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Arcadia

Arcadia

Written by Tom Stoppard

Narrated by Kate Burton, Gregory Itzin and Full Cast


Arcadia

Written by Tom Stoppard

Narrated by Kate Burton, Gregory Itzin and Full Cast

ratings:
4.5/5 (32 ratings)
Length:
2 hours
Released:
Jun 15, 2009
ISBN:
9781580815970
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia merges science with human concerns and ideals, examining the universe’s influence in our everyday lives and ultimate fates through relationship between past and present, order and disorder and the certainty of knowledge. Set in an English country house in the year 1809-1812 and 1989, the play examines the lives of two modern scholars and the house's current residents with the lives of those who lived there 180 years earlier.

The New York Times calls Arcadia: “Tom Stoppard’s richest, most ravishing comedy to date. A play of wit, intellect, language, brio and emotion,” and The Royal Institution of Great Britain calls it: “the best science book ever written.”

Includes an interview with Steven Strogatz, the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos and professor at the Cornell University School of Theoretical and Applied Mathematics.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring:
Kate Burton as Hannah
Mark Capri as Chater
Jennifer Dundas as Thomasina
Gregory Itzin as Bernard Nightingale
David Manis as Cpt. Brice
Christopher Neame as Noakes and Jellaby
Peter Paige as Valentine
Darren Richardson as Augustus
Kate Steele as Chloe
Serena Scott Thomas as Lady Croom
Douglas Weston as Septimus

Directed by John Rubinstein. Recorded at the Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.

Arcadia is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.
Released:
Jun 15, 2009
ISBN:
9781580815970
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Tom Stoppard was born "Tomás Straüssler" in Zlin, Czechoslovakia in 1937 and moved to England with his family in 1946. Catapulted into the front ranks of modern playwrights overnight when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead opened in London in 1967, he has become recognized as a contemporary comic master, the brilliantly acclaimed author of The Real Inspector Hound, Enter a Free Man, Albert's Bridge, After Magritte, Travesties, Dirty Linen, Jumpers, New-Found-Land, Night and Day, The Real Thing, Hapgood, Artist Descending a Staircase, Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, Arcadia, The Invention of Love, The Coast of Utopia (Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage), and Rock 'n' Roll. He has also written a number of screenplays, including The Romantic Englishwoman, Despair, and Brazil. In 2017, he was awarded the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.


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Reviews

What people think about Arcadia

4.5
32 ratings / 25 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?

    Stellar writing, just a spot under-fed. I would've appreciated more bulk, more fury -- some Sturm und Drang . Alas a two-tiered production featuring landed aristocracy, precocious children and the ribald aura of Lord Byron. Ruminating over these historical effects almost 200 years later in the same room are a rasher of academics, including a physicist. There are some stunning lines here. I simply wanted more.
  • (4/5)
    The place is Sidley Park, a 19th-century English country house and estate. The time alternates between 1809 and 1989 throughout. In 1989, two academic historians (with a not so friendly relationship) are visiting the estate to investigate two seemingly unrelated subjects: a hermit who once lived on the grounds, and life of Lord Byron. However, while the evidence uncovered points towards one conclusion, it may in fact be interpreted in various ways. The events and happenings of 1809 are slowly revealed as past and present are blurred together. Only, the truth is not exactly what was expected. Arcadia is a marvelous, humorous, and brilliant play in which everything is not as it seems. Quite enjoyable, I hope to see it on the stage one day. Experiments in Reading
  • (5/5)
    A phenominal play. Breathtaking.
  • (4/5)
    SO GOOD. Stoppard knows what he's doing.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent! I am not a typical fan of plays/drama but Tom Stoppard tells an amazing story.
  • (4/5)
    This play is not a consistently funny as some of Stoppard's other works, but it definitely has its share of quotable one-liners. Some daring moves in staging, such as the overlap between the present and the past, which eventually reaches the point of having the two time periods represented on stage simultaneously, side by side at the table that remains a constant link between the characters. It is a look at science and literature; how does science discover the things it does? How does literature overlap with science? What constitutes evidence? (Though this last might be a bit subtle in places). It also looks at the question of what happened to the enlightenment, as the characters move through the changes leading from enlightenment thinking to romanticism. As usual when Stoppard assays science, he does it right, though it's often more in the mathematical and statistical realms that he wanders. His intellectuals also aren't cardboard cutouts, moving through the play without feeling, total logic suppressing the emotions they are assumed not to possess. They are real people, with all the roiling, burning emotions of real people, and able to be hurt in love and life just like everyone else.
  • (3/5)
    The Sparknotes (Cliff Notes) were worth reading as well. I would much rather have seen the live play somewhere.
  • (2/5)
    Enough people love this play that it presumably has some good qualities. But I just couldn't get past the snide, obnoxious characters, and the facile, frequently inaccurate treatment of science and math, which panders to the "science is just the product of fallible human impulses and, like, we don't really know anything for sure anyway, man" attitude that has become the norm among intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who, for one reason or another, aren't interested in science.

    As a presentation of math and science to a lay audience, the play is a failure. It feels as though Stoppard read James Gleick's Chaos (or a similar popular text), misunderstood it, forgot half of it, and then wrote the play on this basis of what remained. When Stoppard tries to write about chaos theory, he fails to mention the central concept -- sensitive dependence on initial conditions (the famous "butterfly effect") and its appearance even in simple systems -- and instead only tells the audience that chaos has something to do with iterated maps.

    He mentions that iterated maps can produce fractals that look very much like realistic mountains, leaves, ferns, etc., and implies that the failure of 18th/19th-century dreams of predictability has something to do with the failure to use these realistic, fractal models of objects in physics calculations. (One of the characters proleptically quotes Mandlebrot: "Mountains are not cones, clouds are not spheres.") This, of course, raises the question: if we do have fractals now, is predictability no longer doomed? The answer is no, because (almost) all interesting physical systems exhibit sensitive dependence on initial conditions; but Stoppard does not clarify this. An audience member unfamiliar with the material will leave the play under the impression that physicists like Newton and Laplace were overly optimistic about prediction because they did not know about iterated maps, which (somehow!) are supposed to make prediction harder. Since the idea of an iterated map is very simple (indeed, it is explained in the play), this makes these geniuses look rather stupid.

    Of course, they actually did know about iterated maps. (One of the most famous iterated maps is called . . . wait for it . . . Newton's method.) They didn't appreciate the unpredictability of very simple systems, but that unpredictability is a subtle issue, and Stoppard's play doesn't begin to get into it.

    There are other errors, too, and they too (uncoincidentally) serve to make early physicists look dumb or oblivious. For instance, at one point one of the characters -- Thomasina, a precocious child who is learning physics -- reads a paper which, given the date and the description of its content, must be Fourier's paper on the heat equation. This paper is famous for introducing Fourier series, but Thomasina seems to think it is remarkable for another reason. She exclaims that Fourier's equations are "not like Newton's equations," for they specify a direction of time, while "Newton's equations" are reversible. This claim comes as quite a surprise, since the heat equation studied by Fourier is simply a continuous version of an equation called . . . wait for it . . . Newton's Law of Cooling. Presumably by "Newton's equations" Thomasina specifically means Newton's three laws of motion. But even there, she's wrong: although in some special cases Newton's laws are reversible, they can also describe irreversible forces, and indeed Newton himself believed that the most fundamental forces were likely to be irreversible. (This would explain the fact that many real-life phenomena, like stirring milk into coffee, seem to be irreversible -- another case where Stoppard seems to imply that early physicists simply ignored something obvious.)

    The play views the march of science with an amused sneer: oh, look at these funny plodding people, convinced that they know so much, yet battered this way and that by their culture, swelling with utopian ambition in the Enlightenment, inventing lurid tales of heat death in the age of Romanticism, and once the 20th century rolls around they create "jazzy" math and lose faith in the old verities . . . Now, I'm not denying that scientists are fallible human beings, but Stoppard's sneer is unearned. The issues involved in the development of theoretical physics are esoteric, irreducibly mathematical, and mind-bendingly subtle. This is serious shit. Really, really smart people have been working very, very hard on it for centuries. I'm sure that Stoppard and some parts of his audience would like to imagine themselves as Thomasina, instantly spotting the errors of those grim old scientists and dispatching them with a light, witty touch. Would that that were possible! But science is really hard; when our predecessors have made mistakes they tend to be subtle, recondite ones. Try to catch the masters making obvious blunders and you will just fall on your face, as Stoppard has done.

    And Thomasina gripes about having to plot simple mathematical curves like parabolas, because they don't look like real natural forms. Never mind that simple curves are tremendously important in science anyway. Never mind that facts like this are precious and remarkable precisely because they are surprising; if science always conformed to our intuitions (about, say, which shapes are important) it wouldn't have much value. No, Tom Stoppard's audience just remembers its own confusion and displeasure over math in high school and would like its prejudices confirmed. Maybe all those funny curves we had to draw as children really were meaningless! Take that, school! Now let's go home from the theater and never think about math again.

    (Also: love/sex is "the attraction that Newton left out"? Seriously??? I know it's just a joke but it's an awful, cringe-inducingly cutesy one. I have a high cutesiness tolerance and this play is too much even for me.)
  • (5/5)
    Now I want to see a staging of this play. So many nuances in the text -- I believe the craft of acting would bring even more to extra-textual meaning. -cg
  • (5/5)
    Two time periods 180 years apart are spliced together to share one stage and several props. In an aristorcratic household in the early 19th century, teenager Thomasina is on the cusp of a great mathematical discovery well before her time as her witty and amorous tutor Septimus fends off (true) charges of adultury with failed poet Mr. Chater's wife Charity. In the late 20th century, two scholars descend upon the same house in the quest for answers to different questions. Bernard believes that Septimus's friend from university, Lord Byron, has a connection to the house and fought a deadly duel there. Hannah, on the other hand, is concerned with the hermitage built in the graden and the mysterious hermit rumored to have lived there. Their perception of the truth is played against the actual scenes of the past to show how murky the truth can be. But ultimately, history repeats itself, as if it were plotted out from the beginning and following a certain formula. This is Thomasina's discovery, and we see how the forgotten past comes to light again, as if we are not to mourn what we have lost, but look forward to it repeating in the future.
  • (5/5)
    I have just seen the current production of "Arcadia" in London and it was love at first sight. The play is fantastically well written and it is fascinating how Stoppard manage to work with two different periods of time on the same scene and give the audience the perfect idea of what is going on. Reading the text itself is great, but this is a play that works much better when seen on stage.
  • (5/5)
    One of Stoppard's best. Two parallel stories are told in a complicated weaving of such topics as mathematics, hermits, love, Lord Byron, and gardens.
  • (5/5)
    first line: "Septimus, what is carnal embrace?"(which line can only be improved upon by the) second line: "Carnal embrace is the practice of throwing one's arms around a side of beef."An amazing play, which follows two timelines (concurrently, in parts) on one stage, Arcadia manages to be engaging and witty while tackling weighty concepts of thermodynamics, competitive literary scholarship, gender roles and sexuality, Fermat's Last Theorem, and even the gothic trends in British gardening. Somehow, Stoppard makes it all work.
  • (5/5)
    Tom Stoppard's greatest play? Almost certainly, but that's just my opinion. It's crammed with powerful thoughts, and the author makes you feel you are damn near as smart as he is. Deeply moving, ultimately, it shuffles between two different historical times but never moves from the one location.
  • (4/5)
    This is a strange play that you really should plan on reading in one sitting where you can concentrate and enjoy the language play. Incredibly different from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern..., but a fun and worthwhile read. I'm waiting patiently for a chance to see it live on stage, since I have a feeling that that will add a great deal to the read, assuming it's a decent production.
  • (5/5)
    Atmosphere is created by the meaning implicit within the words themselves (for no-one actually talks like that). That changes the level of perception - I suppose it becomes intellectual, mainly. And at the crux the physical mixes in with the rest, and results in one of the most vivid pictures that stay in the mind forever.
  • (5/5)
    Glorious. When I was reading this i could not weait to get home, get the kettle on, and dive into Stoppards twisting labyrinth of time, taste and love. If you don't get it, read it again. You'll cry.
  • (5/5)
    My favorite play - Arcadia by Tom Stoppard (author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead), a Czechoslovakian-born British playwright. I listened to the play as performed by L.A. Theatre Works. Science, mathematics, gardening, and sex abound. Thoroughly delightful!
  • (5/5)
    This play is charming and funny and it still breaks my heart, some 20 years after my first reading.
  • (5/5)
    Elegant, clever, and entertaining. Stoppard hangs plenty of guns on the wall that are later fired in ways that are satisfying, unexpected yet inevitable.

    Also, new time travel goal: go back to see Bill Nighy as Nightingale in the original London cast.
  • (5/5)
    I read Arcadia at the suggestion of someone whose opinion, especially on plays, I trust, and she certainly did not let me down with this funny little play that brings together algebra, sex, and chaos theory.First, I must say that the dramatization I listened to of Arcadia was quite well done. I enjoyed listening to the performance rather than reading it on the page because it was a new experience for me. Had I listened to other plays, I might have enjoyed them even more. The voicing of the characters allowed for easy distinguishing of which time period was being focused on at that point in the play, and when they began to blend by the end, the voices were quite helpful. Text might have intruded on that for me.The story is told of two sets of characters from two different time periods - the modern day characters were sort of investigating the past ones, so you got both sides of the story as the play switched from past to present and back again. I enjoyed hearing how the present characters judged and interpreted the past characters. I did find myself a little confused as to who was who as I went through the play, but I was usually able to right myself fairly quickly.The play had plenty of humor, but it had a lot of one-liners and witty jibes rather than something more slapstick. I was very pleased with the humor in it. However, sometimes if I laughed too loudly, I would miss the next bit and have to go back - the humor rolled easily into the next lines so that if you weren't keen, you could miss it.Overall, I really enjoyed this play, and even more, I think, because I listened to a dramatization of it rather than reading straight text.
  • (4/5)
    This play is not a consistently funny as some of Stoppard's other works, but it definitely has its share of quotable one-liners. Some daring moves in staging, such as the overlap between the present and the past, which eventually reaches the point of having the two time periods represented on stage simultaneously, side by side at the table that remains a constant link between the characters. It is a look at science and literature; how does science discover the things it does? How does literature overlap with science? What constitutes evidence? (Though this last might be a bit subtle in places). It also looks at the question of what happened to the enlightenment, as the characters move through the changes leading from enlightenment thinking to romanticism. As usual when Stoppard assays science, he does it right, though it's often more in the mathematical and statistical realms that he wanders. His intellectuals also aren't cardboard cutouts, moving through the play without feeling, total logic suppressing the emotions they are assumed not to possess. They are real people, with all the roiling, burning emotions of real people, and able to be hurt in love and life just like everyone else.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful



    I want to read it again. Probably more than once.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)
    Arcadia takes us back and forth between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging over the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life. Focusing on the mysteries—romantic, scientific, literary—that engage the minds and hearts of characters whose passions and lives intersect across scientific planes and centuries, it is “Stoppard’s richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and . . . emotion. It’s like a dream of levitation: you’re instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you’re about to plummet to earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow . . . Exhilarating”
  • (4/5)
    Okay, I know you're probably all relieved, but this review is going to have to be all sorts of short :( I'm tired and I don't have time and I finished reading Arcadia mid last week, only I didn't have computer access, so unfortunately it's not fresh cement in my mind. But it's definitely not hard cement either.Anyway. A little plot because I almost always forget that part: Arcadia is set in two time periods simultaneously- one era is the early eighteen hundreds and the other is the nineteen nineties. The scenes switch off between the two time periods until the end of the play when they're occurring parallel to one another, although separately. It think the creativity behind this idea is astounding and it just adds to this huge amount of respect that I have for the author, Thomas Stoppard. For me, that's the biggest plot intrigue, but do not fear, Arcadia is amazingly scandalous although, surprisingly, more so in the 1800s than in the present day. I think another interesting point is the commentary the author is making about our reconstruction of the past and of the study of history. I don't think Stoppard is implying criticism, but just a more critical look at exactly what we're doing to the past and how easily misinterpretations can occur. In addition, both parts of the story occur in the same house and (I think) in a solo room throughout the play (like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"). Add to that that the present day is studying the exact story that we're learning about from the past and it makes for a very witty and interesting comparison and I've never read anything quite like it.Tom Stoppard is an ingenious writer and uses wit, humor, intelligence and gentle commentary in the most easily receipted manners. This is a little embarrassing, but I had to read it through twice for comprehension. I think it's the feel of a lot of plays that everyone's just talking so fast. It's completely different from both a book and a movie which makes it a tricky medium to interpret. I also had to read Arcadia with a dictionary on my lap, the first book that I've ever had to do such with. This just makes me admire Stoppard even more :) My only criticism is a stupid, but I wish it had been written in the 1800s, it would have made it more convincing but the point definitely still gets across. The bottom line: A great play and definitely worth owning a copy although I would also like to see it preformed; I think that would be great. Four stars!