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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: The Number 20
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0218  Wednesday, 31 January 2001

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 12:35:11 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20

[2]     From:   Marti Markus <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 19:26:58 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20

[3]     From:   Hannibal Hamlin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 13:43:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20

[4]     From:   Franklin J. Hildy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 18:37:38 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 12:35:11 EST
Subject: 12.0205 The Number 20
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20

Well.... it is one of the more luscious numbers to pronounce.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marti Markus <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 19:26:58 +0100
Subject: 12.0205 The Number 20
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20

> One of my students has found an unusual number of incidences of the
> number 20 in Shakespeare's works.
>
> Can anyone tell me what the significance of that number might be in
> Pythagorean number theory or any other numerological system that
> Shakespeare might have been familiar with?

I can only guess, but there must have been a Mediaeval European number
system that had 20 (instead of 12 or 10) as a base or rather as an upper
limit. It is the number of all our fingers + toes, twenty is "a lot",
because after twenty we have to stop counting or to start again.  Cf. a
"score" as a measure of 20 units (or notches on a stick) for money (e.g.
debts indicated on a board) and for the weight of oxen  (OED 10, 11,
17), French "quatre-vingt" for 80 is another clue, and so is German
"Schock" (which could mean both 20 or 60).

Markus Marti
University of Basel.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hannibal Hamlin <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 13:43:19 -0500
Subject: 12.0205 The Number 20
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20

In the Arden edition of the Sonnets, Katherine Duncan-Jones notes that
20 was connected to the human body, since we have twenty digits.  This
works well for sonnet 20, especially since, beyond the body generally,
its subject is Nature's "addition" to the young beloved of a problematic
twenty-first digit.

Hannibal Hamlin

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Franklin J. Hildy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 18:37:38 -0500
Subject: 12.0205 The Number 20
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0205 The Number 20

It can only be Shakespeare's code to tell us the Globe had 20 sides-as
it now does in London!

Conclusive proof that John Orell had it right and I was wrong (I thought
it should be 18)!!

On the other hand if you take the 2 from the first 20 and subtract it
from the second you do get 18, so perhaps I was right after all.  Isn't
it wonderful how numbers work?
 

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