© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.



by Tom Stoppard

Arcadia Act 2, Scene 5 Summary

  • Bernard is reading a speech aloud, while Chloë, Gus, and Valentine listen with varying degrees of attention.
  • Bernard's speech lays out his (circumstantial) evidence for Byron's having killed Chater in a duel.
  • Hannah comes in, excited, and wants to show something to Valentine, but Chloë shuts her up so Bernard can go on with his lecture.
  • Bernard continues, with occasional snarky interruptions from Valentine and Hannah.
  • In one of these interruptions, we get a glimpse of Bernard's plans: no longer content with getting props for his find in academic journals, he's taking his show on the road and planning a full-on press blitz.
  • Bernard continues again, with some diversions into arguing with Hannah over the gaps in his theory.
  • Eventually Bernard threatens to walk out unless the peanut gallery shuts up, which they do for long enough for him to read his last paragraph.
  • As soon as Bernard finishes, Hannah proceeds to rip apart his argument – for his own good, she says, since if he goes public with this he's going to get a smackdown.
  • Bernard turns the fighting dirty, making a couple of low cracks at Hannah's book Caro, leading Hannah to tell him to go ahead and take his crackpot theories public.
  • One of Bernard's lines really gets to Hannah, however: he says she's got the wrong guy on the cover of her book (a comment that's explained a bit later).
  • Valentine interrupts to bring up his computer model, which says that the reviews of Chater in the Piccadilly aren't very similar to Byron's other reviews, but Bernard dismisses his program as "trivial."
  • Valentine replies that it's all trivial – it doesn't matter who got there first, or who wrote what, just that the place was gotten to or that the text was written.
  • Bernard counters that it's science that's trivial – knowledge of whether the universe is expanding or contracting has much less effect on him than the self-knowledge he gets from reading a Byron poem.
  • Bernard ends with a crack about Valentine's grouse project, which sends Val out of the room almost weeping – it seems the grouse thing isn't going well.
  • Chloë and Gus follow Valentine out of the room, leaving Bernard and Hannah alone.
  • Bernard finally answers Hannah's question about her book cover: an art scholar has claimed that the image cannot be of Lord Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb because it was made too late – but Hannah remains convinced that she's right and this new analysis is wrong.
  • Bernard invites Hannah to come to London and sleep with him, but Hannah – surprisingly, we know, since Bernard is such a charmer – turns him down.
  • Bernard says that Hannah is really a romantic at heart, and should write a book about Byron.
  • Hannah tries to say goodbye to Bernard and send him on his way, but Bernard says that he's coming back for the evening's costume ball, as Chloë's date.
  • Before he departs, Bernard has a gift for Hannah: a book he found in the Sidley Park library that mentions the hermit and his pet tortoise, Plautus.
  • Valentine returns, Bernard goes, and Hannah finally gets to discuss the letter she tracked down (the source cited in the essay where she originally heard about the hermit) with Valentine.
  • The hermit's mathematical obsession, according to this letter, is about what Valentine identifies as the Second Law of Thermodynamics – that systems, left alone, move towards disorder (in other words, if you never make an effort to clean your room, it will only get messier and messier – see "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" for more).
  • The letter has another interesting tidbit: the hermit was born the same year of Septimus Hodge, and Hannah has a hunch that the two men are one and the same...if only she can find the evidence to prove it.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...