Tom Stoppard entitled his play Arcadia, which sets in the readers' minds an idea of an idyllic region (distant places - as romantics used to frequently refer to in their works). It is a region which after the collapse of the Roman power in the west of Greece, became part of the Byzantine Empire. It remained a secluded area and its inhabitants lived out of farming and led a simple life. The title has been aptly chosen as the plot is set at the Coverly's English stately home, in Sidley Park, this is the house where all the play develops.
The setting is an ideal place for meditation, away from the industrial town, where interests emerge in humble and everyday life, the love of ruins and revaluation of the past, especially the Middle Ages. Moreover, the meaning of the enigmatic phrase "Et in Arcadia ego" uttered by Lady Croom, alludes to the words that are carved upon the tomb in the painting by Poussin. Thus, we see three shepherds and a shepherdess within the arc of mountains of Arcadia, who seem in an unknowing state to be in the process of discovery, though the shepherdess has a demeanour of knowingness.
The first clue as to the higher symbolism conveyed is in the colours the shepherds wear, gives us an extended meaning for what Arcadia could be given as representing, the four inner planets of the solar system, enduring in blissful innocence, separated from the rest of the solar system or Universe. The latter idea leads on to the concept of escaping from the present day, which was a reactionary force against the chaos that modernisation brought and nature was seen as a source of innocence and delight.
Thus, beauty is seen as existing in the human mind and it is perceived by every single person in a different way. When the curtains are raised, on the stage appear the first characters, in the name of Thomasina, aged thirteen and Septimus Hodge who is her tutor. The opening words are those of Thomasina, who is asking her tutor, during a Maths lesson about a rumour which she had overheard while eating a rabbit pie on the staircase, and is not sure on the meaning of 'carnal embrace'.
It's a romance and a tragedy rolled into one another, characterised by awkward conversation amongst the characters, such as the exchanges between Hannah and Bernard (the characters whose role regards the present scenes). Words such as "Darling" is replaced by "dick head". Septimus has the witty banter and charm of the Byronic hero, who is able to attract similarly man and women; this is contrasted much by his relationship with his naive pupil Thomasina, who is very much carried away by love and reason, emblematic is her consideration of the fact that "Everything is turned to love with her. New love, absent love, lost love.. (scene 3).
The whole play is built on witty dialogues, amusing puns, misunderstandings and paradoxes which help deal with the complexity of social and personal identification; the title is a pun itself, the title "Arcadia" misleads the audience, due to the fact that the unexpected turn from a simple rural lifestyle to one where sex is not a taboo, sets out the characteristics of the play as one in which sexual intercourse 'is much nicer than... love' (Arcadia, chapter 1, scene 1). From the above mentioned quote, Thomasina is highlighting how romance is perceived in Arcadia, which emphasises the disaster-prone love relationships.
The objects found on stage, which are of scientific and historical nature, only later on in the play, these acquire stronger meaning and reason for being placed on stage. Hidden aspects of the play are non not only those same objects, but also romantic attitudes are very well hidden amongst the work. As when Valentine suggests that "Lending one's bicycle is a form of safe sex... my mother is in a flutter about Bernard/He gave her a first edition of Horace Walpole, and now she's lent him her bicycle" (act 1, scene 4) .
Stoppard very aptly chooses to refer to the mentioned author due to the fact that he never married and engaged in a succession of unconsummated flirtations with unmarriageable women, thus not only we get a clear criticism from Valentine's point of view of his mother, but also, what is implicit his words is Bernard's attitude towards romance. The characters' conversations give an idea of being very well studied as to emphasize the author's purpose into leading the audience in understanding his views and message, they constantly play with words, and their banter or 'flamboyant' way of being becomes ostentatious.
Thus, trying to find romance in their speech appears to be a harsh task, where metaphors become at some times ambiguous. The latter is very much different from Charlotte Bronte's approach to romance and her work in general. Although she uses supernatural effects to explain most of the unexplained, she is still able to render her characters realistic, as their behaviours and style of speech are always very aptly chosen in order to emphasize their emotions, who above censoriousness in speech and ideas, are also free to indulge into teasing and endearing conversations (such as some of the conversations between Rochester and Jane).
In Jane's character there is much about keeping her head focused on the self, however when it comes to romance, she very happily delves into it, expressing her idea that romance is beautiful in a way that it evokes feelings of love. Moreover, her attitude in life leaves much space for imagination and emotions are especially important to her. Thus, such behaviour makes her very much realistic and making the reader able to relate to her, because of her commonsense and attitude to romance, which never becomes corny.
The centrality of Bronte's romance can be argued to lay in the following quote: '"Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane? I could risk no sort of answer by this time; my heart was full. 'Because,' he said, 'I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you - especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame... and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. '" Tom Stoppard's work, is completely on another emotional level, it reveals the implicit conflict between reason and emotion, represented in Hannah Jarvis as the supporter of reason, and Mrs.
Chater as the defender of emotion. However, Mrs Chater does not help the play find resolution, as she never enters the stage. It is rather the personal struggle and journey of Septimus Hodge and Hannah Jarvis that brings the play to its final conclusion and victory of emotion, similarly as Jane's journey. Stoppard's idea of romance is introduced immediately in the first pages of Arcadia. As Thomasina and Septimus work on their lesson, Thomasina innocently asks Septimus to tell her the meaning of carnal embrace. From this moment, academic knowledge continues to be intertwined with sexual knowledge.
After all, Thomasina's main theory, which is central to the theme of the book, rests on the motion of "bodies in heat. " Her modern counterpart, Chloe, echoes the specific implications of Thomasina's theory. Chloe suggests that Newton's theory was wrong because he didn't account for the unplanned nature of sexual attraction. Arcadia's language, which has both a colloquial characteristic of the nineteenth century and that of modern England, is a stylized dialogue used to convey sensorial images of 'sight' and 'touch', which have all connotation to the way romance is perceived in Arcadia, while it simplifies the characters' relationships.
By looking at the definition given by 'Oxford Dictionary', Arcadia clearly reflects and exemplifies romance as 'a feeling of excitement and adventure, especially connected to a particular place or activity, a story about a love affair set in the past and connects romance with a sexual relationship. Hannah, who is in favour of logic, utters that classical landscape of the past is a 'paradise in the age of reason' whereas the romantic period for her is 'sham.. a setting of cheap thrills and false emotion.
The playwright is trying to discuss the change from order to disorder, also conveyed through the use of images of fire, as an element which results into destruction. This element is also used in Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, with the same purpose. The image of fire, in Arcadia, has a close connotation with heat, as in the description of tea in Act 2, Scene 7 when Valentine utters that it will lose heat and become room temperature. Therefore, what happens to tea would also happen to everything else.
In his explanation there is a reference to sex and lust, recalling the matter of 'carnal embrace', the idea that heat is lost explains the idea that sex and lust will result in the missing out of love. Moreover, Chloe states that the theory of Newtonian physics left out the idea of sex, being recognised as an unpredictable element of human emotions. The theme is also evident when Thomasina and Septimus at the end of the play are dancing a walz (the theme of senses over intellect), representing their acceptance to lust, which would then result in her death and Septimus' loneliness.
The latter can be explained by Septimus' quote 'When we have found all the meaning and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore'. Under lust and sex two people can only end up apart. Moreover, Thomasina into focusing on the history of Cleopatra, tells Septimus that she hates her. This is because she gave away things for love. She points out that the random motion of bodies (or love) is against the search of intellectual knowledge and progress. Thus, she is emphasizing that intellectual knowledge and sexual or romantic knowledge cannot coexist.
In Hannah's character, for instance, there is much about intellectual knowledge over romance and her purpose at Sidley Park, is to write a book that essentially criticizes romanticism while supporting classicism. Moreover, Hannah believes that the life of the hermit of Sidley Park, is an apt metaphor for the downfall of romanticism and rejects sexual knowledge in all forms "I don't know a worse bargain. Available sex against not being allowed to fart in bed. " (chapter 2, scene 5) This quote, especially said by a woman, shockingly takes the audience and reader away from any concern of romance.
In actual fact, it destroys any form of romance. In contrary, the theme of fire in Jane Eyre is presented as positive, in fact she emphasizes the importance of fiery love as the key to personal happiness, lust in opposition to love is recurring in Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte, depicts Rochester as a romantic partner for Jane and makes her plainness and intellectualism appealing to him because of his experience. She is contrasted with the beautiful Celine Varens, immoral Bertha Fairfux and the frivolous Blanche Ingram, this is because it permits the readers to sympathize with her.
Rochester and Jane's love for one another is explained by a spiritual affinity which outplays beauty (in contrast with physical attraction which Arcadia continuously refers to). Right from the start their meeting is very different compared to other Victorian novels, characterized by love at first sight or (sexual passion, as in Arcadia). Very strikingly Jane comments on his appearance, when uttering that if Rochester were handsome, it would have been impossible any sympathy.
Jane's love for Rochester is as if 'my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal - as we are! and in response he declares his love in the words of 'I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions... I ask you to pass through life at my side - to be my second self, and best earthly companion' (chapter 23). Bronte's romanticism is more about love and profound emotions, compared to Stoppard's representation. Jane's inner divergence between sense of duty and love, although her passion for Rochester is not merely physical, but a fusion of soul and flesh. Bronte's novel can be considered romantic in its narration and for Jane's character, she possesses commonsense and romantic aspirations.
Whereas, Hannah leads impassioned speeches, on the death of the Enlightenment in decadent Romanticism, symbolised in the Siddley Park gardens and the Hermit, suggest that she is inspired by the search for knowledge, thus metaphorically shows that she places reason over emotions. The role of Hannah within the play appears to be important and provides an intellectual theme, she analyses the past so to have an understanding of the present. By researching the history of Sidley Park, Hannah enables Stoppard's audience to understand the shift from thinking to feeling.
Jane is similar in her approach to life and when at the end of the novel she finally marries Rochester love triumphs, after having analysed her past, at present she is a self-conscious woman and she is not only successful in terms of wealth but also in terms of family and love. What links the two works is probably the belief that as long as there are hopes and dreams, nothing is impossible; this idea is commonly found in romantic literature. Jane Eyre, just like in any other characters in romance literature is god-like, who has no fear, retains her youthful qualities as she ages, and never becomes a victim of bad conditions.
As for Arcadia, we see many of the main character's inner thoughts and feelings, in the present time plot, in Arcadia, the characters have a more realistic lifestyle and live a life filled with stress and uncertainty, where romance has a fiery faith. Those in Jane Eyre's novel are a perfect example of Victorian society (thus, they can be perceived as perfect) and live a honourable life and Jane's life is filled with romance. Finally, what characterizes Stoppard's work is an emphasis on feeling and content rather than order and form, the free expression of the passions and individuality.
There is a continuous struggle to find order in life through reason and intellect, these are the foundations for humanity's free will and self-esteem, which gives us the means to be able to find that order that enables the romantic side to emerge. Thus, in comparing the two works, Stoppard's 'romance' appears to be less realistic due to the continuous reference to science and playful and impassioned speeches, while on the other hand Charlotte's 'Jane Eyre' seems more realistic and allows the reader to relate to her more closely because she is not an idealized figure.
Jane has ordinary features and firm morality, her speeches are as well simple and her love towards Rochester was unchangeable but also at the same time unpredictable, very much different from Chloe's words that stressed the sex as the element that makes human emotions changeable. In conclusion, the images of fire and heat, in Arcadia are presented as destructive and negative, in Jane Eyre it is the opposite, in fact she emphasizes the importance of burning love as the key to personal happiness. Both works end in a mystical experience that brings the characters together.
In the final scene, Stoppard beautifully combines the realization of death with an understanding of Thomasina's heat diagram. It represents the idea that all humanity is doomed and destined for a fiery end. However, the dance reveals that there are other types of knowledge to be had in the world and new mysteries to be solved. Through dance, love, carnal knowledge, one might avoid the 'empty shore'. Thomasina suggests that the emptiness can be overcome by dancing (human heat) that will allow new knowledge and fulfilment. At the end Arcadia mixes together memory and desire in a world which is transformed by love.