Arcadia

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A modern-day Coverly sibling, along with Chloe and Gus. Valentine studies mathematics at Oxford and spends the play trying to find an algorithm that describes patterns in the Sidley Park grouse population. He is therefore uniquely suited to understand Thomasina’s attempts to represent nature through iteration, and helps Hannah work out the significance of Thomasina’s explorations.

Valentine Quotes in Arcadia

The Arcadia quotes below are all either spoken by Valentine or refer to Valentine. 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 4 Quotes

When your Thomasina was doing maths it had been the same maths for a couple of thousand years. Classical. And for a century after Thomasina. Then maths left the real world behind, just like modern art, really. Nature was classical, maths was suddenly Picassos. But now nature is having the last laugh. The freaky stuff is turning out to be the mathematics of the natural world.

Related Characters: Valentine (speaker), Thomasina Coverly
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

In the present-day, Valentine, a mathematics student at Oxford, discovers Thomasina's proof for how to model chaotic natural structures. He acknowledges that Thomasina wasn't just bluffing: she really had stumbled upon a form of chaos theory 100 years earlier than anybody else. Valentine goes on to give an informal history of modern mathematics. Mathematics was once seen as a way to model the world in an orderly and predictable fashion. But over time, mathematics became increasingly abstract and alien to the natural world: innovations like non-Euclidean geometry and set theory seemed to have little application to the real world. But in the end, it became clear that the world of mathematics really was applicable to reality: the only way to truly model natural objects like leaves and trees was to use chaos theory.

There's a lot to unpack here. Notice that Lady Croom's theory of the orderliness and regularity of the natural world is nonsensical: as it turns out, the natural world is infinitely chaotic, to the point where only the most abstract of mathematical formulae can represent it. Furthermore, notice the analogy Valentine makes between mathematics and painting: the boundaries between different intellectual disciplines fades away as civilization enters the 20th century.

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The unpredictable and the predetermined unfold together to make everything the way it is. It’s how nature creates itself, on every scale, the snowflake and the snowstorm. It makes me so happy.

Related Characters: Valentine (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Valentine continues to explain chaos theory in a lyrical, nontechnical way. Chaos theory, he claims, argues that the world is both predictable and uncontrollable. The tiniest differences in scale or size can have enormous consequences (a principle often called the "butterfly effect," based on the idea that butterfly flapping its wings in Tokyo could cause a hurricane in Florida). Interestingly, Valentine claims that small, unpredictable events can sometimes, but not always, be balanced out by large, predictable events. Thus, the world consists of a constant interplay between randomness and predictability: uncertainty, but not too much uncertainty, freedom, but not too much freedom.

The passage is another good example of the "poetic" nature of modern mathematics and science, particularly as Stoppard portrays it. There's something poetic, even magical, about Valentine's vision of the world, even though he's a man of math and science, and can back up his ideas with rigorous proofs. Math is a kind of religion for Valentine, something that makes him "happy"--it gives his life meaning, and seems to have major applications for religion, morality, metaphysics, etc.

Act 2, Scene 7 Quotes

Comparing what we’re looking for misses the point. It’s wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we’re going out the way we came in.

Related Characters: Hannah Jarvis (speaker), Valentine
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:
In this passage, Hanah makes a stirring speech about the ephemeral nature of all human knowledge (a speech that is seemingly intended to evoke the speech Septimus gave in the first half of the play). Like Septimus, Hannah sees knowledge as necessarily incomplete. Where Septimus sees human limitation as the source of knowledge's incompleteness, Hannah sees desire and eros as the reason for the incompleteness of knowledge. There can never be total knowledge, and that's a good thing: the desire for knowledge is more important and more powerful. Hannah's point of view is rather Romantic, then, since it eschews completeness and perfection in favor of a constant, noble striving. Yet her ideas could also be interpreted as evoking the Enlightenment, since they hinge on the rigorous examination of information. As the play approaches an ending, it becomes clear that even the characters who claim to believe in "thinking, not feeling" actually need both to survive.

…There’s an order things can’t happen in. You can’t open a door till there’s a house.

Related Characters: Valentine (speaker)
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Valentine analyzes Thomasina's notes on chaos theory, which she saw as an algorithm for predicting the randomness of the universe. Valentine admits that Thomasina understood the basic mechanisms of chaos theory very well: she saw the universe as a fundamentally unpredictable place, in which there was limited room for patterns and order. And yet Valentine also claims that Thomasina didn't really understand what she'd discovered: she didn't understand that chaos theory and the laws of thermodynamics predict the end of the universe. Everything in the universe proceeds from a place of low entropy to high entropy; i.e., things flow from hot to cold, until everything in the universe is exactly the same temperature. (As Valentine puts it, "you can't open a door till there's a house.") Thomasina had unknowingly predicted the end of the world by "heat death."

Valentine's observations illustrate a couple of important ideas. It's strange to think that Thomasina could discover something and yet not see the full implications of her own ideas: and yet such a phenomenon is common in intellectual history. Thomasina's ideas also illustrate a fundamentally pessimistic view of life: the world is getting more chaotic, and all human attempts to reverse the chaos will prove futile in the end. (That is, death exists "even in Arcadia.) In the end, both Enlightenment and Romantic notions of the world prove wrong, since they both hinge on a "pattern" (either intellectual or emotional) that, mathematics teaches us, must eventually break down. And yet perhaps Valentine's notions of life and fate are just as culturally determined as Thomasina's and Septimus's: perhaps Valentine's pessimism about the fate of the universe is just as arbitrary and mythological as his predecessors' optimism.

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Valentine Character Timeline in Arcadia

The timeline below shows where the character Valentine appears in Arcadia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...daughter of the current Lord of the estate, and Bernard Nightingale, another scholar, enter, and Valentine briefly enters and exits. Chloë tells Bernard about Hannah’s project—she’s writing a history of the... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
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Valentine, another Coverly sibling, comes back in, searching for game books, but everything in the house... (full context)
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Hannah and Bernard banter about Valentine, who’s studying something at Oxford related to math, computers, and grouse. Valentine likes to call... (full context)
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...be happy at her lack of feelings for Bernard. Hannah thinks Chloë is referring to Valentine, but then Gus enters, and offers Hannah an apple—it’s Gus, not Valentine, who may have... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Back in the present day, Hannah and Valentine are looking at Thomasina’s old math textbook. Hannah reads Thomasina’s note about how she’s discovered... (full context)
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Valentine explains Thomasina’s meaning, looking at both the textbook and Thomasina’s notebook, where she’s written more... (full context)
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Academia and Education Theme Icon
Hannah asks for more details about how Valentine’s work relates to Thomasina’s. Valentine explains that he’s trying to find the mathematical algorithm that... (full context)
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Hannah asks if Valentine might be able to draw the apple leaf using iteration. Valentine explains that iteration could... (full context)
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Valentine cuts in to mention that he knows that Byron stayed at Sidley Park in 1809... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
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The argument escalates, and Bernard calls Caroline Lamb, beloved subject of Hannah’s bestseller, talentless. Valentine mentions that statistical analyses of the Piccadilly review didn’t convincingly connect it to Byron’s other... (full context)
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Valentine leaves, almost crying, declaring that he’s giving up on his grouse project. Chloë follows. Bernard... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...a tortoise named Plautus. (We, though not Hannah, know that Septimus’s tortoise was called Plautus.) Valentine returns and Bernard leaves for his taxi. (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Hannah reads Valentine a little from the new source about the hermit. The article, from 1832, describes the... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
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Chloë, Valentine and Gus lounge around the table, wearing Regency period clothing (ie, from the early 19th... (full context)
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...has even made the tabloids, but she still thinks it’s silly. Chloë and Gus exit. Valentine hopes that Chloë isn’t too blinded by her feelings for Bernard. Hannah and Valentine banter... (full context)
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Valentine continues work on his grouse project. Hannah in a stirring monologue about the necessity of... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
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Hannah looks at Valentine’s work. He shows her how he’s iterated Thomasina’s equation millions of times, producing a beautiful... (full context)
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As Hannah and Valentine continue, silently, to do work at the table, the two time periods begin to overlap,... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...it’s an iteration—“It eats its own progeny.” Septimus looks back at the book. Hannah and Valentine talk about whether the math demonstrates the end of the world, while Septimus begins to... (full context)
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
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...piano to Gus. Lady Croom complains about the pump noise to Thomasina, while Chloë and Valentine exit to have their photo taken (they’re still wearing Regency-period clothing). Lady Croom touches the... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
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...things” to him. They leave to take a walk, Augustus carrying Thomasina’s drawing, as Bernard, Valentine, and Hannah enter. Hannah carries the garden book of Lady Croom. Bernard is in a... (full context)
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...out his flaw, and Hannah indicates that she’ll publish a letter right away. Chloë and Valentine quickly give Bernard a Regency costume for the photograph of the family that will appear... (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.... (full context)
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...in the hermitage. Bernard apologizes to everyone, but tells Chloë, “It was wonderful.” Chloë and Valentine exit. Bernard gives his best wishes to Hannah for her book. She says she thinks... (full context)