by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)
Hannah: Is there anything in it?
Valentine: In what? We are all doomed? Oh yes, sure – it's called the second law of thermodynamics.
Hannah: Was it known about?
Valentine: By poets and lunatics from time immemorial.
Valentine: No. (2.5)
While Valentine may be joking in mentioning "poets and lunatics" here, Hannah later quotes a Byron poem that bears an eerie resemblance to that second law. Perhaps literary knowledge and scientific knowledge aren't entirely in opposition after all.
Hannah: Don't you see? I thought my hermit was a perfect symbol. An idiot in the landscape. But this is better. The Age of Enlightenment banished into the Romantic wilderness! The genius of Sidley Park living on in a hermit's hut!
Valentine: You don't know that.
Hannah: Oh, but I do. I do. Somewhere there will be something . . . if only I can find it. (2.5)
While Hannah is often the voice of reason in the play, insisting on more evidence than a CSI investigator, here she sounds much more like Bernard. Is she succumbing to bad thinking? Is she suggesting that knowledge doesn't have to be based on hard evidence to be valid, at least for the person who believes it? What?
Hannah: It's all trivial – your grouse, my hermit, Bernard's Byron. Comparing what we're looking for misses the point. It's wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we're going out the way we came in. That's why you can't believe in the afterlife, Valentine. Believe in the after, by all means, but not the life. Believe in God, the soul, the spirit, the infinite, believe in angels if you like, but not in the great celestial get-together for an exchange of views. If the answers are in the back of the book I can wait, but what a drag. Better to struggle on knowing that failure is final. (2.7)
Here we get Hannah's manifesto: if she had a Facebook page, this would definitely be in her profile. While Valentine is excited by the possibilities opened up by the unknown, Hannah goes a step further – for her, not knowing is the point. If we could know once and for all, for certain, that would take the fun out of it.