The title of the play comes from the Latin “Et in Arcadia ego,” from a poem by Virgil made famous by a 1638 painting of that title by Poussin. As translated by Lady Croom to Thomasina, the phrase signifies “Here I am in Arcadia.” What Lady Croom intends as a statement on the beauty of her grounds contains the darker meaning that death lurks even in the loveliest surroundings. The “I” speaking in the poem is death, and, in Virgil’s poem and Poussin’s painting, the line is an inscription on a tombstone in Arcadia, a countryside region of Greece known for its harmonious natural beauty.
From Thomasina’s Scene 1 musings on the omnipresence of death, in the form of hunting, in her childhood, to Septimus’s eventual fate as the doom-obsessed madman in the midst of carefully plotted Romantic scenery, death underpins all of the characters’ searches for beauty and love. And at the center of the mystery that Hannah’s trying to research, the question of who the Sidley hermit was, is Thomasina’s death, which drove Septimus crazy with grief. Still, sex, love, and contributions to the world of scholarship are all ways to transcend or be remembered after death, and in that way to gain a kind of immortality.
Death Quotes in Arcadia
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.
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.