By guest Adam Laceky

Doug Dorst said from the outset that “S.” is partly inspired by the authorship controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s works. This blog has already shown how a famous Shakespearean scholar and his daughter are invoked in SoT.

The Shakespeare connection doesn’t end there.

Interlude is loaded with references to Shakespeare. It’s a good bet that whatever cipher is hidden in Interlude, Shakespeare holds a clue to its solution.

Here are the most obvious allusions to Shakespeare. In keeping with the “beginnings and endings” theme of Ship of Theseus, they all occur at the beginning or the ending of the plays.

P. 301: “Good night, foul prince.” This is a play on the line from Hamlet, “Good night, sweet prince.”

[NOTE: “Prince” is a recurring theme in Interlude: Gavril Princip, Principality of Rumor.]

P. 323: “Star-crossed lovers… so very Shakespearean!”
This is an obvious reference to Romeo and Juliet.


  • Jen Haywood reminisces about studying King Lear
  • No other references to King Lear have been found


P. 328: The “mediated writing” that S scratches into the orlop walls alludes to the Prologue to Shakespeare’s King Henry V.:

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention…

O Sola! O for you to
transcend this brightest
bedlam of invention!

Eric says of the above passage: “Invocation of the muse…”

This is interesting, because Shakespeare invokes the muse, but Eric seems unaware of the Henry V allusion. I think Dorst uses Eric and Jen to drop clues to the reader. Jen writes about studying King Lear. I admit I haven’t studied King Lear, but I bet there’s a clue in there.

Other Shakespearean connections in SoT include Shakespeare’s play “Coriolianus,” whose name is more than a little similar to Straka’s book “Coriolis.”  Add to that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” whose main character is Theseus.


The word “rumor” occurs four times in the Interlude. It seems pretty important.

 Let’s look at the Prologue to Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part 2.

“Enter RUMOUR, painted full of tongues” (RUMOUR proceeds to tell of his sowing of fear and false security…)

The Shakespeare Concordance lists 19 instances of the word “rumour.” The spelling “rumor” appears twice. This is a possible example of the “19+2” pattern throughout Ship of Theseus.

Shakespeare’s works were first published in small books called “quartos.” The quartos were of dubious origin. Many of them appeared to have been pieced together from the actors’ memories, and from audience members transcribing the lines during the play. They were the Elizabethan equivalent of bootlegs. This ties in with the authorship controversy surrounding Ship of Theseus and Shakespeare’s works.

In 1623*, the First Folio was published: the first official publication of Shakespeare’s plays.

What’s interesting about this is that before the First Folio, 19 quartos were published. After the First Folio, another two quartos were published. They were supposedly collaborations between Shakespeare and another playwright. Another authorship controversy. And another instance of the 19+2 pattern.

(As an irrelevant, non-Shakespearean aside, a third example of the 19+2 pattern appears on page 318 in Interlude. The second paragraph begins “It’s not so much the killing…” and then lists 18 more participles (words ending in -ing) before the first comma, and then there are two more participles before the end of the paragraph.)

*In 1623, Arquimedes de Sobreiro was in Stockholm, and Jan Carstenszoon landed in  Australia on an exploration that eventually produced the first widely used world map that showed any portion of Australia.