# The Blog of Avon.6 (b)

## Conclusion of excerpt from BARDCODE.

At the end of Blog.6 we had examined only the wording of the four **bolded** sonnet numbers in Shakespeare’s sequence: **3**, *12*, **23**, **59**, *70*, and **97**. To conclude we’re going to look briefly at the two that are *not* prime: *12* and *70*.

**Sonnet 12:** *“When I behold the violet **past** **prime**”.*

This line works poetically and requires no explanation. But it also works mathematically. When you’re ** past** something you’re positioned after it. Sonnet 12 comes after

*(past)*the previous

*prime*sonnet,

**3**… a prime number. But it also comes literally right after

*(past)*the previous basic integer,

**… which is also a prime number. So sonnet**

*11**12*is

*past*

*prime*in both possible meanings.

**Sonnet 70:** *“And thou **present’st** a pure unstained prime”.*

Upon close examination this doesn’t work at all, poetically. But it still works really well mathematically.

In the Arden* *edition of the *Sonnets*, editor Katherine Duncan-Jones suggests *thou present’st* means *you exhibit, display, are characterized by.*** **She gives no explanation for *a pure unstained *other than just *unstained*. And for *prime* she gives *prime of life, youth, or early manhood.*

All well and good… “*You are characterized by a pure, unstained early manhood”*** **might work but for the fact that the poet has previously spilled a torrent of ink cataloging a litany of the Fair Youth’s faults in early life. He is anything *but* unstained! The line makes no sense at all in context with the fatherly, judgmental tone of many of the *Fair Youth* sonnets, particularly the first seventeen. So how does the poet intend us to interpret this?

When you *present* something you announce that which follows. You yourself are positioned just before what you’re presenting. Sonnet *70* comes just before *(presents)* the next *prime* sonnet, **97**… a prime number. But it also comes literally just before *(presents)* the next basic integer, ** 71**… also a prime number. So sonnet

*70*

*presents*

**a prime, in both possible meanings.**

Shakespeare is being absolutely literal in his description of how these numbers behave, mathematically. But in what way are the primes he’s presenting *pure *and* unstained? *Is he describing a mathematical *quality* here also?

There’s a class of prime numbers called *absolute*** **primes whose special characteristic is that you can rearrange their digits in any order and they always produce another prime number. With two digit primes this means you simply reverse their digits… you

*revolve*

**them. With single digit primes there’s nothing to rearrange but technically they’re still classed as absolute. These are all the absolute primes within sonnet number range:**

**2; 3; 5; 7; 11 ***(11);*** 13 ***(31);*** 17 ***(71);*** 37 ***(73);*** 79 ***(97);*** 113 ***(131).*

Let’s recap what we just learned about *past* and *presents.*

Sonnet *70* *presents ***71 **and** 97.** Sonnet *12* is *past* **3 **and** 11.** As a bonus, Sonnet *12* also *presents* **13.** Check them out. They’re all absolute primes!

If you were a renaissance poet searching for a way to describe this special category of primes (which were not even named until 1957) you just might call them *pure, *don’t you think? Because no matter which way you arrange their constituents they always produce a number that’s a pristine prime. You might also think of them as being unable to be spoiled by the appearance of a non-prime… *unstained?*

Not surprisingly, he’s found the perfect, poetic way of describing their unique numerical quality. But the question remains: why is he doing this?

Stay tuned. (Stay *well* tuned.) Something’s coming.

Meanwhile, check out more of the background story at *ToBeOrNotToBe.org*. (And while you’re there please remember to **VOTE**** **on a matter of cultural significance!)