Archive for December, 2008

End of the Year Reflection

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

I’ve decided to celebrate the end of 2008 here at Shakespeare Teacher by selecting my favorite post from each of the last twelve months.


January: Question of the Week

The question was simple: “Who is today’s Shakespeare?” The answer was not so simple, but led to one of the most interesting discussions the blog has ever seen. Aaron Sorkin, David Mamet, Joss Whedon, Steven King, and Bob Dylan all got their day in court, but can there ever really be another?

February: Hey Nineteen

This was a short month that was shorter on posts, but I did enjoy this one. President Bush’s approval rating had dropped to an embarrassing 19%. An old Trident ad once boasted that four out of five dentists recommended sugarless gum. Bush was less popular than sugared gum among dentists.

March: Bad Clue

Due to my obsessive Shakespeare pedantry, I noticed an error in a Jeopardy! clue. It did not affect the outcome of the game, but I was happy to see the error noted in the J! archive, using the identical wording I used in the blog (which I had also posted to the Ken Jennings message board).

April: Shakespeare 24

Riffing on the title of a global Shakespeare event, I put together an hour-by-hour plot summary of a fictional season of 24, using Shakespeare plots, characters, and devices. If you know both sources, it’s pretty funny. A later attempt at a Greek Tragedy 24 was too “on the nose” to really be funny.

May: Shakespeare Anagram: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In the last act, Theseus is asked to choose a play from among four choices. I did an anagram for each of the four play titles looking for secret messages, and lo and behold, there was a message in each of them claiming authorship for Sir Francis Bacon. A later anagram clarified that it was all just a dream.

June: Pic Tac Toe in 3D, Part IV

It’s not easy fitting 49 themes neatly in a puzzle, and I’ve often had to rely on some weak connections to make it work. This was the first 3D puzzle where I felt that all 49 themes were strong and interesting. And based on the 70 comments in the thread, the puzzle was a hit with solvers as well.

July: Shakespeare Anagram: Hamlet

This is far and away my favorite of all of the anagrams on the site. I took five of Hamlet’s most famous speeches and adapted each of them to be a perfect anagram of the first 14 lines of the “To be or not to be” speech. Links to the originals are included, so readers can see how close I was able to come.

August: Thursday Morning Riddle: Special Edition

The blog’s 100th riddle had a self-referential answer: 100. Neel both solved the riddle and guessed the meaning. In the comments, I promised “Next week: Riddle 101!”, meaning that it would be the 101st riddle. But when the time came, I couldn’t resist, and the answer to the following riddle was 101!

September: Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VIII

In celebration of Shakespeare’s pro-Tudor slant on history, I took the unlikely speech in Henry VIII where Henry reacts to the birth of his daughter Elizabeth, and anagrammed it into something much closer to what he actually would have said. Something about this one really tickles me.

October: Shakespeare Anagram: Henry IV, Part Two

There’s not much to choose from in October, but I was pleased with this anagram. Henry IV is giving advice to his son about how to conduct himself in the next administration, and the anagram is about an interview with five former Secretaries of State, giving advice to Obama.

November: Top Ten Reasons to Vote

I made a commitment to post every day in November, so there’s a lot to choose from, but I think I’m proudest of this one. Did I convince anyone to vote who wasn’t going to already? Probably not. But I think for those of us who do vote, the post was a nice reminder about why we do. It was for me.

December: Shakespeare Lipogram: Hamlet

I had so much fun with the lipogram experiment! The Hamlet lipogram wasn’t the most difficult (Measure for Measure was), but I spent more time on it than any of the others. It’s just not Hamlet without the speeches, and adapting those took a little extra effort. But it was a labor of love.

Happy New Year!

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

I am Born to Run, Abbey Road, plus Purple Rain;
I’m comedian Chris, and a wrestler named Dwayne;
In engagement, the diamond your ring can contain;
I’m a popular candy, and also cocaine.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Little Fish. See comments for answer.

Master of My Domain

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I registered the domain years ago, but never did anything with it. Eventually, I let it lapse, and someone else picked it up. I always regretted doing that, but apparently I am in good company, since the new owner never did anything with it either and let it lapse as well.

I picked it up again in December 2006, after unsuccessful attempts to procure this domain (as well as this one and this one). I purchased the domain and hosting services for two years, which are set to expire by the end of the week.

I’m happy to announce that I have extended my lease on this piece of virtual real estate for another three years, so Shakespeare Teacher: The Blog will have a home until at least December 2011. I’m also working on some other resources for the website that I hope to announce soon.

Conundrum: Blue Gene Baby

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I had the pleasure of observing a science teacher teach a fantastic lesson on genetics last week, and it got me thinking about the mathematics behind eye color. This Conundrum will be purely a probability question (two, actually), so I apologize in advance for over-simplifying the science.

Assume that everyone has two genes that determine eye color. For the sake of the math, we will stipulate that each gene must be either brown or blue. An individual inherits one gene from each parent. A parent will pass on one of his or her own two genes with equal probability.

Brown is dominant, which means that if an individual has one brown gene and one blue gene, then the individual will have brown eyes. An individual will also have brown eyes if both genes are brown. Only an individual with two blue genes will have blue eyes.

Now imagine this hypothetical scenario: Susan and David are a married couple, and both have brown eyes. David’s father had blue eyes, and his mother had brown eyes. Susan’s parents both had brown eyes, but her brother Bill has blue eyes. Susan and David are expecting their first child, baby Jason.

Question 1: What are the chances that Jason will have blue eyes?

Question 2: Suppose Jason had brown eyes. Susan and David are now expecting a second child, baby Ian. What are the chances that Ian will have blue eyes?

UPDATE: Both questions answered correctly by Micah. See comments for answers and discussion.

Question of the Week

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Global warming? Nuclear war? Environmental pollution? Social chaos? Biological weapons?

What is the greatest threat to human survival today, and what must we do to survive it?

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

Shakespeare Anagram: King Lear

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

From King Lear:

Back do I toss these treasons to thy head

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Knotty shoe side-shots acerbated a host.

Googleplex – 12/19/08

Friday, December 19th, 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.

descendants of king george iii

Now we’re getting a little closer to the present. King George III was king during the American Revolution; he was the King George we were revolting against. His reign was long – over 59 years! In fact, only his granddaughter Victoria reigned longer, though Elizabeth II is likely to pass him as well on May 12, 2011. But I digress.

George III is a direct ancestor of all subsequent monarchs of England. He was succeeded by two sons, a granddaughter, a great grandson, etc. So I’d imagine he’d be a direct ancestor of pretty much everyone who we consider to be of English royal birth today, though someone with a better grasp of how all of that works may correct me. I’d also imagine that he has many descendants who are not considered English royalty, their connection to the crown being too distant. Again, I am not beyond correction on this point.

what age group is tudors for?

The Tudors is for adults.

anagrams with the word teacher


what historically happened when shakespeare was living

Many important historical events occurred during the 52 years of Shakespeare’s life, both in the world and in England in particular. Shakespeare was born in 1564, just two months after Galileo, and died on his birthday in 1616 on the same day as Cervantes (actually ten days later).

That’s a lot of history to cover here, but I’ll give you a sampling of five of the more significant English, but non-Shakespearean, events that took place during Shakespeare’s lifetime and how they may have affected Shakespeare. I invite readers to quibble with my choices:

1588 – The English navy defeats the Spanish Armada. This sparked a new era of English patriotism which coincided with the beginning of Shakespeare’s writing career. It’s why a lot of his early plays are Histories, as that was a popular trend at the time.

1603 – Elizabeth I dies without an heir, and is eventually replaced by King James I. James became a patron of Shakespeare’s company, now “The King’s Men,” and Shakespeare will write Macbeth in honor of the new king.

1605 – Catholic conspirators attempt to murder James in the Gunpowder Plot. It is believed that there are references to the Gunpowder Plot in Macbeth.

1607 – Establishment of Jamestown colony in Virginia. The Tempest may have been inspired by the wreck of a ship that was headed for the colony.

1611 – Publication of the King James Bible. Rumors that Shakespeare worked on the project are mere speculation. Stories about Psalm 46 containing hidden messages should be taken with a grain of salt.

shakespeare julius caesar slings and arrows

The expression “slings and arrows” is from Hamlet, but I assume you’re talking about the Canadian television series. There were three seasons, each revolving around a different Shakespearean tragedy. Julius Caesar was not one of them. The plays were, in order, Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear.

if henry the 8th was alive today what would he look like

He would look like a 517-year-old man holding a giant drumstick.

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

at what point should you feel bad for iachimo

who were shakespeare’s teacher

shakespeare time machine professor

funny alternate endings for king lear

music for a powerpoint shakespeare music

shakespeare was not good at math

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I’m a step up in pitch; or a drop that is sheer;
I’m a cheddar with bite; or a merciless jeer;
I’m a mind that is lucid; a picture that’s clear;
I’m the blade of the sword; I’m the tip of the spear.

Who am I?

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

Using Data

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Yesterday, I gave a workshop for teachers on using data to improve student achievement. This is something that is going to become an increasing part of my work, so I may be blogging about it from time to time. The idea is to cull information about students from a variety of sources, systematically analyze that information in order to identify areas of improvement, and then create an action plan for targeting those areas.

In some cases, the results of careful data analysis can be surprising. So often we jump to conclusions about why students aren’t achieving, or we depend on underlying assumptions that may be based on our own pre-conceived notions. Consider for a moment this piece of student work:

Laugh if you must, but it’s easy to get the wrong idea from only a cursory examination. Further investigation revealed that the child’s mother works at Home Depot, and is here depicted selling snow shovels. And if you only relied on your initial observations and didn’t investigate further, you could be lead astray.

Hopefully, the systematic use of data will allow us to avoid such snap judgements and take a more scientific approach to improving student achievement.