The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0576  Wednesday, 18 November 2009

From:       Steve Sohmer <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Wednesday, 11 Nov 2009 21:51:23 EST
Subject: 20.0547 Anagrams
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0547 Anagrams

Dear Friends,

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.


S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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