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Classicism and romanticism in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia

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Arcadia Essay "Classicism has no meaning without romanticism." How far does this play and its drama illustrate the truth of this statement? Basically, the play is said to be partly about classicism versus romanticism. But actually, by studying these two aspects with more precision, we end up noticing that one cannot exist without the other, and that there is a relationship between the two. And this is the dichotomy in which Stoppard is interested. The classical and the romantic are introduced in the third scene of the play, through landscape and architecture. It is while Lady Croom is talking about her garden, designed by Capability Brown, a famous classical landscape gardener, that Hannah states in the next scene that ?English landscape was invented by English gardeners imitating foreign painters who were evoking classical authors?. But the Coverly family?s garden is about to be changed into a romantic style (even gothic style: ?everything but the vampires?). ...read more.


In her speech, Hannah talks about ?the whole romantic sham?. Romanticism is the result of classicism which has been mutated into the Enlightenment. The classical order believed the world was ordered and was governed by rules that could be slowly uncovered. Whereas the romantics believed humanity was being imprisoned in these, as well as sought to ruin all rules concerning individual creativity; for them, people make up their own rules as they go along, and every man is an artist; there isn?t any order other than the one you make up. So while Hannah?s speech makes us clearly understand that she would at any time choose to think if she had to choose between thinking or feeling, Bernard on his side, more suspicious of her purposes, replies that she seems ?quite sentimental over geometry? (p.40). So while Bernard is more of a romantic, because he follows his gut instinct and intuition: ?I'll tell you your problem. ...read more.


future?, which is very classical?, but by the end wants to discover and learn things in which girls of her age are interested in ?that is dancing, waltzing, kissing? which is more romantic. Septimus is also a character affected by classicism and romanticism: he teaches mathematics, he is a man of science, and refuses to see Thomasina in her bedroom, but prefers to have affairs with different women. So through his play, Stoppard ensures that the characters develop, but the entire piece as well. Indeed, the development of science and scientific thinking, one of the main themes of Arcadia, follows a similar transformation: it begins with the belief that Newton?s laws and relativity explain everything (i.e. classicism), and ends up reminding us that while these theories work for the entire universe, everything in between and through this is chaotic and unpredictable, just as romanticism. In Arcadia, it isn?t simply a story about the classical and the romantic, but a story consisting of both of these ideas, and classicism wouldn?t be what it is without romanticism. ...read more.

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