SEPTIMUS: Ah. Mr Chater was at breakfast, of course.
THOMASINA: He was, not like certain lazybones.
SEPTIMUS: He does not have Latin to set and mathematics to correct.
THOMASINA: Correct? What was incorrect in it? (She looks into the book.) Alpha minus? Pooh! What is the minus for?
SEPTIMUS: For doing more than was asked.
THOMASINA: You did not like my discovery?
SEPTIMUS: A fancy is not a discovery.
THOMASINA: A gibe is not a rebuttal…God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?
SEPTIMUS: We do.
THOMASINA: Then why do your equations only describe the shapes of manufacture?
SEPTIMUS: I do not know.
THOMASINA: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.
SEPTIMUS: He has mastery of equations which lead into infinities where we cannot follow.
THOMASINA: …What a faint-heart! We must work outward from the middle of the maze. We will start with something simple.
SEPTIMUS: (Firmly) Back to Cleopatra.
HOMASINA: Is it Cleopatra? – I hate Cleopatra!
SEPTIMUS: You hate her? Why?
THOMASINA: Everything is turned to love with her. New love, absent love, lost love – I never knew a heroine that makes such noodles of our sex. It only needs a Roman general to drop anchor outside the window and away goes the empire like a christening mug into a pawn shop. If Queen Elizabeth had been a Ptolemy history would have been quite different – we would be admiring the pyramids of Rome and the great Sphinx of Verona.
SEPTIMUS: God save us.
THOMASINA But instead, the Egyptian noodle made carnal embrace with the enemy who burned the great library of Alexandria without so much as a fine for all that is overdue. Oh, Septimus! – can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides – thousands of poems – Aristotle’s own library brought to Egypt by the noodle’s ancestors? How can we sleep for grief?
SEPTIMUS By counting our stock. Seven plays from Aeschylus, seven from Sophocles, nineteen from Euripides, my lady! You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?…I have no doubt that the improved steam-driven heat-engine which puts Mr. Noakes into an ecstasy that he and it and the modern age should all coincide, was described on papyrus. Steam and brass were not invented in Glasgow.
Thomasina : It is plain that there are some things a girl is allowed to understand, and these include the whole of algebra, but there are others, such as embracing a side of beef, that must be kept from her until she is old enough to have a carcass of her own.
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- Theater Review | ‘Arcadia’: The 180-Year Itch, Metaphysically Speaking (theater.nytimes.com)
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