything that the Enlightenment or the Romantic era was capable of achieving: her ideas are actually more characteristic of chaos theory, a distinctly postmodern theory of mathematics. Thomasina, one could argue, is the truly "modern" character in the text, someone who belongs in the 20th or 21st century.

We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.

Related Characters: Septimus Hodge (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Septimus gives a long speech about the eternal nature of knowledge. Septimus notes that many of the greatest ideas in history were lost in the Library of Alexandria when it was burned to the ground. And yet these idea have been "reborn"--other human beings rediscovered the ideas later on. Septimus's monologue gives a sense of the limitations of human knowledge: a human mind can only hold so much, just as a traveler can only carry so much in his arms. The finitude of humanity means that certain ideas will inevitably be lost, only to be recovered again.

Septimus's view of history is one of eternal recursion: an idea is gained and then lost, sooner or later. His theories also help us understand why scholarship is so important: by recreating the lives of people who lived a long time ago (as Hannah and her fellow scholars do), we can rediscover some of their ideas--ideas which may have been lost to history.

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Septimus Hodge Character Timeline in Arcadia

The timeline below shows where the character Septimus Hodge appears in Arcadia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...on the stack of papers on the simple, large table. Thomasina, the 13-year-old student, asks Septimus, her tutor, what “carnal embrace” means. Septimus doesn’t give her the real answer (that is,... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Thomasina explains to Septimus the gossip chain—Mr. Noakes, the gardener, witnessed the carnal embrace from afar, then told Chater,... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...She is disgusted but intrigued. She asks if sex is the same as love, and Septimus responds, “Oh no, it is much nicer than that.” (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Jellaby enters with a letter for Septimus from Chater. Mr. Chater wants to meet with Septimus in the gunroom—a detail which suggests... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
...wonders if God is a Newtonian—that is, if God agrees with Newton’s laws of physics. Septimus begins to pose the question he thinks she’s asking—if all of nature moves by the... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Chater enters angrily. Septimus sends Thomasina away. She guesses that Fermat’s note about having a proof for his theorem... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...is pleased with the compliment, and forgets momentarily that he’s supposed to be angry at Septimus. Septimus cunningly explains that he’s been tasked with writing a review of “The Couch of... (full context)
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Noakes enters, distressed to find Septimus and Chater together. Chater reads out his friendly inscription to Septimus, surely the opposite of... (full context)
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
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...of the pleasantly decorative elements like the gazebo and the bridge. Lady Croom asks for Septimus’s opinion. As usual, Septimus enjoys himself, hyperbolically criticizing the garden and exposing everyone else’s ridiculousness.... (full context)
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...Otranto. She hears shots from the men hunting on the grounds, and mentions that maybe Septimus’s schoolmate has managed to shoot a pigeon. Brice thinks, rather, that it was Thomasina’s brother... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...to sketch in a little hermit on Noakes’s plans for the hermitage. Thomasina asks if Septimus is in love with Lady Croom, and Septimus accuses her of being too clever for... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...“The Couch of Eros,” which turns out to be the copy that Chater inscribed for Septimus. The inscription includes “Sidley Park,” which is what brought Bernard here. Bernard doesn’t think he... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...as a joke. Hannah explains she’s studying the history of Sidley Park. She knows who Septimus is, to whom the inscription Bernard read is dedicated—he was a tutor, educated in science... (full context)
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...that he thinks that, though this copy of “The Couch of Eros” is inscribed to Septimus, Byron used it and marked it up to write a review in a newspaper called... (full context)
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...first scene—one is from Chater challenging an unnamed person (we, though not Bernard, know it’s Septimus) to a duel, the next is from Mrs. Chater, and the last is again from... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...him, but as she tries to get him to leave, she mentions that Byron and Septimus were at the same college at Cambridge, at exactly the same time. Thrilled at this... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...century, the tortoise, and Gus’s apple, remain on the table. Thomasina attempts to translate Latin. Septimus reads a letter to which he has no reply, then gives Jellaby a letter of... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Thomasina understands that Septimus is sad that Lady Croom likes Byron. She continues on with her creative ideas about... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
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Death Theme Icon
Septimus attempts to put the lesson back on track, to the Latin poem about Cleopatra. Thomasina... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Brice and Chater enter. Chater asks Septimus to speak only to Brice. Septimus has some fun with this rule, asking Brice about... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
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Chater wants Septimus to duel him. Septimus consents, saying he’s tired of Chater. Septimus mentions that Brice will... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Hannah notes that Septimus Hodge and the hermit were born in the same year, 1787. She starts to believe... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Septimus returns from an early-morning hunt, carrying a dead rabbit, which he gives to Jellaby. Jellaby... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...sending Jellaby away for tea. She tosses down two letters and begins to yell at Septimus. We can gather that one letter was a confession of love to her, and the... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Jellaby delivers tea and a letter from Byron to Septimus. Lady Croom doesn’t want Septimus to read the letter from Byron, whom she no longer... (full context)
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Lady Croom mentions that Septimus’s passionate love letter to her rings false because of Septimus’s fling with Mrs. Chater. Septimus... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...wearing Regency period clothing (ie, from the early 19th century, the time of Thomasina and Septimus). A pot of dwarf dahlias sits on the table. Chloë reads the title of Bernard’s... (full context)
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...who’s played by the same actor as Gus, enters the room, chased by 16-year-old Thomasina. Septimus makes them settle down for the drawing lesson, at the same table where Hannah and... (full context)
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Thomasina reviews her math notebook. Septimus didn’t give her a grade for what she calls her “rabbit equation.” She explains that... (full context)
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Thomasina asks Septimus if she’ll marry Byron. He’s doubtful. Augustus, bored with the lesson, leaves in a huff.... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Thomasina is just a week away from turning 17, and she wants to marry Byron. Septimus and Lady Croom gossip about Byron and Caroline Lamb. (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
...noisy steam pump. She also complains about the hermitage, and wonders who might live there. Septimus mysteriously asks whether the hermitage might fit a piano. Thomasina mentions that the steam pump... (full context)
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Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
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Augustus enters, meekly asking if Septimus will explain some “carnal things” to him. They leave to take a walk, Augustus carrying... (full context)
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...true. He still thinks the Piccadilly reviews were Byron’s (though we know them to be Septimus’s), but the exciting part of his discovery is gutted. Bernard rather unfairly asks Hannah why... (full context)
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The lighting changes to evening. Septimus enters carrying a lamp, and Thomasina enters carrying a candle. Thomasina blows out the candle,... (full context)
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Hannah and Valentine enter. Valentine goes to the table to find Thomasina’s diagram. Septimus also finds Thomasina’s diagram. Valentine realizes that the diagram shows heat exchange, and Septimus summarizes... (full context)
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Bernard enters, removing his costume and planning to leave. Septimus and Thomasina dance slowly and kiss. Chloë enters angrily. Her mother discovered her and Bernard... (full context)
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Septimus and Thomasina continue to waltz. Then Septimus lights her candle and tells her, “Be careful... (full context)