Archive for the 'The Letter Y' Category

Shakespeare Anagram: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Inspired by recent discoveries

From Love’s Labour’s Lost:

The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Somerset Y-chromosome not even King Richard Three’s.

Cue the funk.



Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

In which I defend the honor of the Queen…

The DNA reports are in, and the skeleton they found in that Leicester parking lot is now confirmed to be that of King Richard III. Analysis also shows he had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Somewhat overshadowing the exciting news is a discovery that came from the research team’s comparing the old king’s DNA to that of his present-day relatives. It turns out that there is a break somewhere in the male-line continuity of the Y-chromosome, the collection of genes that are only passed from father to son, suggesting a false paternity event somewhere in the timeline.

The news media, with its trademark restraint, has jumped all over this, trumpeting that the already much-maligned Richard has infidelity in his family tree, with some even suggesting that this means that the Queen may not even be the legitimate heir to the throne anymore.

Okay, let’s all take a breath now. Her Majesty’s reign is in no danger here.

I spent a lot of time this past summer with my nose buried in the Plantagenet family tree, and may be able to add a modicum of perspective.

You can read the science team’s original report here, but a brief summary should suffice. Richard III and his distant cousin Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort are both direct male-line descendants of King Edward III. The Duke has five male-line descendants alive today who agreed to participate in the study, and four of them share the same Y-chromosome, presumably inherited from Beaufort. The one who doesn’t suggests a false paternity event (or “cuckolding” in the parlance) at some point along the way, but that’s not the infidelity that made the headlines. Richard III’s Y-chromosome also doesn’t match the Duke’s, which means that at least one of them is not actually a male-line descendant of Edward III.

Okay, so that’s pretty saucy news in itself. But it’s an overreach to drag Queen Elizabeth II into this story for several reasons.

First of all, what is the probability that the break in paternity is even in Elizabeth’s line? Here is the family tree for the relevant players (scroll down to the “Geneology of the Y chromosome lineage” graphic). It shows fifteen paternal links between Edward III and Beaufort, and only four between Edward III and Richard III. Assuming only one false paternity (which is all that’s been established here) and that all paternity events are equally likely to be false, the odds are 15:4 in favor of Beaufort being the non-heir rather than Richard. Also, if Richard III’s own parentage is the false one, it doesn’t affect Elizabeth, as she is descended from Richard’s older brother King Edward IV. So the odds of the break even being in Elizabeth’s lineage is 16:3 against or just under 16%.

Still, a 16% chance the Queen is illegitimate would indeed be headline-worthy, but let’s examine this claim more closely. Here it may be helpful to refer to the family tree I put together for Shakespeare’s King Richard III. In the column all the way to the right, close to the center of the column, you can find Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. This is the future King Henry VII. Five slots down, you can find Elizabeth of York.

Henry and Elizabeth will wed, and their offspring will include King Henry VIII and his sister Margaret Tudor. If you look one column to the left, all the way at the bottom, you will see Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester. This is the future King Richard III. From here on, I will use “Richard Plantagenet” to refer to his father, the Duke of York, who is also on the chart.

Queen Elizabeth II is descended from Margaret Tudor, which means that she is a descendant of Richard III’s brother Edward IV. Edward became king as a result of the Wars of the Roses, which were fought between the houses of York and Lancaster. His claim comes from his father, Richard Plantagenet.

Richard Plantagenet does indeed inherit his surname from his paternal lineage through the York line, being the grandson of Edmund of Langley, the First Duke of York. However, Richard Plantagenet stakes his claim to the throne from his mother’s side, as Anne Mortimer is descended from Edmund of Langley’s older brother, Lionel, Duke of Clarence. What’s more, Richard Plantagenet’s wife, Cecily Neville, who is mother to Edward IV and Richard III, is the granddaughter of John of Gaunt, who is also an older brother to Edmund of Langley (though younger than Lionel, Duke of Clarence). Henry VII is also descended from John of Gaunt.

What all of this means is that even if the Y-chromosomal break is in the 16% that would make Richard Plantagenet illegitimate, it would not affect Edward IV’s claim to the throne. It would therefore not affect Margaret Tudor’s legitimacy, nor would it affect the current monarch.

More to the point, it’s been almost one thousand years since William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons in the Battle of Hastings, beginning the dynasty of which Queen Elizabeth II is the current representative. What else don’t we know? It seems very unlikely that, were a complete set of the genetic data magically available to us, Elizabeth would emerge as the clear genealogical winner. Not only do we have a millennium of regal shenanigans to wrangle with, but there is also the human element to consider. A lot of the lineage disputes from the past have been settled by people’s decisions and actions: who had political power, who was a bastard, who won a war, who was the right or wrong religion, etc. The question of whether women could inherit the crown changed the equation at several crucial junctures, so applying a single standard throughout English history would certainly change the outcome.

The bottom line is that we basically don’t know anything about anything, and we certainly don’t know much more today than we did yesterday. Queen Elizabeth shouldn’t start packing her bags based on this new revelation.

UPDATE: In the post, I claim the odds of the false paternity event being in the Queen’s lineage is 16:3 against. However, she is also descended from two other candidates: John of Gaunt and his son John Beaufort, the Earl of Somerset. So the odds of the break being in her ancestry would actually be 14:5 against. But she doesn’t derive her claim to the throne through this line either, so the rest of the argument still stands. See the comments for a clearer explanation.

Shakespeare Song Parody: One More Knight

Friday, November 9th, 2012

This is the eleventh in a series of pop-music parodies for Shakespeare fans.


One More Knight
sung to the tune of “One More Night”

(With apologies to Maroon 5, and St. Cripin…)

You and I look hard at each other while preparing for war.
You and I assess that our troop levels are less than before.
You and I agree it’s an issue that we should not ignore.
You and I diverge on the question of our wishing for more.

Yeah, today’s the feast of Crispin, Crispianus,
This day is holy-y,
And those who fight with us here, fight with us here,
Shall be not lowly-y,
And yearly when this day comes, when this day comes,
You’ll tell the story-y,
And so the fewer the men, fewer the men,
The greater share of glory-y.

We few are enough, if we’re marked to die,
And so now I pray, wish not one more knight.
Rather take their leave, those who would not fight,
But I pray thee, coz, wish not one more knight.

Gentlemen of England,
Who are now home resting quiet in bed,
Will curse themselves,
They were not here fighting with us instead,
Hold their manhoods cheap,
And find there’s little more that they have to say,
To the heroes that fought
Alongside the King on St. Crispin’s Day.

Yeah, today’s the feast of Crispin, Crispianus,
This day is holy-y,
And those who fight with us here, fight with us here,
Shall be not lowly-y,
And yearly when this day comes, when this day comes,
You’ll tell the story-y,
And so the fewer the men, fewer the men,
The greater share of glory-y.

We few are enough, if we’re marked to die,
And so now I pray, wish not one more knight.
Rather take their leave, those who would not fight,
But I pray thee, coz, wish not one more knight.

Conundrum: Alphagram

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

What number, when written as a word in English, has all of its letters in alphabetical order?

For example, “six” doesn’t work, because the letter S comes before the letter I in the word, but S comes after I in the alphabet.

The word “begin” has all five of its letters in alphabetical order, but, of course, it is not a number.

Can you find the only number that meets this requirement?

UPDATE: Number identified by Jeff. See comments for answer.

Double Googleplex – 1/10/10

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I subscribe to a service called “SiteMeter” which allows me to see a limited amount of information about my visitors. One thing that I can see is if someone finds my site via a Google search, and what they were searching for.

Every now and then I check in on what searches people have done to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond to those search terms in the name of fun and public service. All of the following searches brought readers to this site in the past week.


catherine of aragon monologue

Queen Katherine in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII is Catherine of Aragon. You can find good monologue material here and here.

agusto boal’s influences

You really have to consider Paulo Friere as Augusto Boal’s number one influence. Boal’s works also contain significant references to Marx, Hegel, Aristotle, Brecht, and Shakespeare. He was, of course, also greatly influenced by all of the many people with whom he interacted during his lifetime.

teacher help for shakespeare hamlet obituaries

I love the idea of having students write obituaries for Shakespeare’s characters. They could also write classified ads, advice column requests, and news stories. I’ve recently read blog posts where characters from Shakespeare have written Letters to Santa and New Year’s Resolutions, and these seem like good writing assignments for students as well.

why is macbeth so successful

Because he kills everyone who might possibly get in his way. But is he ultimately successful? See below.

what does macbeth have to look forward to in his old age?

Nothing. He’s dead.

Even if he weren’t, life would be bleak. His wife would be gone, and he’d be out of power. And as a former tyrant, he’d be made a laughing stock among the people. His decision to attack Macduff after all of the prophecies have come true may seem reckless to us, but he may not feel that he has a choice.

hidden messages in shakespeare “i … wrote this”

People looking for hidden “I wrote this” messages in Shakespeare are generally looking to prove that the plays were written by someone else. Shakespeare would have had little reason to hide such a message. But take a look at this page from a late Hamlet quarto, and see if you can find Shakespeare’s authorship message (hint: look at the writing below “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”).

slings and arrows the tempest

None of the three seasons of Slings & Arrows centered around The Tempest, but the very first scene of the series does. Geoffrey is directing this very play before the events that will bring him back to the New Burbage. I often tell people who may be interested in the show to watch this scene and the opening credits, and if they’re not hooked by then, there is no need to go on.

ideas for teaching macbeth to 10 year olds

With this age group, I recommend doing activities to introduce the plot, characters, and themes of the play before they read the actual text. Start here, and if you like what you read, check out my doctoral dissertation, which was on this exact topic. You should also check out the Cambridge School Shakespeare Macbeth, which has a lot of great activities that can be adapted to this age group, and the Shakespeare Set Free book that includes Macbeth for even more great ideas.

which war occured during shakespeare’s life

Probably the most significant war Shakespeare lived through was the undeclared Anglo-Spanish War. In the late 16th century, Spanish King Phillip II was gathering an international coalition of Catholic forces to launch an invasion of England and overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. The Spanish Armada was famously defeated by the English navy in 1588. This victory launched a new wave of patriotic fervor among the English, and a popular trend of writing plays about English kings just as Shakespeare was beginning his career as a playwright.

was shakespeare a tudor

No. Tudor was the surname of the English royal family from 1485 to 1603. The man we refer to as King Henry VIII was born Henry Tudor, Queen Elizabeth I was Elizabeth Tudor, etc. Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, married James Stuart (King James IV of Scotland) and their offspring continued the Stuart line in Scotland. Eventually, the Stuarts (in the person of James VI of Scotland) ascended to the English throne as well. When we speak of the Tudors and the Stuarts, then, we are not referring to titles, but to actual family names.

So, Shakespeare wasn’t a Tudor; he was a Shakespeare. But he was born and raised under Tudor rule. He lived the rest of his life under Stuart rule.

oikos polis anthony and cleopatra

I was taken aback by this one.

In this post, I discussed how ancient Greek playwrights would often show characters torn between their solemn duties to their oikos (family) and their polis (state), and how this is also a recurring theme in the television series 24. I also discussed how both 24 and ancient Greek tragedy share a unity of place, and used Antony and Cleopatra as a counter-example to demonstrate that Shakespeare did not have to conform to this unity.

What, then, was this search looking for? I don’t really think that oikos vs. polis is a theme in Antony and Cleopatra. It seems to me that the interests of family and state are aligned, and what the title characters are really balancing are those interests vs. their own passions.

king of england who did not have y chromosomes

The technical term for a king with no Y chromosomes is a “queen.” Notable queens of England have included a couple of Elizabeths, a couple of Marys, an Anne, and a Victoria (plus others, depending on what you want to count).

Almost by definition, a man has an X chromosome and a Y chromosome, and a woman has two X chromosomes. I say almost, because it is possible for there to be variations, but I am not familiar with any kings of England with such a condition.

I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:

prisoner’s dilemma lear

list of tv influenced by shakespeare

how to write a tudor invitation

robert duvall shakespeare

what does evil teach king lear?

shakespeare visual art

vienna`s english theatre macbeth zusammenfassung

genghis the teacher

social justice theatre

teaching the tempest using utube

humor in othello

comment of fifth act of macbeth from line 10 to 25

Shakespeare Lipogram: The Tempest

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

When I told DeLisa I was finished with the Shakespeare Lipograms after summarizing five plays, each restricted to using only a single vowel (A, E, I, O, U), she asked “What about Y?”. I assured her that I would be unable to do it. Now, I will prove it.

Please take this with a grain of salt, but here is a summary of The Tempest, told from Prospero’s point of view, using “Y” as the only vowel. I promise that I mean no offense to Gypsys or Pygmys, but I am using “gyp” in the dictionary sense to mean one who has cheated another, and “pygmy” in the non-dictionary sense as one who is native to an island.

And as long as I get to make up what words mean, I will also use the word “syzygy” to mean a general sense of forgiveness and the restoration of order, as might be symbolized by the aligning of celestial objects. Okay?

So here it is, my summary of The Tempest, using “Y” as the only vowel.


Nymph Myth

Spy my gyps, spry Nymph? Fly by. Slyly stymy gyps dry.

Sylph, wryly pry why. Pygmy’s by.

Nymph, spy. Sylph, try shy tryst.

Myth’s hymns try rhythm.

Gyps, cry. Psych! Syzygy.

Nymph, fly!

The Original Five Lipograms

Henry IV, Part One: Hal and Falstaff at War, Part A

As You Like It: Between the Trees

Cymbeline: British King

Hamlet: Forlorn Son

Measure for Measure: Just, but Unjust

Googleplex – 12/5/08

Friday, December 5th, 2008

It’s time once again to check in on what searches people have done to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond in the name of fun and public service. All of the following searches brought people to this site in the past week.

shakespeare’s macbeth powerpoint

The following image was found on a hard drive from a laptop that dates back to the early 17th century. Some have speculated that it might be from Shakespeare’s famous Macbeth PowerPoint, otherwise lost to history.

Oh, you probably meant a PowerPoint about Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Nevermind.

why did the tudors like king john

I’ll assume you meant the man and not the play, since Elizabeth was the only Tudor left by the time the play was written. But either way, the answer would probably be the same. In the early 13th century, King John showed open defiance against Pope Innocent III over church appointments in England. An ongoing battle of wills resulted in John’s excommunication from the church. When King Henry VIII willfully broke from the church in the 16th century, King John was a convenient symbol of English independence from Rome.

last line as you like it shakespeare

Here it is:

If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths that I defied not; and, I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will, for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.

It is the end of an epilogue spoken by the actor who played Rosalind in the play, who in Shakespeare’s time would have been male. In the play, Rosalind (a young woman) disguises herself as Ganymede (a young man), and then agrees to pretend to be Rosalind. The line “if I were a woman…” is funny because it reminds us that what we’ve just seen was a boy playing a girl playing a boy playing a girl.

who was the father of king henry the eighth

King Henry the Seventh.

how did shakespeare and king henry the 8th meet

King Henry the Eighth died before Shakespeare was born. But Shakespeare wrote a play about him.

shakespeare 6th grade which play?

When I’m working with 6th-grade students specifically, I like to choose a play that has resonance with ancient civilizations, which is what they’ll be learning about in social studies. Julius Caesar is probably the most age appropriate selection of that group.

I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:

descendants of king arthur

word that end with the letter x for 5 years old

“why did shakespeare use long speeches”

tudors william shakespeare what he
wanted to be when he was a child

what is the symbolic value of the ghost of banquo

i am drawn to the letter y what does it mean

Shakespeare Lipogram: Henry IV, Part One

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I am excited to announce a new (though temporary) weekly feature to the blog, inspired by the book Eunoia by Christian Bök. The book has five chapters, each using only one of the five vowels (A, E, I, O, U), and excluding the other four. I thought it might make a fun constrained writing activity for the blog.

The Challenge: I will write plot summaries for five of Shakespeare’s plays, each using a different target vowel, and excluding the other four. I will choose one play from each of the five genres. I will post one summary each Sunday for five weeks.

Five weeks. Five vowels. Five genres. Five plays.

I haven’t read Eunoia, so I don’t know how Bök deals with the letters W and Y, but I have laid down my own ground rules. Y is okay if it’s used as a consonant (as in “Yet”) or in conjunction with the target vowel (as in “boy”), but not when used by itself (as in “my”) or when it forms its own syllable (as in “every”). There will be no restrictions on the use of the letter W.

Obviously, I will need to change most of the character names to make this work. But rather than arbitrarily choosing new names, I think it would be more faithful to the constraint to choose descriptive nicknames.

For my first attempt, I have chosen to summarize a History play, King Henry IV, Part One, using “A” as the only vowel.


Hal and Falstaff at War, Part A

Brash Lad’s clansman March has a fall at war. Stalwart Braggart attacks and nabs March, and wants cash. Brash Lad wants March back. Grand Man (Hal’s dad) can’t pay Stalwart Braggart that cash. Brash Lad rants mad. Grand Man can’t pay a call at Abraham’s Land, as was always a plan. Grand Man stays wan. An adamant Brash Lad walks, and clasps Stalwart Braggart’s hands.

Hal, Jack Falstaff, and a madcap charlatan band hang at a bar. Falstaff has a scam plan. Hal’s plan sandbags Falstaff. Falstaff, back at that bar, brags and brags. Hal calls Falstaff’s brag and can flash all Falstaff’s cash. Falstaff warns Hal that smart scams can’t trap Stalwart Braggart and Mad Marksman, and that Hal’s dad, Grand Man, wants a harsh chat. Falstaff playacts Grand Man and lambasts Hal. Hal playacts Grand Man and Falstaff playacts Hal. Falstaff (as Hal) says that Hal can’t cast fat Jack Falstaff away. Hal (as Grand Man) says that Hal can, and that’s a fact, Jack!

Brash Lad, Stalwart Braggart, and March all play ball, and plan an attack at Grand Man. March’s lass sang. Grand Man lambasts Hal, as Falstaff had. Hal asks vaward, and Grand Man grants that. Falstaff drafts scalawags that Hal can’t stand and flagrant dastards that pay Falstaff hard cash and walk. Mad Marksman clasps Brash Lad’s hands. Hal packs arms. Falstaff packs sack.

War starts! Mad Marksman attacks Grand Man. Hal casts Mad Marksman away. Hal and Brash Lad clash, and Hal slays Brash Lad. Mad Marksman attacks Jack Falstaff. Falstaff falls flat and playacts a carcass. Hal calls Brash Lad a gallant, and calls Falstaff fat. As Hal walks away, Falstaff plays at sarcasm and says that a gallant’s as apt as a warrant and a hangman. Falstaff nabs Brash Lad’s carcass and says that Brash Lad had drawn a last fall at Falstaff’s hand.

Hal’s man nabs Mad Marksman. Hal plays lax gallant and casts Mad Marksman away. Hal and Grand Man plan an attack at Stalwart Braggart and March. Call that play “Part B”…

Next Lipogram: As You Like It


Friday, September 12th, 2008

I’m always curious to see what search terms bring people to this site. Here is a list of all of the search terms that brought people here yesterday:

    how shakespeare demonstrated “religion” in his plays
    presidents with the letter y in their name
    king henry viii shakespeare for children
    who are the present day descendants of ann boleyn
    king henry the eighth for kids
    modern day descendants of henry the eighth
    free shakespeare for kids
    shakespeare did math
    math – coins – line drawings of
    saddam hussein vs. iago
    textual analysis of elizabath i letter to king james vi
    what play of shakespeare hads the word shyster in it?
    characterize ophelia in act 3 scene 1
    open-ended question of the week
    who am i riddles
    music tech’
    shakespeare class distinction “as you like it”
    sir francis bacon blog

The word “shyster” does not appear in Shakespeare. There is a character named Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and a popular anti-lawyer quote in Henry VI, Part Two.

Several United States presidents have had the letter Y in their names. First name: Ulysses S. Grant, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter; Last name: John Tyler, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy; First and Last Name: Zachary Taylor; Commonly Used Middle Name: John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison.

As for the Ophelia thing, do your own homework.

How now! What news?

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

I’ve been trying to think how I could top last week’s Shakespeare Anagram, where I took Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech and anagrammed it into adapted versions of five other Hamlet speeches. I decided to attempt to anagram one entire scene from Shakespeare into an adapted version of another scene from Shakespeare.

I thought it best to use two scenes with the same characters, so that the letters in the speech prefixes would even out, and of course I needed to find two scenes of roughly equal length. I went for two scenes between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the one just before the murder of Duncan and the one right after. (I’ll call the two scenes Beforekill and Afterkill, which I think has a clarity that calling them I.vii. and II.ii. lacks.)

Well, I did not get very far. In fact, I didn’t get past the very first step, which is to do a letter inventory. It turns out that Beforekill has over 30 more instances of the letter W than Afterkill has. This is a lot, considering that the scenes themselves are only about 90 lines long a piece. So, unless I want to add a bunch of web addresses, it’s probably not going to work. There are only so many times you can work “How now!” into conversation before it gets tedious.

It’s not a length issue, as Afterkill is rich in Rs and Ss, letters that you would expect to appear frequently in a given passage. Also, Afterkill has quite a few extra Ys than Beforekill and, oddly, about 20 more Gs! So why such a big W disparity in the other direction?

Part of it is a deliberate use on Shakespeare’s part of W alliteration in Beforekill, as in “which would be worn now” or “will I with wine and wassail,” but I think it’s more than that.

W is the letter of question words. When? Which? Why? How? Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are debating and planning the murder and are challenging each other with questions. W also the first letter of We. They are in this together. “If we should fail?” “We fail.”

After the murder, it’s all about Get this and Go there and Give me the daGGers. The soft W is used for coaxing and hedging. The hard G is used for scrambling and panicking. Awesome.

So there won’t be any full-scene anagrams, at least not right now. But I enjoyed discovering the reason why not, and thought you might enjoy it too.