Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Math in Shakespeare . . .

     Yesterday, April 23, is the day on which William Shakespeare's birthday is celebrated; he was born long ago in 1564 and the actual date is uncertain.   The BBC Radio Newshour today featured this event in its broadcast  and told of ways that Shakespeare used mathematical ideas in his writing.  A broadcast recording is available at this link; the Shakespeare-math info begins at approximately 25 minutes into the show.   Ideas come from a book that is coming out next September,  Much Ado About Numbers: Shakespeare's Mathematical Life and Times by Rob Eastaway

One of the interesting items I found as I browsed was the phrase

    eight score eight       in Othello -- a three-syllable way for saying 168.

     Here is a link to an article that focuses on Shakespeare's use of zero.

ALSO (found here in The Conversation)  the  opening chorus of Henry V displays Shakespeare’s interest in proportion and the concept of zero through its repeated “O” and references to contemporary mathematical thought:

O for a muse of fire, that would ascend / The brightest heaven of invention: / A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, / And monarchs to behold the swelling scene […] / may we cram / Within this wooden O the very casques / That did affright the air at Agincourt? / O pardon: since a crookèd figure may / Attest in little place a million, / And let us, ciphers to this great account, / On your imaginary forces work.

Scholars largely agree that Shakespeare’s “crookèd figure” is actually zero. This is despite the observation that zero is probably the least crooked of all numbers.   

   And more of Shakespeare's math is included in this article from 2023  -- many thanks to my math-poetry friend, USNA professor Gregory Coxson, for the link.  

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