As Tom Stoppard’s play mixes up past and present, the playwright also shows how Romantic and Classical views clashed not only in the early 1800s but more than a century later. The Romantic view, which challenged the rationality of Classicism, is developed through characters that include Richard Noakes and Chloe Coverly. A Classical perspective, which is alive and well in the present through intellectuals and scientists such as Hannah Jarvis and Valentine Coverley, is developed for the nineteenth-century characters through Thomasina Coverley.
Part of Arcadia is set in the early nineteenth century, when the Romantic view challenged the dominance of Classicism that had gained hold during the Enlightenment. Romanticism is represented through the differing attitudes toward love, marriage, and nature. The real-life figure of Lord Byron, who is mentioned as a visitor to the estate but never seen, emphasizes this Romantic side. Richard Noakes, who is said to have been at school with Byron, exemplifies Romanticism through his plans to turn the Classical gardens into a seemingly natural wilderness. In modern times, the free-love emphasis associated with Romanticism is developed through Chloe Coverley.
In the modern portion, Hannah Jarvis is an inquisitive scholar who intends to conduct research and solve an intellectual mystery. Her level-headed rationality represents a Classical perspective. Valentine Coverley is a graduate student devoted to science and the pursuit of knowledge. His attachment to statistics and factual evidence marks him as Classically oriented. His ancestor Thomasina is primarily Classical in her analytical abilities, but her natural brilliance, which can be considered Romantic, is an element of her genius that puts her ahead of her time.