by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia Truth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)
Bernard: Christ, what do you want?
Bernard: Proof? Proof? You'd have to be there, you silly bitch! (1.4)
How do we know something is true? With history, it's hard to say – Bernard thinks being present at an event is enough, but is that really so? Chater would probably have a very different version of events at Sidley Park in 1809 than Septimus would. So if even being an eyewitness can't provide proof, what can?
Bernard: But he fought a duel with Byron!
Hannah: You haven't established it was fought. You haven't established it was Byron. For God's sake, Bernard, you haven't established Byron was even here!
Bernard: I'll tell you your problem. No guts.
Bernard: By which I mean a visceral belief in yourself. Gut instinct. The part of you which doesn't reason. The certainty for which there is no back-reference. Because time is reversed. Tock, tick goes the universe and then recovers itself, but it was enough, you were in there and you bloody know. (1.4)
Truth for Bernard seems to be a matter of faith, not reason. This seems a dangerous path to go down – if truth = what people confidently assert to be true, then what's to stop masses of people who share the same crazy idea from rewriting history?
Bernard: "Without question, Ezra Chater issued a challenge to somebody. If a duel was fought in the dawn mist of Sidley Park in April 1809, his opponent, on the evidence, was a critic with a gift for ridicule and a taste for seduction. Do we need to look far? Without question, Mrs Chater was a widow by 1810. If we seek the occasion of Ezra Chater's early and unrecorded death, do we need to look far? Without question, Lord Byron, in the very season of his emergence as a literary figure, quit the country in a cloud of panic and mystery, and stayed abroad for two years at a time when Continental travel was unusual and dangerous. If we seek his reason – do we need to look far?
Hannah: Bollocks. [...] You've gone from a glint in your eye to a sure thing in a hop, skip and a jump. (2.5)
While Bernard is convinced his own faith is enough, he does build a lot of circumstantial evidence to try to convince others that he is right. His rhetoric here is interesting because he's asking questions assuming that the audience will answer in a certain way (which Hannah doesn't). It's like he's asking fake questions in order to stop the audience from asking real ones.