Much Ado About Numbers
by Rob Eastaway

Published by Allen & Unwin

What do Shakespeare and maths have in common? The answer turns out to be – a lot! Shakespeare lived at a time of significant mathematical breakthroughs – from arithmetic to navigation, and from probability to music. Remarkably, Shakespeare was not only aware of many of these historic developments, but he referred to them in his plays. This book is about the connections between maths, history, science, music and literature, and the joy of Renaissance thinking.


This book began as a tongue-in-cheek teacher workshop in Stratford upon Avon in 2022 with my old friend Andrew Jeffrey. But then I began to discover much deeper, more interesting connections to Shakespeare.  One of them was sparked by the old joke 'Did Shakespeare use a pencil? And was it 2B or not 2B?'  I then discovered that the year of Shakespeare's birth, 1564, was also the year that Elizabeth I established the Company of Mines Royal, which discovered a rich seam of graphite ('plumbago') in the Lake District, and thus began the famous pencil industry.  And yes, Shakespeare quite possibly DID use a pencil.  Of my many travels across the country to research the book, the private tour of an original German graphite mine tunnel in a remote hillside Borrowdale was the most memorable.