NEW EPISODE TONIGHT!!!
And I thought I'd share something 2 friends of mine (who just finished watching Season 1 last week and came over this weekend to watch season 2 which I have on DVR) wrote over the weekend. All of the research is, as far as they know, accurate, except for what's obviously not.
Shakespeare and “Lost”: Written in the Numbers
By Drs. Adam B. Hunault and Teresa A. Jusino
The Tempest, like “Lost”, takes place on an island. Coincidence? We think not! As The Tempest begins, there are 4
characters stranded on this island. After the shipwreck, there are 15
total named characters that end up on the island…
William Shakespeare, author of The Tempest, lived from the 15
00s to the 16
00s – he was born on 4/23/1564
. He was one of 8
children. He was the eldest son, and his youngest brother was born 16
years later. He married Anne Hathaway, who was 8
years his senior. She has 4
letters in her first name and 8
in her last name. Shakespeare died on 4/23/1616
, but his work wasn’t assembled until the first folio, published in 1623
. Shakespeare’s mother died in 1608
and his wife in 1623
Shakespeare’s lifelong relationship with the mysterious “Lost” numbers doesn’t end there. During his career, he wrote plays in 4
major categories (tragedies, comedies, histories and romances), as well as 154
sonnets of 16
Shakespeare’s first play was probably Titus Andronicus – this 15
letter title is the earliest instance of Shakespeare referencing “Lost” numbers in his work. The Bard went on to write six plays with 4
word titles, as well as 4
plays named after a pair of characters, e.g. Romeo and Juliet, (4 x two = 8
). Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, 4
dealt with the Roman Empire, while 8
more take place in the Italian Renaissance.
In his histories, which were among his earlier plays, Shakespeare had not yet achieved the sophistication necessary to cleverly conceal his “Lost” numbers. There were 8
major histories, often divided into two “cycles” of 4
plays each. Shakespeare clearly drew his inspiration from the “Lost” numbers on the first of these cycles (Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V – 2+4+4+5=15
), while the influence of “Lost” numbers is obvious in his decision to write about Henry IV (4
) and Henry VIII (8
). The most famous of characters in the histories is Sir John Falstaff, who has 4
letters in his first name and 8
letters in his last name; the character appears or is mentioned in 4
plays. Arguably the most famous line in all the histories in King Henry’s exhortation “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!” which appears in Henry V, act III scene 1, (3+1=4
The comedies are by far the most fertile source of “Lost” numbers in Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s most memorable comedic heroes, Beatrice and Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing, each have 8
letters in their name, a sum that their union at the end of the play brings to 16
. Shakespeare’s comedies famously end in marriage – 4
people get married at the end of The Taming of the Shrew and at the end of Midsummer Night’s Dream, while Shakespeare’s personal best was undoubtedly the 8
characters who got married at the end of As You Like It (a total of 4
marriages). One comedy that did not end in marriage was The Merry Wives of Windsor, but it nonetheless featured a “love square” of 4
characters formed by Falstaff and the three titular wives, while the mischief in The Comedy of Errors revolves around two sets of twins (2x2=4
). The title character of The Taming of the Shrew is Kate, who has a 4
letter name, and who may have been named after the character on “Lost.” Historians differ on this point, but the inclusion of characters named Kate or Katherine in 4
plays (Shrew, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V) seems to bear out the theory of Shakespeare’s fascination with this instance of the “dark lady” archetype.
In his tragedies, Shakespeare mainly used “Lost” numbers in Hamlet. That play’s iconic “To be or not to be” soliloquy occurs in Act 3, scene 1, (3+1=4
). Hamlet is often noted for its extreme pathos: 8
characters meet a violent end in the play (not including the Ghost, who dies before it begins). However, traces of the “Lost” numbers also crop up in Romeo and Juliet, where Shakespeare gives more stage time to Romeo of the 8
lettered Montague family and his friend Mercutio (also 8
letters) than to Juliet, whose name cannot be linked to the “Lost” numbers. More recently, Macbeth has been adapted into a film 42
times and, perhaps not coincidentally, is widely reputed to be cursed.
Shakespeare’s least understood plays are the enigmatic “problem plays,” or romances. There are 4
of these plays. In addition to The Tempest, which bears a clear resemblance to the premise of “Lost,” the baby Perdita who was at the center of the action in A Winter’s Tale is believed dead for 16
years before she returns to Bohemia. Perdita, in Spanish, translates to “little lost one.”
However, Shakespeare’s relationship with the acclaimed television drama doesn’t end with his use of the numbers. Through his writing, he was trying to depict the struggle between science and faith, which was done with greater success through the characters of Jack and John Locke on “Lost.” Shakespeare shows his inclination toward the Lockean ideal of a “state of nature” most clearly by virtue of the name “John” being the most used name in his plays, even naming one of them “King John.” He only uses the name Jack – with its French spelling, “Jacques” – once, and the speech given him, the “Seven Ages of Man” speech, is a defeatist one in which nature is an enemy to be fought against, otherwise we would fall victim to it and be left “sans everything.” Shakespeare’s most popular character, Falstaff, is called both Jack and John at different times, which is fitting since he is his own worst enemy.
“Lost” has clearly influenced many famous writers besides Shakespeare—some obvious examples being the philosopher John Locke’s “tabula rasa” clean slate theory and argument that human authority must bow to nature, or his French colleague Rousseau’s “wild child” theory about children raised from infancy in the forest. However, we will leave the study of these links to other teams of dedicated scholars. For our purposes it suffices to point out the very clear influences of “Lost” on William Shakespeare’s plays, some of the seminal works in the English language. These influences have curiously been omitted from serious scholarship until recent years.Dr. Adam Hunault is a renowned expert in Star Trek, specializing in the Original Series and how it relates to modern philosophy. He earned his doctorate in Geekology in 2005 with a celebrated dissertation on Star Trek’s “47 Conspiracy.” He currently teaches Advanced Buffy-verse Studies and chairs the Star Trek Department at Harvard University.
Dr. Teresa Jusino is most well-known for her paper, “Hamlet: Early Prototype for Norman Bates?” and “Cordelia and Edgar: Only the Good Die Young?”, which were delivered at New York University in 2000. She earned her PhD in Shakespeare and Pop Culture in 2001, and currently teaches a course in Firefly and the Modern World at Yale University.