a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Hamlet and Pfister Forms - A Tragedy in Four Acts (1992)
Jan Minac

An absurd combination of comedy, advanced mathematics, and Shakespearean tragedy by Western University math professor Ján Mináč which was performed at the mathematical institute in Oberwolfach, Germany, 1992 and whose script is available at Vijay Fafat, who brought it to my attention, describes it this way:

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A giggle-worthy drama where the author, a mathematician himself, has shoe-horned he concept of “Pfister Forms” into 4 scenes of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. There is no point in describing the drama. Those who are mathematicians will appreciate the inherent mathematics; most who don’t will still get a decent laugh at the absurdity of it, as well as some lovely lines, as below.

(quoted from Hamlet and Pfister Forms - A Tragedy in Four Acts)

THE QUEEN: Forms!? Did you say quadratic forms!? Hamlet, don’t we have enough forms!? We already have tax forms, insurance forms, government forms, claim forms, request forms; even execution forms - I am not filling out anything! If you want some form in any case, then have a uniform! You can be a soldier!


HAMLET: Pfister will publish a very beautiful matrix proof, and less than 2 years later, Witt with his usual wit and magic, will utter a magic word, “Runde”, and the whole proof will collapse into a few lines. It will be a joke.

THE QUEEN: Brevity is the soul of Witt!


THE QUEEN Claudius, you are a king; you have power, money, gold; everything! You must find an answer! What would be the right generalization of a quadratic field, a quaternion algebra, or a Cayley-Dickson algebra?

THE KING (sadly): My dear Queen, unfortunately there is no king's road to mathematics


THE QUEEN I should have never married you. We should have never made a union. We cannot even prove a theorem together!


THE QUEEN You are naive, my lord. This cannot work. I am sure that you need a noncommutative nonassociative algebra; something horrible, something beyond our wildest imaginings. You need more matter with less art.

I am not planning to give it a separate entry in this database, but some might argue that the YouTube video "Counting Galois U_4(F_p)-extensions using Massey products" (which Mináč made with a co-author) is a work of mathematical fiction. It takes place in a fantasy world where journalists are as excited about pure mathematics as they are about sports and politics.

More information about this work can be found at
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to Hamlet and Pfister Forms - A Tragedy in Four Acts
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Pythagoras's Darkest Hour by Colin Adams
  2. Mathematically Bent by Colin Adams
  3. Midtown Pythagoras by Michael Brodsky
  4. Shakespeare Predicted it All by Dietmar Dath
  5. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
  6. Delicious Rivers by Ellen Maddow
  7. Fermat's Last Tango by Joanne Sydney Lessner / Joshua Rosenblum
  8. Rumpled Stiltskin by Colin Adams
  9. Goldman's Theorem by R.J. Stern
  10. The Center of the Universe by Alex Kasman
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MotifProving Theorems,
TopicAlgebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Real Mathematics,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)