‘Shakespeare’ identified as π: the number and principle which squares the circle

door Klaas van Egmond


On the front pages of the Shakespeare First Folio of collected works (1623), ‘Shakespeare’ is identified as the unnatural and transcendental number π, which links the diameter of a circle to its periphery. In his enigmatic poem ‘To the Reader’, Ben Jonson’s tells the reader that the well known picture of ‘Shakespeare’ on the opposing page is rather a number than a person and that this number is π. The many mutually confirming references to the number π, the square and the circle are made on three levels in the poem and also in the associated Droeshout engraving on the opposite page. The front page of the First Folio positions the Rosicrucian ‘squaring the circle’ principle as the main theme of ‘Shakespeare’s’ work. It directly refers to Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man, which fits as well in the material / physical world (square) as in the spiritual (circle). ‘Shakespeare’ as the metaphoric (number) π, is the principle which unites and reconciles both. This principle calls for maintaining balance in the (circular) pattern of the human value orientation, thus maintaining human dignity and sustaining civilization.


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