Observation on The Third Act

Untried Hypothesis. In Shakespeare, frequently mentioned words tend to appear most frequently in the third act.

The other day in an idle moment I made a graph of where words frequently mentioned in Hamlet most occured: I took the most frequently mentioned piece of apparel (the crown), the most frequently mentioned furnishing (the bed) and the most frequently mentioned plant (the rose) and “nothing”, and saw in which act each word appeared the most frequently. The answer was –pretty much– the third. I can’t reproduce the graph here but this is the data I collected. (The numbers are the number of mentions in each act).

ROSE (four mentions): 0; 0; 3; 1; 0.
CROWN (eleven mentions): 2; 1; 3; 2; 3.
NOTHING (thirty-two mentions): 2; 6; 10; 9; 5.
BED (16 mentions): 4; 0; 8; 3; 1.

There are some complications because, questions of text aside, the word may mean different things in different passages (see “crown”); and there are some exceptions immediately visible — the oft mentioned “table”, for example, is mentioned everywhere but the third act; yet I found the coincidence strange (but perhaps the word “frequent” is the problem) and thought to mention it.


%d bloggers like this: