Speaking in code

Recently I’ve been practicing memorizing Puck’s closing speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s one of my favorite speeches, and I think that I now have it down.

Except of course when I am nervous. Unfortunately the thing that makes me nervous is reciting it in the presence of other people. Oh well.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the lines of Puck’s speech start with a lot of familiar words. In particular, the following words all appear at least once as the first word in a line:

If
Else
Now
And
While
That

If you’re a programmer, you will recognize that these are all keywords that are widely used in modern computer programming languages. So what does that mean? Are the lines in Shakespeare plays actually runnable as valid computer programs, if only we can find the right compiler?

Maybe our modern programming languages were influenced by the great Bard. Or maybe Mr. Shakespeare was the first computer programmer.

2 Responses to “Speaking in code”

  1. J. Peterson says:

    I can sorta see how the “now” keyword gets used in code, but “that” is leaving me puzzled.

    Speaking of code, my son is studying Shakespeare and learned an interesting piece of trivia: Apparently in Shakespeare’s day, scripts were written out in longhand. This is expensive and slow, so each actor only got the lines for the scene they’re in.

    Apparently the rhyming pattern for the verse in many character’s speeches are in the form A B, A B, A B .. A B, A A.

    That last, subtle change in the rhyming pattern is a cue for another actor off-stage to come on – because otherwise, it’s not in his script.

  2. admin says:

    Ah, that’s a brilliant bit of knowledge, thank you!

    I used to use “that” all the time in Javascript, because a function is an object, so you can’t access “this” from inside a nested function. Now that Javascript has added closures, I no longer need to use that (or rather, “that”).

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