Tom Stoppard

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The Tortoise Symbol Analysis

The Tortoise Symbol Icon
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 A historical document notes that the hermit had a tortoise named Plautus, and in the play’s last moment, Gus brings Hannah a portrait Thomasina drew of Septimus and Plautus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.
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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
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...English room in the manor of Sidley Park, where a lesson is taking place. A tortoise, named Plautus, sits on the stack of papers on the simple, large table. Thomasina, the... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...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)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon failed. Valentine exits, abruptly and rudely, as he’s been all along. He takes the tortoise, named Lightning, with him. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Back in the 19th century, the tortoise, and Gus’s apple, remain on the table. Thomasina attempts to translate Latin. Septimus reads a... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...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
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
...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)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
...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)