Tom Stoppard

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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.

Mathematics, Nature, and Fate

Thomasina’s project, tragically cut short by her early death, is to find a formula that will express not lines, circles, or other perfect geometric shapes, but the natural forms of nature: “If there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell” (Act 1, Scene 3). Thomasina also believes that a comprehensive formula to describe nature will allow her to predict the future. She…

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Romantic Conceptions of Beauty

Noakes’s changes to the garden bring it from an 18th century Enlightenment mode of order and symmetry to the 19th century Romantic style, an attempt to return to and celebrate the wildness of nature, rather than to constrain it. Yet Romanticism thematically transcends the garden, becoming a sounding board for each character to express their own philosophies about beauty and art. The characters have mixed feelings about whether Noakes’s garden is beautiful. Lady Croom

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Sex and Love

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…

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Academia and Education

Both the 19th century and modern-day sections are structured around academic pursuits. In the 19th century, the dynamic between Septimus, the quick-witted tutor who never condescends to his young student, and Thomasina, the pupil whose brilliance transcends her teacher’s, shows education at its finest. In the last scene, when Thomasina has gone from 13 to nearly 17, sexual tension has entered their interactions, but the play presents this too as sincere and warm-hearted…

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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…

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