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Arcadia

Tom Stoppard

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Bernard Nightingale

Bernard Nightingale

Bernard Nightingale

Bernard Nightingale

Bernard, the modern and foppish academic, reveals the danger of allowing present motivations to leap ahead of historic truths. Bernard's theory, that Lord Byron killed Mr. Chater in a lover's duel, is the product of his lust for fame and recognition. The evidence that Bernard puts together seems sketchy at best and the result of his theory and publication of his results is clear from the outset. Bernard never brings the platonic, third letter on stage, and it remains unclear how Byron got a hold of Septimus's book. Nevertheless, Bernard can't restrain himself. Undoubtedly reflecting Stoppard's own commentary on academic eagerness, Bernard ignores Hannah's objections to his theory in favor of quick fame. Bernard has little interest in the Croom family besides an opportunity to bring him recognition.

But Bernard, despite his mistakes, is essential to Hannah finding the identity of the hermit. While seducing Chloe in the library stacks, Bernard notices "something between her legs," a contemporary account of the hermit's identity that describes the hermit's turtle, Plautus. This is Bernard at his best, his sole constructive contribution into the Croom mystery.

Bernard is one character who is not aided by his sexual knowledge, despite his discovery while supposedly having sex (the modern day account of the hermit). Bernard's forthright proposal to Hannah and seduction of Chloe do no more than win him a loyal teenage fan. Bernard does, however, seem to know a bit more than Hannah because of his supposed knowledge. Bernard tells Hannah that she wouldn't have written a book about Caroline Lamb if she had known herself better. Yet, it remains unclear why Bernard didn't know himself better than to publish his results about Lord Byron before having more concrete proof of the theory. It is evident that neither academic nor canal knowledge alone will do.

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