Shakespeare and STEAM: 400 Years of Innovation

by
William Shakespeare

Saturday, April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

While Shakespeare’s innumerable contributions to the arts are long-lasting and without parallel, it’s worth noting that his influence has infiltrated every single STEAM subject. Seriously!

Whether you’re dealing with science, technology, engineering, art or math, Shakespeare and STEAM go hand-in-hand. Let’s take a look.

Science
“Sweet Moon, I thank thee for thy sunny beams; I thank thee, Moon, for shining now so bright.” —A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Did you know that many of Uranus’ 27 moons are named after Shakespearean characters? In fact, all but two Uranium moons share their name with a famous fictional character from one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Named by John Herschel in 1852, Uranium moons Oberon, Titania, Ariel and Umbriel take their names from magical fairies and sylphs in English literature. While Umbriel is named after a character in an Alexander Pope poem, the three remaining moons were named for well-known Shakespearean spirits.

Later, as additional Uranium moons were discovered and dubbed, the majority received a Shakespearean moniker of their own.

Uranium Moons named after Shakespearean Characters

Technology
Even 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, the public is still clamoring for more. Dozens of apps have been developed to digitize Shakespeare’s plays and poems, and to make his works more accessible to a 21st century audience.

SwipeSpeare modernizes difficult Shakespearean dialogue with the swipe of a finger. Add a bit of Shakespearean flair to your texts, emails and messages with ShakeSpeak. There’s even a digital English-to-Shakespearean translator if you ever find yourself in a pinch.

Engineering
Shakespeare’s old stomping ground, the Globe Theatre, was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s own playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Destroyed by a fire in 1613, a second Globe Theatre was constructed in 1614. The second iteration of the Globe Theatre closed in 1642 and was torn down two years later to make way for new buildings.

A modern reconstruction of the Globe—Shakespeare’s Globe—opened in 1997 just a stone’s throw from the Globe’s original spot.

The enduring popularity of Shakespeare’s plays resulted in not one, not two, but THREE new constructions to house the performance of his works.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Art
Bedazzled. Cold-blooded. Eyeball. Manager. Skim milk. Uncomfortable.

The English language owes much to Shakespeare. In fact, we can thank Shakespeare for more than 2,200 unique, never-before-seen English words and phrases. By playing around with prefixes, suffixes, compound words and foreign languages, Shakespeare completely re-engineered the way we speak English.

The next time you’re feeling generous, thank Shakespeare. He invented that word, of course.

Math
“Poetry is an extreme form of wordplay, in which numbers dictate form and structure to give it more beauty.”

Poetry is math with words. Many of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were written in iambic pentameter, a mathematically metrical line defined by its very specific rhythm and pattern. In iambic pentameter, each line of poetry and verse consists of 10 syllables, with each syllable divided into five separate pairs.

We love this video that discusses Shakespeare’s relationship with poetry and numbers—specifically his fondness for the number 14.

Shakespeare’s contributions and influences are perhaps incalculable. We thank him not only for his matchless plays and poems, but for the many ways he continues to shape and reshape all aspects of our world—even after 400 years.

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