The tortoise exists both in past and present versions. In the past, he belongs to Septimus and is named Plautus. In the present, he belongs to Valentine and is named Lightning. The tortoise represents the easily permeable boundaries between the present and the past. He also ends up being the proof for Hannah’s theory that Septimus and the hermit are the same. A historical document notes that the hermit had a tortoise named Plautus, and in the play’s last moment, Gus brings Hannah a portrait Thomasina drew of Septimus and Plautus together.
The Tortoise Symbol Timeline in Arcadia
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Tortoise appears in Arcadia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Act 1, Scene 2
...that the table should retain bits and pieces from both eras—so papers, pens, and Septimus’s tortoise from the first scene remain on the table. Hannah Jarvis, a scholar, looks through Noakes’s... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Act 2, Scene 5
...Hannah a bit of 19th-century travel writing that mentions the Sidley hermit, who had a tortoise named Plautus. (We, though not Hannah, know that Septimus’s tortoise was called Plautus.) Valentine returns... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
...involved with her understanding of the second law of thermodynamics. Thomasina draws Septimus with his tortoise, Plautus. She exits to prepare for the dinner with a count that will take place... (full context)
...Gus enters, and hands Hannah a portfolio containing Thomasina’s drawing, labeled “Septimus holding Plautus,” the tortoise. Hannah thanks Gus, and Gus bows to invite her to dance. She rejects, then accepts... (full context)