Archive for May, 2008

Shakespeare Anagram: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

I caused quite a bit of controversy in the academic world with my last anagram that demonstrated that Sir Francis Bacon may be the true author of Shakespeare’s works. Now, I make amends.

At the end of the play, Shakespeare sets the record straight about these hidden messages. I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused by shaking up your worldview.

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Tell this: I, dubbed William Shakespeare, penned the stuff.

The odd hidden author shifts you have been shown was a vivid dream.

Friday Night Video

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Weezer’s new video for “Pork and Beans” is on YouTube, and in more ways than one.

Bonus points for the first one to spot Charlie the Unicorn.

UPDATE: Charlie spotted by Benjamin Baxter.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I’m not multiplication, except in a cell;
I’m a part of an army, or business as well;
A collection of sports teams where one will excel;
And the discord that tears an alliance to hell.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Benjamin Baxter. See comments for answer.

Question of the Week

Monday, May 26th, 2008

We did a reading of As You Like It yesterday, and the question of the best marriage in Shakespeare came up again.

Here’s what I had to say last year in response to Cesario, a fellow blogger who suggested that it was the Macbeths:

I’ve heard Harold Bloom express this opinion, and I get the equal partnership aspect, but I find their relationship too dysfunctional and codependent to pay them this compliment. The title “Best Marriage in Shakespeare” is a dubious honor, but I think I’d have to go with Brutus and Portia. They seem like they have a really strong relationship. The fact that it can be torn apart by the assassination is a testament to the earth-shattering significance of that event. We won’t count the marriages at the end of the comedies, because who knows how they’ll fare?

But now, I turn the question over to you.

What’s the best marriage in Shakespeare?

P.S. Cesario is currently annotating the text of Hamlet, scene by scene, on her blog. Check it out.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

By Napoleon’s troops, I was dragged from my bed;
And was brought, not to France, but to Britain instead;
I repeated three times just one thing that was said;
And I brought back to life what was thought to be dead.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Gedaly. See comments for answer.

Conundrum: Nim, Part I

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Iachimo likes to hang out at the local tavern, drawing in tourists to play a game of Nim. You don’t like Iachimo. You don’t like him at all. You think he’s a huckster and a con man. You’d like nothing better than to beat him at his own game. You want to beat him at Nim.

In Nim, two opponents take turns drawing from several piles of coins. On your turn, you may remove as many coins as you like from any one pile. The winner is the one who takes the last coin and leaves his opponent without a move. The coins themselves are not on the line, but Iachimo likes to make the game more interesting with a modest wager.

As you enter the tavern, you notice that Iachimo is set up for business. He has stacked five piles of coins, numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Each pile has the same number of coins as the pile number: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. He sees you coming and amiably offers you a friendly wager which you quickly accept.

“I’ll go first,” you smile, and before Iachimo can object, you make your move.

What’s your first move? What’s your strategy for winning?

UPDATE: The solution is posted in the comments.

Shakespeare Anagram: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Have you ever wondered about those “other” plays mentioned in the last act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the options that Theseus doesn’t choose? The titles seem kind of random and nonsensical. Could they actually be anagrams of hidden messages? You be the judge.

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Want the authentic truth?

Bacon’s the genuine author beneath the plays.- B.

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Get it right.

I, Sir Francis Bacon, create entertaining theatre plays.

Hah! Hoh!

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceas’d in beggary.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Go get the true author. I feel I’m he.

Sir Francis Bacon engendered the lengthy dramas.

Let the games begin!

UPDATE: And what of the title of the play that Theseus did choose?

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus
And his love Thisbe; very tragical mirth.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Vet the author of the plays.

I am. Sir Francis Bacon.

You disbelieved my genius. Grr.

UPDATE II: A clarification anagram.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

I’m a pecan-decked cookie that’s made near Vermont;
Or a place to enjoy a Gipfeli croissant;
A convention of laws for the camp commandant;
And a common sans serif plain Macintosh font.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Ro. See comments for answer.

Greek Tragedy 24

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I was planning to post a Greek Tragedy 24 as a follow-up to last month’s Shakespeare 24, but it turned out to be much too derivative. Part of the problem seems to be that the two genres being parodied are much too close to make such a union humorous. In fact, I would go so far as to say that 24 is today’s answer to the ancient Greek tragedy. A statement like that requires some explanation.

The most obvious similarity is the real-time format. Ancient Greek drama was, for the most part, presented in real time. The audience of that age would not have accepted the traditional story-telling techniques that we take for granted today, such as flash-backs and multiple locations. Aristotle’s unity of time is often translated as meaning that the action of a play must take place within 24 hours (which would have worked just as well for this comparison), but Aristotle never actually wrote this, and if you read the plays, they could pretty much take place in the time you spent watching them. The plays start after most of the action has already happened, and the main character is about an hour and a half away from the great reversal of fortune and recognition he has coming. During the play, characters come in and out, but the audience usually stays put. Oedipus realizes that he needs to speak with someone and has to summon him and wait for him to come, unless he just happened to have already summoned him on another matter and, oh look, here he comes now. Audiences of the time had no problem accepting that sort of thing, I suppose. Shakespeare did not have to play by these rules for his audiences, shifting his scenes between Rome and Egypt in Antony and Cleopatra, and famously skipping over sixteen years in The Winter’s Tale, to name just two examples.

Similarly, when Briscoe and Curtis (or whoever the current line-up on Law & Order is this year) get a lead on a suspect, we can immediately cut to them arriving on the scene. When Jack Bauer gets a lead on a suspect, he actually has to physically get to the location. It’s worth noting that only the unity of time, not place or action, is observed. The show can easily switch back and forth between Washington DC and Los Angeles, and have multiple story lines going at the same time. But what the real-time format does for both 24 and Greek tragedy is to give an immediacy to the events being depicted. We can feel like this is something happening in front of us in the moment. When our hero is faced with a choice to make, he has to make it right now, even if it is an impossible choice.

This element of the impossible choice is crucial to both 24 and Greek tragedy. Greek playwrights would often show characters torn between their solemn duties to their oikos (family) and their polis (state). Agamemnon is told that the goddess Artemis will not allow him to sail to Troy unless he sacrifices his daughter Iphigeneia. He now must choose between his responsibility to the polis to wage war with Troy and his responsibility to the oikos to protect his daughter. There is no right answer, only two wrong ones. In true Jack Bauer fashion, he puts national security first, and offers up the kid. Antigone makes the opposite choice. She is told by King Creon that she may not bury her traitorous brother, and she has a duty to obey. But she also has a duty to bury her brother, and she makes that decision – which she will ultimately suffer for. Actions have consequences, and the characters are willing to accept those consequences even when they did not have a better choice.

Similarly, characters on 24 are often put in situations where they have to choose between oikos and polis, between someone they personally care about and national security. National security on this show is less about “protecting our way of life” and more about “millions of people will die” if we don’t stop the threat. Either way, there will be serious consequences. The show finds just those moments where the “right thing to do” is something that most of us couldn’t do. But Jack Bauer can, and he becomes elevated to the level of the mythical hero.

And there we find another similarity. Ancient Greek dramas were often set at a time when, for the Greeks, the mythological overlapped with the legendary. Gods interacted with humans, and humans were a special breed of heroes. The stories did not have to be realistic – their mythical nature allowed the playwrights to explore larger themes. In 24, events are contrived to fit the real-time format, and we accept it. Jack is able to shuttle around from location to location in record time, and we accept it. Most of all, Jack is able to embody the courage, resolve, and self-sacrifice that we admire in our present-day heroes. He does so far beyond what any human would actually be capable of doing. And we accept that, too. In our post-9/11 world, that’s the larger theme.

To sum up: Shakespeare 24 – Very funny. Greek Tragedy 24 – Too “on the nose” to really be funny. But I enjoyed coming to that recognition, and now I am pleased to share it with you.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

I am neither a consequence, nor am I dare;
A sojourner for rights, who was past all compare;
I’m the first one that Superman fights for out there;
And a website that warns you of smoking – beware!

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Brian. See comments for answer.