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Themes and Colors
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Arcadia, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Sex and Love Theme Icon

Everyone in the play seems to be in love with someone else, or at least sexually attracted to someone else. Septimus loves Lady Croom and later Thomasina. Bernard gets with Chloe, but also wants to get with Hannah. Valentine calls Hannah his fiancée. Gus also seems to have a crush on Hannah. The play begins and ends on the themes of sex and love—ending with Septimus and Thomasina’s kisses, and Gus and Hannah’s dance, and beginning with Thomasina trying to get Septimus to explain what “carnal embrace” means.

Sex and love are also tied to the play’s larger concerns with knowledge, beauty, and death. The play takes both sex and love seriously, never disdaining the characters’ urges, but demonstrating how sex and love can be ways to explore what it means to know another person. Further, sex, because of its procreative properties and unique pleasures, ties into the play’s interest in death and how to transcend it.

But sex and love in the play have even farther-ranging connections—Stoppard links each theme in a complex web. Sex and love also connect to nature, and even to the conflict/contrast between Romanticism and the Enlightenment. Here, after all, are all these scholars engaging in intense intellectual pursuits, but there are physical and emotional longings that also drive them, that are intertwined with their other pursuits and inescapable. They are minds and bodies.

Sex and Love ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Sex and Love appears in each scene of Arcadia. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
Scene length:
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Sex and Love Quotes in Arcadia

Below you will find the important quotes in Arcadia related to the theme of Sex and Love.
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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Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

Chaps sometimes wanted to marry me, and I don’t know a worse bargain. Available sex against not being allowed to fart in bed.

Related Characters: Hannah Jarvis (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hannah dryly sums up her take on marriage. She's been proposed to before, but she's always turned down her potential husbands, because she doesn't want to have to worry about things like "farting in bed." In other words, Hannah sees marriage as an attack on her personal (bodily) liberty, justifiable only in that it provides "available sex." At times, Hannah seems like a (pretty nasty) caricature of the modern feminist academic: humorless, opposed to all "conventional" relationships, etc.

It's interesting to think that there are almost no characters in the play, in either the present day or in the Romantic era, who believe in the ideal of love. Hannah dismisses love as sex and the loss of liberty, and Septimus seems to see love as an opportunity for sex, nothing more. The one character who, presumably, does believe in love is Lord Byron, and tellingly, he's never actually on the stage. Arcadia isn't really a play about interpersonal love at all; it's about the various kinds of desire and attraction that might lead someone to pursue mathematics, academia, science, or writing.