The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0576 Wednesday, 18 November 2009
From: Steve Sohmer <
Date: Wednesday, 11 Nov 2009 21:51:23 EST
Subject: 20.0547 Anagrams
Comment: Re: SHK 20.0547 Anagrams
Sorry to be late responding; have been away.
It's really a pleasure to read comments from John Briggs, whose range of
knowledge (and sophistication) is an example to us all. And I don't
quibble with what he says about the Council of Nicaea's activities,
which was correct. But, perhaps, have we overlooked the anomalous way
Christopher Clavius, the Vapians, the late Lilus and other
mathematicians incorporated those decrees into what we know as the
Gregorian calendar reform? Which is, after all, what Toby, Andrew and
Feste were trying to discuss while in their cups on the prior night.
By the mid-16th century everyone knew the solar tropical year was
365.2422 days long (or thereabout). And there were various notions of
how to correct for this (including no leap years in centennial years
unless divisible by 400, the tactic suggested by Pietro Pitati
[Veronese, fl. ca. 1550] which we now employ).
The great question confronting mathematicians and churchmen reformers
was this: should the calendar be corrected to the radix at the time of
the birth of Christ ... which in 1582 required the excision of 13 days
... or should it be corrected to the radix at A.D. 325 when the Council
of Nicaea set 21 March as the "official" date of the Vernal Equinox ...
which would require the excision of 10 days?
Why was this an issue? It seems quite obvious to us that resetting the
clock to the birth of Jesus was their logical (and Christian) duty. But
Gregory et al took the low road and adjusted the calendar 10 days
instead of 13 ,,, because to conform their new calendar (and
martyrology) to A.D. 1 would have meant accepting Julius Caesar's old
pagan Julian calendar as the foundation of the new Christian calendar.
Caesar, of course, had imposed the Julian calendar on the Roman world on
1 January 45 BC. But Caesar did not only decree a year of 365.25 days
and a leap day every fourth year. He also adjusted the calendar 80 days
(by making 46 BC 445 days long!) so that the Equinoxes and Solstices
would fall on/about 25 March, 21 June, 21 September, 25 December ...
which were pagan holy days. 25 March was the spring festival of the
earth mother, Ceres. 25 December was the beginning of the Saturnalia, etc.
So using Caesar's calendar would only emphasize the fact that early
Christians had borrowed Caesar's dates for the Equinoxes and Solstices
for important Christian anniversaries, to wit: 25 March, the
Annunciation and conception of Jesus by his mother; 21 June, the
Birthday of John the Baptist; 21 September, the conception of John
Baptist; 25 December, the birth of Jesus. After all, by the time the
Gospels were written no one remembered Jesus's birthday. The dates on
which Christianity observed the Annunciation, birth of Christ, etc. were
Gregory et al opted for the 10-day solution -- the mathematically
and historically wrong solution, but the religiously safe solution. So
Toby and his pals are right to sing "O the 12th day of December" as
Christmas day ... because 12 + 13 = 25. The 12 December was the 25
December, according to no lesser authority than the Sun.
In so doing, Gregory had a precedent for ignoring a pagan antecedent and
favoring a Christian one. Back in A.D. 525, a monk named Dominus Exiguus
had cast aside the tradition of numbering of years from the founding of
Rome (AUC) -- a detestable pagan vestige, he thought -- and
substituted the numbering of years we call C.E., the Christian Era,
beginning with the year he thought was A.D. 1, the year when Christ was
born. Dom was off by something like 4 or 7 years (opinions vary), but
who's counting? Anyhow ....
If all the above seems too persnickety and tedious to bear, please
remember that it finally explains why Shakespeare called the play
"Twelfth Night, or what you will" -- since the cognoscenti knew that
12 December was, in fact, the historical Christmas ... so the 5 or 6
January could hardly be Twelfth Night ... which should have been
celebrated on 24 December, which most people took to be Christmas Eve
... and you can see how things were sufficient liable to confusion that
Toby and Andrew couldn't follow the explanation, no matter how patiently
Feste tried to explain, and couldn't tell Pont. Grigorius from
Hope this helps.
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