Even in the Edenic garden of Arcadia death exists: "Oh, phooey to Death!" exclaims Thomasina.
The reference takes the garden as a symbol of timelessness and happiness into stark contrast.
In Giovani Guercino's painting, a large skull, personifying Death, rests on a pedestal on which is carved the inscription "Et in Arcadia Ego."
The skull symbolizes the message: death comes even to people who are happy and carefree and who live in the midst of plenty.
Hannah's book demonstrates how the changing taste in gardens revealed the essence of each historical era, especially the transformation of the Age of Reason into the Romantic era. "The history of the garden says it all, beautifully," she claims. The garden was transformed in stages from around 1730, when the garden showed "Paradise in the age of reason," to its Gothic condition after 1810. For Hannah, the change represents "the decline from thinking to feeling."
While Thomasina discovers a scientific theory that was only known the scientists hundreds of years later, and may have even solved Fermat's last theorem, she dies in a fire on the eve of her seventeenth birthday. It is her death that proves to be the real death in Arcadia.
Placing Stoppard's play into the future, we can easily see the redesign of Et in Arcadia Ego to one that more closely matches what Thomasina originally implied was incorrectly translated by her mother, namely that "Et in Arcadia Ego" means: