Shakespeare’s April fool?

I saw Karen Robinson as Titania at the Dream in High Park Theatre in Toronto. This photo is by Tim Fraser for National Post

“Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no.

I am a spirit of no common rate,

The summer still doth tend upon my state;

ANd I do love thee.  Therefore go with me.

I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee;

And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep. . .”

Shakespeare really got under the logologists‘ skin with this one.  In this speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania is spelling her first name acrostically–that is, using the first letter of each line.  Well, almost (the AN is grouped).

So was it an accident?  Those in the know say no.  Statistically, it’s simply too unlikely that a seven-letter name could be spelled out this way.  Of course, no one in the audience would have heard the acrostic, so this must have been an actor’s private joke, or maybe a witty tweak by whoever transcribed the play into the form we know today.

I am going to give the man who singlehandedly added 1700 new words to the English language the benefit of the doubt, and say that Shakespeare gave Titania an acrostic simply to amuse himself.  Even masterpieces gets boring, when you’re cranking them out two a year.

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