Saturday, April 30, 2011

Parallel - Motes and Shadows

First, Shake-Speare:

In the Prologue to Act 4.4, Gower, urging the audience to follow the movements of the play's characters, says:

"Like motes and shadows see them move awhile;"
Pericles 4.4.21

Comment: Editors show no sign of understanding why Shake-Speare couples motes (specks of dust in a sunbeam) with shadows. But a Bacon passage explains it. In his Natural History he wrote:

Bacon: "The utmost parts of the shadows seem ever to tremble. The cause is for that the little motes do ever stir, though there be no wind, and therefore those moving in the meeting of light and shadow, from the light to the shadow and from the shadow to the light, do show the shadow to move because the medium moveth."

CommentA most telling parallel. Shake-speare could not have borrowed from Bacon whose Natural History was not published till years later. And Bacon could not have found in the play his theory as to why shadows tremble.

Parallel - Nature's Audit


"She [Nature] may detain, but not still keep her treasure.
Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,"
 Sonnet 126, 10-11

and, Bacon: "Men should frequently call upon Nature to render her account.
   Cogitationes de Natura Rerum

Parallel - Slander as a Crow

First, Shake-Speare:

 "[Slander] is a crow that flies".
Sonnet 70, line 4

And, Bacon: "Fame hath swift wings, especially that which hath black feathers [i.e. slander or ill repute]".

Parallel - Weeping through Fear of Loss

First, Shake-Speare:

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminante –
That time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
Sonnet 64, 11-14


Portia:                   then confess
                   What treason there is mingled with your love.
Bassanio:  None but that ugly treason of mistrust,
                   Which make me fear th’enjoying of my love,
Merchant of Venice 3.2.27-9

Now, Bacon:
[A classical dictum]  Non uti ut non appetas, non appetere ut non metuas,
sunt animi pusilli et diffidentis [To abstain from the use of a thing that you may not feel a want of it; to shun the want that you may not feel the loss of it, are the precautions of pusillanimity and cowardice].
The Advancement of Learning (Spedding 3.427)

and also: 
I will not use because I will not desire. I will not desire because I will not fear to want.
A Conference of Pleasure p. 5

Comment: Fearing to lose love was of course a commonplace. But to weep to have it in case you lose it suggests that Shake-Speare had in mind the philosophical conundrum of the Bacon texts. (The conundrum is said to have its source in Plutarch’s Life of Solon).

Parallel - Vanity with Gracious

First, Shake-Speare:

"Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye,
And all my soul, and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,"
 Sonnet 62, 1-5

now Bacon:

"Neither had the fame of Cicero, Seneca, Plinius Secundus, borne her age so well, it it had not been joined with some vanity in themselves; like varnish that maketh ceilings not only shine but last. In some persons [this] is not only comely but gracious.

Comment:  Personal vanity collocated with "gracious".

Parallel - Katherine Sad and Religious

First, Shake-Speare:

Katherine:   My soul grows sad with troubles
             Pray do my service to his Majesty;
             He has my heart yet and shall have my prayers
             While I shall have my life.
Henry VIII, 3.1.1 and 179-81

and now Bacon:

"And the Lady Katherine herself (a sad and religious woman) long after, when King Henry the Eight his resolution of a divorce from her was first made known to her, used some words that she had not offended, but it was a judgment of God.
   History of Henry VII

Comment:  Our authors, unlike Holinshed, both describe Katherine as "sad" and depict her as religious.

Parallel - Obeying in Commanding

First Shake-Speare:

(Henry VIII pays tribute to his wife Katherine after he has discarded her in favour of Anne Boleyn):

"Thy meekness saint-like, wife-like government,
Obeying in commanding"
 Henry VIII 2.4.138-9

now Bacon: "We cannot command nature except by obeying her".
    Novum Organum

Comment: This may be derived from Publilius Syrus of the 1st century B.C. who wrote that a wife governs her husband by obeying him. But was it common in Elizabethan literature?

Parallel - Mountaineers with Throats like Wallets

First, Shake-Speare:

                   "When we were boys,
Who would believe that there were mountaineers
Dew-lapp'd like bulls
, whose throats had hanging at 'em
Wallets of flesh"?
The Tempest  3.3.45-7

And, Bacon: "Snow water is held unwholesome; inasmuch as the people that dwell at the foot of the snow mountains, or otherwise upon ascent, especially the women, by drinking snow water have great bags under their throats.
    Natural History

Comment: The Variorum editor points out that in Roman times, as we know from Juvenal Satire xiii.168, the Swiss were reputed to suffer form goitre. But he does not think that Shake-Speare's "wallets of flesh" would be an apt description of goitre. So he suggests that he was referring to some different people known as Satires who, according to medieval travellers' tales, had pouches of flesh beneath their throats and carried their meat in them. In fact, Shake-Speare's "mountaineers" shows that he was referring to the Swiss and other mountain dwellers, just as Bacon was. Whether or not "wallets of flesh" was an apt description, it is how Shake-Speare and Bacon ("great bags hanging under their throats") both conceived the matter.

Parallel - Free as Mountain Winds

First, Shake-Speare:

Prospero: "Thou shalt be as free
           as mountain winds".
The Tempest  1.2.499-500

Now, Bacon: "Inquire into the nature of the winds, whether some are not free...What do mountains contribute to them"?
      An aide-memoire by Bacon in his History of Winds

Comment:  How many authors wanting a simile for freedom would think of mountain winds? But the topic was evidently of interest to Bacon and Shake-Speare.

Parallel - Flower de luces

First Shake-Speare:

(Perdita in her list of flowers includes):

"Lilies of all kinds, the flower-de-luce being one".
 The Winter's Tale 4.4.74ff

Next, Bacon:

"Flower-de-lices & lilies of all natures".
   Essay on Gardens

[Of landscaping at Gorhambury] "The border to be set with flags of all sorts of flower de Luces and lilies".
   Commentarius Solutus

Comment: All three passages couple flower-de-luces and lilies, and add of "all kinds", "all natures" or "all sorts". Spedding commented: "The scene in the 'Winter Tale' where Perdita presents the guests with flowers suited to their ages, has some expressions which, if this Essay had been contained in the earlier editions [it was not published till 1625] would have made me suspect that Shake-Speare had been reading it".  In fact, I can see no significant parallel apart from the one I have identified. But one should perhaps add that 64 of the flowers, trees and shrubs mentioned in Bacon's short Essay also appear in the Shake-Speare works.

Parallel - Vice Graced by Constancy

First, Shake-Speare:

                        "For even to vice
They [women] are not constant, but are changing still;
One vice, but of a minute old, for one
Not half so old as that".
 Cymbeline 2.4.180-3

"It is virtuous to be constant in any undertaking".
Measure For Measure 3.2.215

Now, Bacon: "Constancy is the foundation on which virtues rest...Even vices derive a grace from constancy."
   De Augmentis

Comment:  The elevation of constancy as the foundation of virtues is a little odd. Odder still is the view, apparently shared by Shake-Speare, that constancy mitigates
. Note too the collocation of "even to vice" / "even vices".

Parallel - Telepathy in Prayer

First Shake-Speare:

Imogen: "I did not take my leave of him but had
Most pretty things to say: ere I could tell him
How I would think on him at certain hours,
                  or have charg'd him,
At the 6th hour of morn, at noon, at midnight,
T'encounter me with orisons [prayers], for then
I am in heaven for him.
 Cymbeline 1.4.25-33

Now, Bacon:  [writing of telepathy] "Some trial should be made whether pact or agreement do anything: as if two friends should agree that on such a day in every week, they, being in far different places, should pray one for another, or should put on a ring or tablet, one for another's sake". [Reference missed]

Comment: The Arden editor notes on the Shake-Speare lines: "The times mentioned are three of the seven canonical hours of the Divine Office. The obvious interpretation is that Imogen sees herself as a goddess whom Posthumus is to worship at certain hours, but I doubt whether it is the correct one. I take 'encounter me' to mean 'join me'...and would interpret: 'I would have charged him to join with me in prayer at these times because I shall then be praying for him'".  Yes. but the editor might have had no doubt about it if he had known the Bacon passage. Even the "ring or tablet" is echoed by Shake-Speare. Imogen, one the eve of her husband Posthumus's departure for Italy, gives him a ring ("This diamond was my mother's; take it, heart" - 1.1.43); and Posthumus gives her a bracelet - 1.1.52-4

Parallel - Laws as Nets; Gangrene laws

Note: some of this is also found in a Measure for Measure post (#7):

First, Shake-Speare:

"A fish hangs in the net, like a poor man's right in the law."
  Pericles 2.1.117-8

"We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear [frighten] the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape till custom make it
Their perch, and not their terror".
  Measure For Measure 2.1.1-4

Now Bacon:
 "There are no worse snares than legal snares...they are as nets in the path".
  De Augmentis

"...purge out the multiplicity of the laws, clear the uncertainty of them, repeal those that are snaring"
Gray's Inn Revels

" new judgments avoid the former. The records reverent things, but like scarecrows".
Notes for a speech 1610

"Obsolete laws that are grown into disuse".
  De Augmentis

Obsolete laws, if not cut away from the general body of the law, "bring a gangrene, neglect, and habit of disobedience upon other wholesome laws, that are fit to be continued in practice and execution".
  Life, vi. p. 65

"For as an express statute is not regularly abrogated by disuse, it happens that from a contempt of such as are obsolete, the others also lose part of their authority, whence follows that torture of Mezentius whereby the living laws are killed in the embraces of the dead ones".
  De Augmentis

Shake-Speare again:
   "In time the rod
Becomes more mocked than feared; so our decrees,
Dead to infliction, to themselves are dead
And liberty plucks justice by the nose".
  Measure for Measure 1.3. 26-28

Bacon: "Above all things a gangrene of the law is to be avoided"     [body metaphor applied to law]
  De Augmentis (because the law being once gangrened is no longer respected.)

The same is true of the body:
    "The service of the foot
Being once gangrened, is not then respected
For what before it was"
  Coriolanus 3.1.305

"This fester'd joint cut off, the rest rests sound;          [same principle as applied to the general laws]
This let alone will all the rest confound".
  Richard II, 5.3.84-5

Cockburn comments: Thus both authors see legal obstacles as "nets". On several other occasions too Bacon describes laws as "snares" which is tantamount to calling them "nets". Both authors also see obsolete laws as "scarecrows", which like "gangrene laws" are "dead to infliction" and no longer respected. Bacon waged a long campaign for the repeal of obsolete laws, and in his speech note he meant the same as Shake-Speare, namely, that obsolete laws, however revered, in time lose their power to frighten. The "scarecrow" metaphor is a far from obvious one - in the whole of my time at the English Bar I never heard anyone describe obsolete laws as scarecrows.

Note: The reform of the law was as close to Bacon's heart as the reform of learning. He greatly admired the laws of England, saying 'the equallest in the world between prince and people', and all the richer for being 'mixed and compounded', like the English language, of the customs of so many nations. But England had been rapidly developing from a simple agrarian community into an increasingly complex mercantile society, and the law had not followed suit. There had been for over a century, wrote Bacon, a 'continual heaping of laws without digesting them', and such an accumulation of 'cross and intricate' statutes on the same subject that 'the certainty of the law was lost in the heap'. How could the citizen be made 'more and more happy' - which was 'the end and scope of laws' - when left in so much uncertainty about their application?
  Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination, Nieves Mathews 1996

Parallel - Interpretation of the Time


"So our virtues
Lie in th' interpretation of the time".
Coriolanus 4.7.49-50

Bacon: "The times which in many cases give great light to true interpretations".
   The Advancement of Learning

Parallel - Chasing a Gilded Butterfly

First, Shake-Speare:

"I saw him run after a gilden butterfly; and when he caught it he let it go again, and after it again, and over and over he comes, and up again, catch'd it again..."
Coriolanus  1.3.60-63

Then, Bacon:

"...and if her Majesty will not take me, it may be selling by parcels will be more gainful. For to be, as I have told you, a child following a bird, which when he is nearest flieth away and lighteth a little before, and then the child after it again, and so on ad infinitum...." Letter to Fulke Greville

Comment: The idea is the same, and both authors say "after it again".

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Parallel - Hail and Pearls

First, Shake-Speare:

"I'll set thee in a shower of gold, and hail
Rich pearls upon thee".
  Anthony and Cleopatra 2.5.45-6

Now, Bacon: "Such difference as is between the melting hailstone and the solid pearl".
   Essex Device (1595)

Comment:  "Hail" collocated with "pearl" by both authors.

Parallel - Digestion and Appetite

First, Shake-Speare:

Macbeth (As the banquet is about to begin):

"Now, good digestion wait on appetite
And health on both!"
  Macbeth 3.4.37-8

Bacon:  "For the preservation of health the stomach should be in good appetite; because the appetite promotes digestion".
   History of Life and Death

CommentThat good digestion depends on appetite seems a questionable notion - surely appetite is as likely to depend on good digestion. but once again we find Shake-Speare dragging in a Bacon theory on some matter of natural science.

Parallel - Sleep as Food-Nourishment


"Sleep,  that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hur minds, great Nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast;"
  Macbeth 2.2.37-40

Bacon: "The story goes that Epimenides slept many years in a cave without needing food; for in sleep the spirits are less predatory...As exercise demands more nourishment, so likewise sleep to a certain extent supplies it".
   History of Life and Death

"Sleep doth nourish much".
  Natural History

"Sleep nourisheth or at least preserveth bodies a long time without other nourishment".
  Natural History

Comment: Shake-Speare's "Chief nourisher in life's feast" is metaphorical - it is not dealing only with physical nourishment. The Arden editor notes on the line: "This may also have been suggested by an alternative meaning of ravell'd. Ravel, or ravelled, bread was whole meal bread and could be regarded as 'chief nourisher'". But it is less far-fetched to suppose it to have been suggested by Bacon's view of sleep (of which the editor makes no mention), especially as Bacon's dicta use the word "nourish".

Parallel - Air as the Seat of a house; Smells that 'woo'

First, Shake-Speare:

Duncan:  This castle hath a pleasant seat, the air
         Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
         Unto our gentle senses.
Banquo:               This guest of summer
         The temple-haunting martlet, does approve
         By his loved mansionry, that the heaven's breath
         Smells wooingly here.
 Macbeth 1.6.1-6

Now, Bacon:  
"He that builds a fair house upon an ill seat committeth himself to prison. Neither do I reckon it an ill seat only where the air is unwholesome, but likewise where the air is unequal".
   Essay on Buildings

"I am much beholding to your highness's worthy servant Sir John Vaughan, the sweet air and loving usage of whose house hath already much revived my languishing spirits".
   Letter to Prince Henry

"But for the choice of places or seats, it is good to make trial not only of the aptness of air to corrupt but also of the moisture and dryness of the air".
   Natural History

"[Smells which are not too  strong] rather woo the sense than satiate it".
   Natural History

Comment:  Shake-Speare, and Bacon in two of his passages, describe the quality of the air as the "seat" of a house. Did anyone else? Both our authors speak of smells "wooing". Did anyone else?

Parallel - Honours and Instructions as Garments

First, Shake-Speare:

     "New honours come upon him
Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould
But with the aid of use".
Macbeth 1.3.145-7

And Bacon:  "Queen Elizabeth used to say of her instructions to great officers "that they were like graments, straight at first putting on, but did by and by wear loose enough".

CommentHounours in one case, instructions in the other, but a very similar conceit. First, honors or instructions are likened to garments. Second, that they then are modified or molded with usage.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Parallel - Distribution of Money


Here, take this purse...
So distribution should undo excess
And each man have enough.
  King Lear 4.1.63 & 69-70

Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution.
  Essay on Riches

Comment: The basic idea that wealth should be spread was common, but "distribution" make this a close parallel.

Parallel - Miracles in Adversity


Kent:  Nothing almost sees miracles
          But misery
  King Lear 2.2.163

  It was an high speech of Seneca..."That the good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished; but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired. Bona rerum secundarum, optabilia; adversarum, mirabilia. Certainly if miracles be the command over nature, they appear most in adversity.
  Essay on Adversity

  He [Christ] restored motion to the lame, light to the blind, speech to the dumb, health to the sick, cleanness to the lepers, sound mind to them that were possessed of devils, life to the dead. There was no miracle of judgment but all of mercy and all upon the human body. For with reference to riches he designed not to work any miracles except that one about giving tribute to Caesar.
  Meditationes Sacrae

Comment:  The Arden editor paraphrases the Lear quote as "for, when we are in despair, any relief seems miraculous (Kittredge)". But Bacon clearly meant, not that miracles seem greatest in adversity, but that they are wrought most often in adversity. So it is a reasonable surmise that Shake-Speare meant the same. I think Capell got it right when he wrote of the Lear text: "I suspect that 'see' is used in the sense of experience, a sense it often bears. In that case the meaning may be 'miracles are hardly ever wrought but on behalf of the wretched' ".

Father as ward to son - Lear


Edmund:  [To Gloucester] I have heard him [Edgar] oft maintain it to be fit that
sons at perfect age and father declined, the father should be as a ward to the son,
and the son manage his revenue.
King Lear 1.2.72-75

Bacon:  Suppose a nation where the custom were that after full age the sons should expulse their fathers and mothers out of their possessions and put them to their pension. [Such cases would be] total violations and perversions of the laws of nature and nations.
  Advertisement touching a Holy War

Comment: This is part of the same scene as above. The Arden editor cites two extracts from other authors castigating fathers for keeping their sons out of the father's money. But, unlike the Bacon and Shake-Speare passages, they do not contain, or at least do not express, the idea of fathers being put in ward to their sons. Further, Bacon takes the parents' side in the controversy; and so does Shake-Speare, if his views are reflected in Gloucester's dismissal of the idea as "unnatural", "detested", "brutish", and  "abominable".

Edmund's Letter - King Lear


Edmund, bastard son of Gloucester, is found by Gloucester with a letter in his hand. It is a letter he wants his father to see because it is adverse to his legitimate son Edgar. It purports to come from Edgar, describes Glousecter as an aged tyrant, and hints that Edgar and Edmund should murder Gloucester so that they can come into their inheritance. So with affected reluctance Edmund hands the letter over to his father.
King Lear 1.2.28-43

Bacon: Some procure themselves to be surprised at such times as it is like [likely] the party they work upon will suddenly come upon them; and to be found with a letter in their hand, to the end they may be apposed [questioned] of those things which of themselves they desire to utter.
  Essay on Cunning

Comment: So Edmund perpetrates the very ruse, a rare one, which Bacon describes.

Parallel - Pre-eminence and Power

First, Shake-Speare:

I do invest you jointly with my power,
Pre-eminence and all the large effects
That troop with majesty.
  King Lear 1.1.130-31

Next, Bacon: 

The crown was not a ceremony or garland, but consisted of
pre-eminence and power.
  Declaration of the Treasons of the Earl of Essex

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Parallel - Power and Place

First, Shake-Speare:

Escalus:                and it concerns me
              To look into the bottom of my place.
              A power I have but of what strength and nature
              I am not yet instructed.
Measure for Measure 1.1.77-80

also,      "My absolute power and place here in Vienna,  "
Measure for Measure 1.3.13

             "My spirit and my place have in them power, "
Othello  1.1.104

now Bacon: "Good thoughts ... are little better than good dreams, except they be put in act. And that cannot be without power and place."
Essay on Great Place (Spedding 6(2).399)

Comment:  This parallel is only worthwhile if the phrase was rare (which we do not know). Ben Jonson uses "place or power" in his Sejanus Act 5.612. It may have been the standard working of a commission.

Parallel - Virtue reflected


Ulysses:  [Man] feels not what he owes [owns], but by reflection,
              As, when his virtues shining upon others
              Heat them, and they retort that heat again
              To the first giver.
Achilles: This is not strange, Ulysses.
              The beauty that is borne here in the face
              The bearer knows not, but commends itself
              To others' eyes;
Troilus And Cressida 3.3.99-105

Bacon:    "A virtuous man will be virtuous in solitudine, and not only in theatro,
              though percase it will be more strong by glory and reflection".
Colours of Good and Evil

Comment: Has any other writer of the time observed that, not only is a virtuous person more virtuous in public, but also that his virtue excites virtue in others and then has these public virtues in others reflected back to him again, further exciting his own virtue?

Parallel - Viper Depopulates


         "Where is this viper
That would depopulate the city and
Be every man himself?"
 Coriolanus 3.1.262-4

Bacon: "For enclosure of grounds brings instead of a whole town full of people, none but green fields, but "shepherd and a dog"...A sharp and vigorous law had need to be made against these viperous natures who fulfill the proverb Si non posse quod vult, velle tamen quod potest [from Ovid]".
    Speech against Enclosures

Comment:  Thus both our authors rather oddly associate vipers with depopulation. Vipers were believed to eat their way at birth through their mother's bowels, but this has no resemblance to someone depopulating a city or anything else.

Parallel - Green Hair

First, Shake-Speare:

Pandarus:  [Hector laughed at] the white hair that Helen spied on Troilus' chin.
Cressida:  And't had been a green hair I should have laughed too.
Troilus And Cressida 1.2.152-4

Then Bacon:     "Aristotle giveth the cause, vainly, why the feathers of birds are of more lively colours than the hair of beasts; for no beast hath any fine azure, or carnation, or green hair. He saith it is because birds are more in the beams of the sun than beasts; but that is manifestly untrue;"

Comment: The Arden editor notes on green: "A color normally associated (as now) with inexperience". But Shake-Speare was erudite, and it has been rightly said that, in seeking an explanation of a difficult Shake-Speare line, one is wise to look first to classical sources. So when one finds a specific reference to green hair in Aristotle (De Coloribus 6), it is fairly safe bet that it was that which prompted Shake-Speare to color Troilus' white hair. But in choosing green rather than azure or carnation, he may have been influenced by Troilus' inexperience.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Honourable Disposition - Rape of Lucrece dedication

Honourable Disposition - Rape of Lucrece dedication

Did Francis Bacon write the dedications in the long poems Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece? Some evidence supports this possibility.

Here are just a few points in his favor. Here's the dedication to The Rape of Lucrece:

   To the Right Honourable
Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
   and Baron of Titchfield

The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet
without beginning is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your
Honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it
assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours, what I have to do is
yours, being part in all I have devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my
duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship,
to whom I wish long life still lengthened with all happiness.
   Your Lordship's in all duty,
   William Shakespeare

According to Cockburn (1998) this dedication and the one for Venus and Adonis are in Bacon's style. Both are sophisticated, brilliant, pithy. Most Elizabethan prose dedications are longer, but Bacon liked to keep his short, except when offered to the King. Both Dedications display Bacon's obsession with antithesis. In the dedication to Venus and Adonis is the phrase "so strong a prop to support so weak a burden".  In the one for The Rape of Lucrece there is "The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet without beginning . . ."

There is also a parallel expression in the Lucrece dedication that Bacon uses too. This is "honourable disposition". In two letters that he used this expression he was asking for favors, just as is the purpose of the Shake-speare dedications.  In a letter of 1593 to Robert Cecil, Bacon says "I know you bear that honourable disposition as it will rather give you apprehension to deal more effectively for me than otherwise." And in a letter of 1597 to Lord Keeper Egerton he starts a letter saying "May it please your honourable good Lordship," and then speaks of "of your Lordship's honourable disposition both generally and to me." Thus in both letters he uses "honourable disposition" to mean "favourable disposition". He uses these two words "honourable" and "disposition" in many letters in which he is asking for some type of favor.

Cockburn asks "Does the expression "honourable disposition" appear elsewhere in Elizabethan literature? And at the same time to mean "favourable disposition"?

Since Bacon was a commoner at the time of the two poems it was appropriate for him to address the Earl of Southampton asking for patronage, since Bacon was poor.  Also, Southampton had been brought up by Bacon's aunt Mildred and the Earl had just come into a large inheritance.

Was Shakespeare at Cambridge?

Shake-Speare from Cambridge?

There is evidence of various sorts that suggest that the author of the Shakespeare works was a student of Cambridge University.  Below is just a portion of this evidence.  

    N.B. Cockburn writes that F.S Boas in his Shakespeare and the Universities (1923), p. 47-8 refer to “the curious fact that Shakespeare shows familiarity with certain distinctively Cambridge terms.” The word ‘keeps’ was one of these words.
     Melsome, in The Bacon-Shakespeare Anatomy (1945) says that the word, keep, in the sense of meaning live, lodge, dwell, or reside is purely a Cambridge University term and is not used elsewhere in the British Empire. It was not used in that sense at Oxford.  But occurs in Shakespeare in one tense or another nineteen times.

1, Knock at his  study where they say he keepsTitus Andr., 5.2.5
2. A Spaniard that keeps here in the court.  L.L.L. 4.1.99
3. As an outlaw in his castle keeps.   1H6 3.1.47
4. His chief followers lodge in towns …. While he himself keeps in the cold field.  3H6,  4 3.14
5. Where youth, and cost, and witless bravery keepsMeasure, 1.3.10
6. This habitation where thou keep’stMeasure 1.3.10
7. Favours that keep within.  Measure, 5.1.16
8. And where they keep.   Hamlet, 2.1.8
9. I will keep where there is wit stirring.  Troilus, 2.1.117
10. In what place of the field doth Calchas keepTroilus, 4.5.278
11. Keeps still in Dunsinand.  Macbeth, 5.4.9
12. Keep in Tunis.  Tempest,  2.1.264
13. Where the madcap duke his uncle kept.  1H4, 1.3.241
14. It kept where I kept.  Pericles, 2.1.131
15. The most impenetrable cur that ever kept with men.  Merchant, 3.3.19
16. Creatures of prey that keep upon’t.  Winters Tale, 3.3.12
17. And sometime where earth-delving conies keepVenus and Adonis, line 687
18. Treason and murder ever kept together.  H5  2.2.105
19. Call you that keeping for a gentleman, that differs not from the stalling of an ox? 
   As You Like It  1.1.8-10

Other Cambridge terms refer to stages in a student’s advancement. Candidates for a degree were required to maintain a syllogistical dispute which was called ‘The Act'. If he was successful and admitted to the full privileges of a graduate, he was said to ‘commence’ in Arts or a Faculty.
  Now notice Falstaff’s unusual use of these terms:
“Learning is a mere hoard of gold kept by a devil till sack commences it and sets it in act and use.” 2Henry4, 4.3.113-5
And then also: “The acts commenced on this ball of earth.” 2 Henry 4, Induction 3.2.116

   Next, notice this phrase by Lear [2.4.170]: “Tis not in thee . . . to scant my sizes.”  ‘Size’, as defined by Minsheu, in Guide to Tongues (1617) is ‘a portion of brew and drink; it is a farthing which scholars at Cambridge have at the buttery’.  To be ‘scanted of sizes’ was a punishment for undergraduates.

Prior to Melsome’s book there were Cambridge students that argued that Shakespeare had been a student of their school. They searched both the university and College records from 1580-1600 but couldn’t find any semblance of his name there.

Francis Bacon attended Trinity College, Cambridge from 1573-1576.

See more evidence of Shakespeare’s ties to Cambridge in the post on Dr. Caius, the character in The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Curious Case of Dr. Caius - Merry Wives of Windsor

The curious case of Dr. Caius

The following is paraphrased from N.B. Cockburn’s The Bacon-Shakespeare Question, chapter 17.

   In the play The Merry Wives of Windsor the character called Dr. Caius, who is a comic French doctor.

    There had been a real life Dr. Caius – John Caius (1510 – 1573). In 1539 John Caius left England for Padua where he studied medicine and in 1541 took his M.D. in the University of Padua. He traveled widely in Italy, Germany and France. In 1544 he returned to England. He was appointed one of the physicians to King Edward VI. He retained that appointment under Queen Mary and on the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558 became chief royal physician till she dismissed him in 1568 for Catholicism. His eminence as a physician was almost unequalled and he was 9 times President of the College of Physicians. In January 1559 he became Master of Caius College, Cambridge, which college he helped to found.

     This Dr. Caius was not well liked and had difficulty maintaining his authority. He reacted strongly against those he was troubled with, expelling students from the school, involving them in lawsuits, and incarcerating them in the stocks.

      Dr. Caius in Shake-Speare’s play was probably intended as a skit on the vogue of foreign doctors. The name almost surely was borrowed from the real Dr. Caius. Though he was English, not French, he is said to have aped continental manners on his return to England. Caius was not a common name, nor even French; and no one has suggested anywhere else Shake-Speare could have got the name. The Queen at least should have found the character amusing, since Caius had been her own doctor. Legend has it that she commanded Shake-Speare to write a play in 14 days showing Falstaff in love. But there is no evidence that Queen Elizabeth ever met Will Shakspere of Stratford.

     It is not only the name of Dr. Caius that Shake-Speare seems to have borrowed. Just as Caius was aggressive towards his religious opponents, so the Dr. Caius of the play rages against Sir Hugh Evans, a minister of the reformed Church, and challenges him to a duel. Another quirk of the real Dr. Caius was that he detested Welshmen, with the consequence that the original statutes of Caius College founded by him expressly exclude that race from the privileges of Fellowship. In the play Sir Hugh Evans is a Welshman.

     Unlike Will Shakspere of Stratford, Francis Bacon is likely to have known of Dr. Caius from an early age. Bacon’s mother, Anne Cooke, had been governess to the young King Edward VI, and her father Sir Anthony Cooke was his tutor. At this time Dr. Caius was one of the royal physicians. Bacon as a boy probably met him since Bacon’s father Sir Nicholas was Queen Elizabeth’s Lord keeper. When Bacon went to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1573, the year of Dr. Caius’s death, he no doubt heard much gossip about his eccentric character and conduct. Will Shakspere at this time was only 9 years old. Plus Shakspere would not likely have known of the doctor’s continental manners, his religion, his aggressiveness or his aversion to Welshmen. And not likely to have had him so much in mind as to borrow his name for a comic French doctor some 28 years after his death.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Troilus and Cressida 1 of 9

Note. This section of evidence, like much of the rest I’ve presented comes from N.B.Cockburn’s (pronounced 'Co-burn') book “The Bacon Shakespeare Question”  (1998). It gets into more detailed analysis and arguments and so if you’re new to this authorship evidence I’d recommend you read other forum postings first, (other than the ones on The Tempest which is similar to this in the type of evidence presented).

Troilus and Cressida  1 of 9


Troilus And Cressida was first entered in the S.R. (Stationers’ Register) on 7 February 1603, as follows:

Mr. Roberts Entered for his copy in Full Court holden this day. To print when he hath gotten sufficient authority for it. The book of Troilus and Cressida as it is acted by my Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

So the play (in the entry called a “book”, a common synonym for “play”) had been acted by Shakspere’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, but the entry does not say whether in the public Theatre or before a private audience such as at an Inn of Court. The full authority not yet obtained would have been either that of the play’s owner or of the bishops who acted as censors. In the event, Roberts never published the play, perhaps because he could not get authority.

6 years later on 28 January 1609 the play was entered in the S.R. again. This time the entry was unconditional but in the names of Richard Bonian and Henry Walley. The play was then printed. This Quarto exists in two states. The first has a title page which claims that the play had been acted by the King’s Men (the new name of Shakspere’s company) at the Globe. The second substitutes a title page which makes no mention of the King’s Men or the Globe; but an Epistle to the Reader is added. Presumably it was discovered in the course of the printing that the play had not been acted at the Globe, so this was omitted from the rest of the print run. The initial reference to the Globe may have been mere assumption from the fact that the play had been acted by Shakspere’s company.

Troilus and Cressida 2 of 9

Troilus and Cressida 2 of  9

The Epistle
Let us look at the Epistle, which is most important:

              A never writer, to an ever reader. News.
Eternal reader, you have here a new play, never staled with the Stage,
never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar, and yet passing full of
the palm comical; for it is a birth of your brain, that never undertook
anything comical, vainly: And were but the vain names of comedies                 L4
changed for the titles of commodities, or of Plays for Pleas; you should
see all those grand censors, that now style them such vanities, flock to
them for the main grace of their gravities: especially this author’s comedies,
that are so framed to the life, that they serve for the most common                  L8
Commentaries of all the actions of our lives, showing such a dexterity and
power of wit, that the most displeased with plays are pleased with his
Comedies. And all such dull and heavy-witted worldlings, as were never
capable of the wit of a Comedy, coming by report of them to his representations,    L12
have found that wit there that they never found in themselves,
and have parted better witted than they came: feeling an edge of wit set
upon them, more than ever they dreamed they had brain to grind it on.
So much and such savoured salt of wit is in his Comedies that they seem       L16
(for their height of pleasure) to be born in that sea that brought forth
Venus. Amongst all there is none more witty than this: And had I time I
would comment upon it, though I know it needs not (for so much as will
make you think your testern well bestowed) but for so much worth as            L20
even poor I know to be stuffed in it. It deserves such a labour, as well
as the best comedy in Terence or Plautus. And believe this, that when he
is gone, and his Comedies out of sale, you will scramble for them, and
set up a new English Inquisition. Take this for a warning, and at the peril        L24
of your pleasure’s loss, and judgments, refuse not, nor like this the less,
for not being sullied with the smoky breath of the multitude; but thank
fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you. Since by the grand
possessors’ wills I believe you should have prayed for them rather than          L28
been prayed. And so I leave all such to be prayed for (for the states of
their wits’ healths) that will not praise it. Vale [Farewell].

Troilus and Cressida 3 of 9

Troilus and Cressida  3 of 9

“A never writer” must mean someone who had not written before.

“Never staled with the Stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar” means “never acted and applauded in the public Theatre”.

There is no strong reason to doubt this assertion since it was against the publisher’s interest to admit it - a play never publicly acted might be thought to be of inferior quality. The Epistle shows some awareness of this danger and attempts to make a virtue of necessity by treating the play’s virginity as a commendation. Since it had been acted somewhere before the S.R. entry of 1603, it can only have been “new” in 1609 in the sense of being new to the general public.

It is described as a comedy, but it is in fact a tragedy with comic interludes. No doubt the Epistle calls it a comedy to make it easier to sell.

“Your brain” in L.3 is odd - it was the birth of the author’s brain, not of the reader’s. More will be said of this later.

L4-7 take a swipe at all those grand and censorious people who disapproved of comedy plays, and in particular at the City (hence “commodities”) who had long been enemies of the public theatres, and at the Inns of Court, or rather their Benchers (hence “plays for pleas”). In 1611, two years after the publication of Troilus And Cressida the Inner Temple for a period banned all plays within its walls “for that great disorder and scurrility is brought into this House by lewd and lascivious plays”. And perhaps Benchers of the other Inns voiced similar disapproval from time to time.

In L17 “born in that sea that brought forth Venus” means “about Love”. A testern was a sixpence, the price of a copy of the play. “A new English Inquisition” is probably a jibe at Archbishop Whitgift’s bonfire in 1599 in which he had books he disapproved of burnt. The “new English Inquisition” would either be a more liberal censorship regime or else a repetition of the old.

The most important lines in the Epistle are L.26-9. As Stratfordians accept, they seem to mean:

Thank fortune that this play has escaped for publication, since ‘the grand possessors’ of the Shake-Speare comedies (i.e, Shakspere’s company, the King’s Men) seem to want you to beg the company to release the comedies for publication, rather than their begging you to buy copies”. “Them” refers back: to “them” (i.e, the comedies) in L.23.  

So, in this case, Shakspere’s company was unable to prevent the publication of Troilus and Cressida as they had been able to do with the publication of other plays. They were reluctant to release plays for publication, either because readers are less likely to be spectators or to prevent rival companies staging them. It did not authorise the printing of any Shake-Speare play from the Hamlet of 1604-5 till Othello in 1622. Bonian and Walley, knowing the company’s general policy in this matter, may not even have asked them to release Troilus And Cressida. To complete the interpretation of the Epistle, “prayed” in L.29 is used in its religious sense.

There is general agreement that this Epistle is very likely to have been written by a young lawyer from an Inn of Court. It has a facetious air; and a number of words with legal overtones, namely: (a) “titles”. Law suits have titles; (b) “commentaries”. A number of legal text books were called Commentaries; (c) “actions”. Law suits are called actions; (d) “judgments” and (e) “pleas”. A legal submission is a plea. Not only are there these words, but “plays for pleas” looks like a hit at the Benchers. This taunt would be likely to be made by an Inn Member since outsiders would have less interest in the Benchers’ attitude to comedies. The Arden editor, p. 309 concludes: “Whoever wrote the Epistle was in some sense connected with lawyers”; and W.W. Greg in his The Shakespeare First Folio (1955), p. 349, “The epistle is just what a young wit of the Inns of Court might be expected to throw off”.

Troilus and Cressida 4 of 9

Troilus and Cressida 4 of 9

The Inns of Court Theory

In 1928-9 Peter Alexander propounded the theory that Troilus And Cressida was written for performance at an Inn of Court, and this has received cautious acceptance from many (and probably most) scholars. The evidence for it is:

1. We know from the S.R. entry of 1603 that the play had been acted somewhere; but the 1609 Epistle tells us not in a public theatre.

2. The play is Shake-Speare at his most intellectual. Though much of it would be acceptable on the public stage, it has two lengthy debates (1.3.1-137 and 2.2.114-207) and a shorter one (3.3.95-123); an academic discussion on love (3.2.61-97); a good deal of other philosophising, some of it rather difficult; and an unusual number of long or rare words. The play would be suitable for an Inn of Court but parts of it would precipitate coughing in the public Theatre. Hence it has been called caviar to the general public.

3. The play has a number of legal allusions. There are 9 of them that are moderately striking, and most of them have the appearance of being dragged in to amuse a legal audience.

For more on the Inns of Court:

Troilus and Cressida 5 of 9

Troilus and Cressida 5 of 9


Point 1
It would not have been economic for a professional author to write a play solely for performance at an Inn of Court, for the reasons we’ve also made when making the same point in relation to The Comedy Of Errors and Love’s Labour’s Lost  (see posts in the “Baconian Misc. forum”). Indeed the point has even more force here because Troilus And Cressida is a long play and a great deal of thought has obviously gone into it. The Arden editor, showing some awareness of this difficulty, comments at p. 309: “Such a play must have been written with the expectation that it would serve subsequently (perhaps slightly cut) at the Globe”. But could there have been this expectation if the play was unsuitable for the public Theatre? Though it was first entered in the S.R. in 1603, we know from the Epistle of 1609 that it had not been publicly performed by then. Surely it would have been in those 6 years, if considered suitable for the public stage.

Point 2
Quite apart from the economic consideration, it seems to have been a tradition of Gray’s Inn to write its own plays – (this was mentioned in the post on The Comedy of Errors, but the lengthy and detailed evidence has not been presented here, at least not yet). So if Troilus and Cressida was performed at that Inn, that fact by itself would cast grave doubt on whether Shakspere can be the author.

Troilus and Cressida 6 of 9

Troilus and Cressida 6 of 9

Point 3
If Shakspere had written the play, why did not his company prevent its publication against their wishes? Even if they had no prior knowledge of the publication, they could have asked the Stationers’ Company to cancel the registration which had been made in favour of Bonian and Walley, and pull in any copies still unsold. And as the King’s own acting company, their request would have carried some clout.

The Stratfordians are at a loss to answer this point, except by suggesting that perhaps the King’s Men did not bother to stop the play’s publication because it was no longer in their current repertoire. But this is equally true for other Shake-Speare plays which they seem nevertheless to have hoarded. A simple explanation would be that they did not own this play because Will Shakspere had not written it; they merely possessed a copy, having been engaged to perform it at an Inn of Court before the 1603 S.R. entry and perhaps again nearer to 1609. If they had owned it, would the author of the Epistle have taunted them so cheekily, knowing that might provoke them into action? If they had performed the play on the public stage, the true author (even if an amateur like Bacon) might have parted with his ownership to them. But if they had merely performed the play at an Inn for a fee, he would have been likely to retain the ownership.

Point 4
The Epistle lavishes praise on the play’s author, but castigates “the grand possessors”, Shakspere’s company, for holding on to the play. Yet Shakspere himself was one of “the grand possessors”, being a shareholder in the company. And if he wrote the play, he would surely have had a predominant say as to whether the play should be released for publication. It is hard to think that his fellow shareholders would have overruled him. Ben Jonson seemed able to get his plays published, if he wanted to, even though they formed part of the repertoire of the Lord Admiral’s Men for whom he worked.

Thus the Epistle’s attack on “the grand possessors” seems hard to reconcile with its eulogy of the play’s author, if he was one of them. It surely treats the author as someone independent of the company. This important point seems to have escaped notice.