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by Tom Stoppard

Arcadia Literature and Writing Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)

Quote #1

Septimus: If the margin of his copy of Arithmetica, Fermat wrote that he had discovered a wonderful proof of his theorem but, the margin being too narrow for his purpose, did not have room to write it down. The note was found after his death, and from that day to this --
Thomasina: Oh! I see now! The answer is perfectly obvious! [...] There is no proof, Septimus. The thing that is perfectly obvious is that the note in the margin was a joke to make you all mad. (1.1)

While Septimus takes Fermat's note at face value, Thomasina reads between the lines. Perhaps she's reading her own prankster personality into Fermat, or maybe she's right. In any case, she raises the issue of the reliability of texts – we can't know what a person was thinking when they wrote something, whether they were being tricky or truthful. So using writing as evidence requires some critical thinking (just like writing an English paper). This also comes up with Chater's inscription in Septimus's copy of his book (see below).

Quote #2

Chater: "To my dear friend Septimus Hodge, who stood up and gave his best on behalf of the Author – Ezra Chater, at Sidley Park, Derbyshire, April 10, 1809." There, sir – something to show your grandchildren! (1.1)

Does Chater realize the sexual double entendre of his dedication? Given his general stupidity, it seems doubtful. Bernard certainly doesn't get it when he reads the words two centuries later, underlining how important context can be in understanding writing.

Quote #3

Thomasina: Papa has no need of the recording angel, his life is written in the game book. (1.1)

This passage juxtaposes an "objective" history (the angel on high who sees everything) with a "subjective" one (the seemingly limited account of life as reflected by bird-killing) to suggest that they are equal. Although, since recording angels don't share their diaries with us down here on earth, the only option we have is to reconstruct the past as best we can through limited records.

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