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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: The Number Twenty
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0379  Thursday, 15 February 2001

From:           Vick Bennison <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 15:53:52 EST
Subject:        Re: The Number Twenty

>>    Might I suggest, just one more time, that the financial arrangements of
>>    Shakespeare's time centered on base twenty (20 shillings in a pound),
>>    and 12 too, of course.  Does 12 turn up greatly too?

>>    William Proctor Williams

Twelve turns up only about 1/5 as often as twenty, which is interesting,
since it has more numerological possibilities; twelve hours, twelve
months, twelve apostles, twelve signs of the zodiac, etc.  But he uses
it most often for time, either clock time or duration of time.  "twixt
twelve and one" (or "between") occurs in three plays, and the hour of
twelve appears in many other plays in one form or another.  "Twelve
years" occurs quite frequently (and is perhaps somehow numerological in
Tempest).  He uses "twelve moons" three times to represent a year.  He
almost never uses twelve for exaggeration, as he does twenty.    Three
times he uses the construct "twelve score", which may be an exaggeration
in one case, but in the other two sounds more like an approximation.  He
never uses it as a monetary quantity that I can find.  Interestingly, he
mentions "forty shillings", "thirty shillings", "ten shillings" and
"eight shillings", each two or three times, but never "twenty
shillings", I guess because that is a pound.

- Vick Bennison
 

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