Sunday, June 19, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well

There have been several posts here reporting of documents from the Elizabethan/Jacobean era that directly link Francis Bacon to several Shake-Speare plays or poems. One that I overlooked was for the play “All’s Well That Ends Well”. Recently, Baconian researcher and author Barry Clarke revealed the photo copy below of the phrase “All is well that endes well” from Bacon’s ‘Promus’ notebook. As a reminder, this notebook of his was not used for his philosophical or legal writings but appears to have been used for his “works of my recreation” and hundreds of Promus entries have been found, in some form, in the Shakespeare works.  It takes a while to get used to how he (and others of that era) shaped their letters but experts have transcribed them so we can be sure of their authenticity. Below is the phrase mentioned “All is well that endes well”. 

The word that might be challenged here is the fourth word ‘that’. I’ve been able to confirm the first three letters (unusual as the first two letters are) but the last ‘t’ is a problem that I’d like to see an explanation for.

      Speaking of handwriting, I’ve mentioned earlier how a handwriting expert found that the handwriting of Francis Bacon matched that of the writer of the play portion for Sir Thomas More ‘Hand D’. Another play fragment was compared (back in 1992 it seems) to that of “30 well-known scholars and statesmen of the Elizabethan era” and was also found to match that of Bacon. Here’s a portion of it on the left.

The scene in the manuscript describes a conversation in which an innkeeper tells two thieves of "a man that lodged in our house/Last night that hath three hundred markes in gold." Similar conversations in an almost identical setting are described in Henry IV, Part 1.
The handwriting analysis was done by:

Maureen Ward Gandy B Ed CDE BCFE
Professional Consultant in Forensic Documents and Handwriting Specialist
(registered with the British Law Society)

Regardless of whether or not the scene description matches closely with that of Shake-Speare’s Henry IV, this is at least another piece of evidence that Francis Bacon did some playwriting. 

Bacon and the Earl of Southampton

Francis Bacon, the Earl of Southampton, and the long poems

The Stratfordian theory of William Shakspere of Stratford as the actual poet/playwright William Shakespeare holds that William of Stratford, not long after coming to London and becoming a playwright, either met Southampton, or knew of him, from Southampton’s regular attendance at the theater. And then sought his patronage in the poem Venus and Adonis (1593). Then dedicated a second poem, The Rape of Lucrece (1594) suggesting in its language a closer relationship, and probable patronage. Based on this presumption, it’s been further suggested, as by Stephen Greenblatt “Will in the World” that William and Southampton became close friends and possibly even lovers. This would then explain William’s access to court gossip, personalities, and knowledge of court life.

Keep in mind, though, that there is NO documentary evidence for this. There is no evidence whatsoever that William and Southampton ever actually met or knew each other. Though it’s logical that Southampton would have at least seen William if he were only an actor in the plays. It’s also logical then that they could have met, talked, and been friends. One of the hurdles, though, is that it’s a stretch for a young commoner, new to London from the country, to quickly cross the social chasm to become friends of an Earl, but we won’t say it couldn’t have been done. We do know that the Earl of Pembroke became close friends with theater owner Burbage, but how long that took and at what age it began I don’t think we know.

If William had not formally met Southampton and became his acquaintance, then another hurdle is the risk he would be taking in dedicating an erotic poem, or any poem, to him without receiving permission beforehand. Southampton did not rebuke the dedication and so we would assume that either the author did know him, or else Southampton liked the poem enough to forgive an un-asked for approval to do the dedication. After the two poems with their dedications to Southampton, Shakespeare did not dedicate any other work to him, though we are asked to believe that they were friends and possibly lovers for some time.

In comparison, the theory of Francis Bacon’s authorship of the two Shake-Speare poems has more supporting documentary evidence and logical support. Bacon was a commoner before his knighthood in 1603. And he was poor after not receiving an inheritance due to his father’s untimely death, and who did not provide for him in his will. He was friend and advisor to the Earl of Essex. Essex had been trying, in the early 1590s, to obtain for Bacon the government post of Attorney-General or of Solicitor-General, though he never succeeded.

When Southampton was eight year’s old his father died. He then became a royal ward of the state under William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Cecil was an uncle of Francis Bacon. Cecil’s wife Mildred Cooke was a sister of Bacon’s mother, as well as being “one of the two most learned ladies in the kingdom”. She then helped raise Southampton.

Bacon then would have known Southampton from an early age. Both Southampton and Bacon studied law at Gray’s Inn at or about the same time. When Southampton joined with Essex, around 1592, then Bacon would have become even closer to him. There then would be no social hurdle and little risk in Bacon writing a dedication to Southampton in a poem as Venus and Adonis or of Lucrece. And Bacon would have a need of his patronage perhaps as much as William of Stratford would. Bacon would have known that Southampton would soon be coming of age to receive his vast inheritance and so the timing of his dedication, if he was seeking the Earl’s financial support, would be well calculated. This assumes that Bacon allowed Southampton to know that he was writing under the pen name of William Shakespeare. If not, Bacon may have wanted Southampton to believe William of Stratford was the author to provide the playwright and the theater financial support for his future playwriting plans.

But what of supporting evidence of Bacon’s authorship? First, as discussed here in the forum on A Baconian Review of some Stratfordian Evidence, there is referenced how John Marston in 1598 strongly hinted at Bacon’s authorship of both Venus and Adonis as well as The Rape of Lucrece.  Next, there is a near exact phrase from Lucrece found on the Northumberland MS containing lists of Bacon’s known works along with the name of “William Shakespeare” and the name of two Shakespeare plays and as well a variation on the unusual word “honorificabiletudine”, used in Love’s Labour Lost as “Honorificabilitidinitatibus”. This Lucrece phrase is found at line 1086 of the poem and in the MS mentioned is “revealing day through every crany peepes” followed by “and see Shak”.  

Third, is the large, “priceless” Elizabethan mural of a scene from the poem Venus and Adonis found in a tavern a short two-miles from Bacon’s home at Gorhambury.

Fourth, are the following parallels in language between the writing in Shake-Speare’s dedications and Bacon’s writings:

1. The two dedications are in Bacon’s style in that they are both sophisticated, brilliant, pithy whereas most other Elizabethan dedications are longer.

2.  They both display ‘antithesis’ with which Bacon was obsessed. Examples are “so strong a prop to support so weak a burden”, and “The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet without beginning…”.

3.  The term “Honourable disposition” found in the Lucrece dedication was used by Bacon in at least two of his letters. This is discussed here in the forum category of ‘Parallels’. 

4.  Some think that the dedications were too ‘subservient’ to have been written by Bacon. But he has worded other dedications and letters similarly. A) In his dedication to Cambridge in his Wisdom of the Ancients, he wrote: “To you on this account I profess to owe both myself and all that is mine.” B) In a letter to the Duke of Buckingham he wrote: “I am your surer to you than to my own life”. C) In a letter to King James he wrote: “I have been ever your man, and counted myself, but an usufructuary [trustee] of myself, the property being yours”.

5.  The Venus and Adonis dedication starts with “Right Honourable, I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me…”. This is a Baconian phraseology, apparently picked up from his mother, or of both his parents, who likely got it from Horace. The Horace quote is in Bacon’s Promus notebook as [in Latin]: “Nescio quid meditans nugarum, totus in illis;” translated as “musing on trifles, I know not what, and quite absorbed in them.” His mother, troubled at her son’s habits of studious seclusion into the late hours, studying, as she would say Nescio quod” “I cannot tell what.” In Bacon’s Novum Organum dedication to the King, he wrote “Your Majesty may perhaps accuse me of larceny, having stolen from your affairs so much time as is required for this work. I cannot tell, non habeo quod dicam; but, as usual, the self vindication is ample and triumphant.” And in his Wisdom of the Ancients he writes: “…that with a natural motion it may return to the place whence it came. And yet – I cannot tell, - there are few footprints pointing back toward you,…”.

This little phrase (or it’s slight variations) used  in the Bacon family “I cannot tell” is found often in the Shake-Speare works: Antony And Cleopatra, 4.12.5; Richard III, 1.3.69; Henry V, 2.1.23; Much Ado About Nothing, 2.3.22; Merchant of Venice, 1.3.93; Macbeth; 1.2.42; Othello; 4.2.110. How commonly was it used by other Elizabethan authors?

Finally, the lack of further dedications to Southampton is more easily explained by the fact of Bacon’s fall out with Southampton in 1601 after the Essex rebellion when Bacon was required by Queen Elizabeth to help prosecute the two of them, leading to Essex’s execution and Southampton’s confinement in the Tower.

In summary, based on available evidence the theory of Bacon’s authorship of the two Shake-Speare poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece is much stronger than for that of the theory of William of Stratford’s authorship.

Note: For line references in the Shakespeare works I’m now using those found at:

Parallels - Weep to have - Sonnet 64

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,
The Merchant of Venice, 3.2.26-31

Now, Bacon:
[A classical dictum]  Non uti ut non appetas, non appetere ui 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)

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).

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 1

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 1

One of the arguments used by Stratfordians is that there were no “intelligent and knowledgeable bibliophile” contemporaries of Shake-Speare that ever questioned the authorship of William of Stratford, or ever suggested that someone other than him wrote the poems and plays. And that it wasn’t until the middle of the 18th century at the earliest that someone thought the works may have been written by someone else.

This is another myth that was falsified beginning over a 100 years ago with Walter Begley’s book Is It Shakespeare? (1903). He suggested  that there’s evidence from 1597-8 that Joseph Hall and John Marston identified the author of Shake-Speare’s Venus and Adonis to be Francis Bacon. Several other Baconians have more thoroughly studied and written about this evidence. These include:

Basil E. Lawrence, Notes on the Authorship of the Shakespeare Plays and Poems (1925).
Nigel Cockburn, The Bacon Shakespeare Question (Private publication: 1998).
Peter Dawkins, The Shakespeare Enigma (2004).
Barry R. Clarke, The Shakespeare Puzzle (2008).

Cockburn and Clarke have done the most in-depth analysis and any challengers to this argument will have to work through their chapters on this topic. But for the purposes of this forum I think that Dawkins’ shorter summary is more suitable, though I will add summary parts of Dawkins and Clarke too in order to give readers extra help in absorbing the ideas and evidence.

Dawkins’ first part of his summary:

Contemporary Witness

Did any contemporary of Shakespeare strongly hint at or name the real author Shakespeare?

The answer is yes.

John Marston and Joseph Hall, in an exchange of satires that continued for two years, gave the game away. All copies of their books were subsequently ordered to be burnt. In his first book of Satires (1597) Hall criticises a poet he calls ‘Labeo’ (the name of a famous Roman lawyer), who has written erotic poetry anonymously. In Pygmalion’s Image (1598) Marston refers to Labeo as the writer of Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis. In his second book of Satires (1598) Hall infers that Labeo has used another person’s name to hide his authorship and thus be immune to satire. In Certain Satires Bk 1 (1598) Marston identifies Labeo with the motto, Mediocra firma, and in context with the Shakespeare poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.

The motto (Mediocra firma) was Francis Bacon’s heraldic motto, used only by himself and his brother, Anthony Bacon.

To identify someone by means of heraldry is an ancient and fairly exact method of identification. The additional labelling of the author Shakespeare as ‘Labeo’ completes the identification as being Francis Bacon, since of the two brothers it was Francis who was a qualified lawyer who lost favour with the Queen just as Antistus Labeo lost favour with the Roman Emperor.

Since it was on the poem Venus and Adonis that the signature of ‘William Shakespeare’ was first placed as the author, the Hall and Marston satires imply categorically that this signature was the literary pseudonym of Francis Bacon with respect to this and the following poem, Lucrece, and hence all subsequent Shakespeare works if indeed they were all written by one man.

© Peter Dawkins, 2006

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 2

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 2

Dawkins’ second part of his summary:

In an exchange of satirical writings published during 1597-8, commenting on the Shakespeare poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece published a few years earlier (1593-4), the poets Joseph Hall and John Marston indicated that William Shakespeare was a mask for the real author of the poems and pointedly revealed the true author.

Hall attacked the love poetry of the Shakespeare poems; Marston defended it. In doing so they identified the author of the poems as being Francis Bacon. They begin their exchange of satires by referring to a certain poet as ‘Labeo’. In Hall’s second book of Certain Satires he reproves Labeo for the licentious tone of his writing and implies that Labeo was writing in conjunction with someone else:-

For shame write better Labeo, or write none,
Or better write, or Labeo write alone.[1]

In Satire 1 of his fourth book of Satires, Hall links Labeo with Shakespeare, satirising Labeo for his use of ‘But’ and ‘Oh’ with which he began his stanzas (‘While bit But OHs each stanze can begin’) and his use of hyphenated words as epithets (‘In Epithets to join two words as one, /Forsooth for Adjectives cannot stand alone’). These lines refer respectively to Shakespeare's poem Lucrece, where it is noticeable how many stanzas commence with ‘But’ or ‘Oh’, and to both Lucrece and Venus and Adonis in which hyphenated words are employed as epithets. Hall goes on further to imply that Labeo is writing under another person’s name (i.e. Shakespeare's name):-

Labeo is whip't and laughs me in the face.
Why? for I smite and hide the galled place,
Gird but the Cynicks Helmet on his head,
Cares he for Talus or his flayle of lead?
Long as the craftie Cuttle lieth sure
In the black cloud of his thick vomiture;
Who list complaine of wronged faith or fame
When hee may shift it on to anothers name? [2]

 The following year John Marston joined the game in his Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image, confirming that Labeo was the author Shakespeare:-

So Labeo did complaine his loue was stone,
Obdurate, flinty, so relentless none;
Yet Lynceus knows, that in the end of this
He wrought as strange a metamorphosis.
Ends not my poem thus surprising ill?
Come, come, Augustus, crowne my laureat quill.[3]

The first two lines of this passage allude to lines 200 and 201 of Venus and Adonis (‘Art thou obdurate, flintie, hard as steele? /Nay more then flint, for stone at raine relenteth’), whilst in the remaining lines Marston compares the metamorphosis of Pygmalion as described in his own work to that of Adonis as described in Venus and Adonis.

So we have both Hall and Marston referring to the concealed author, whom the actor Shakespeare masked, as Labeo.

Marston himself was no stranger to the use of pseudonyms and masks. He had hidden himself under the pseudonym of W. Kinsayder for both his poems, The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image and The Scourge of Villainy. But why choose Labeo as a pseudonym for the author of the Shakespeare poems? It is a pointed allusion, in fact, for Antistius Labeo was a celebrated lawyer in the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus, who lost favour with the Emperor for opposing the Emperor’s views.

In 1593 such a crisis had occurred for Francis Bacon, who had dared to stand up in Parliament against an attempt by the Queen and Burghley to take away Parliament’s vitally important prerogative of raising taxes. Francis remained in disgrace with the Queen until November 1594, and lost the chance to be appointed either Solicitor-General or Attorney-General. Moreover, Francis was busy writing in conjunction with his brother Anthony, who had returned home from France in February 1592. Essex wrote to the Queen that the two brothers were busy writing stage plays and about to characterise him on stage.

After further exchanges, Marston finally identifies Labeo decisively. In his Certain Satires, Book 1, is another covert allusion to an author who 'presumst as if thou wert unseene'. In Satire 4, Marston defends various authors whom Hall had attacked and, without actually naming Labeo, refers to Labeo and identifies him in the following line:

What, not mediocria firma from thy spite? [4]
[ i.e., has not even mediocria firma escaped thy spite?]

Since this latin phrase, 'mediocria firma', is the motto of the Bacon family, as used by Anthony and Francis Bacon, and as Francis Bacon was a secret poet and lawyer who fell out of favour with the Queen, there can be no reasonable doubt that Marston was referring to Francis Bacon, whom he believed to be the author of the Shakespeare works. Clearly, Hall also was in on the secret.

Francis Bacon's Coat of Arms as Viscount St Alban

John Marston, who was a member of Middle Temple, was in a particularly good position to know the truth, since he was a close friend of Thomas Greene of Warwickshire, also a member of Middle Temple, who claimed to be the cousin of William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon (and possibly was by marriage). Greene had stood surety for John Marston's entry to the Middle Temple Inn of Court in 1594, and Marston had stood surety for Greene’s entry in 1595. Greene named his children, Anne and William, after the Shakespeares, and in 1609 rented the rooms in New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, from the actor. His brother, John Greene, who had been a student at Clement’s Inn, also settled in Stratford.

Peter Dawkins, 2006

(See the author’s book, The Shakespeare Enigma)

1. Joseph Hall, Satires Virgidemiarum (1597), Bk 2, p.25.
2. Joseph Hall, Satires Virgidemiarum (1597), Bk 4, Satire I.
3. John Marston, The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image (1598), p. 25.
4. John Marston, Certain Satires (1598), Book 1, line 77.

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 3

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 3

Next is a brief summary of Nigel Cockburn from his chapter on this evidence.

The Baconian Basil E. Lawrence in his Notes on the Authorship of the Shakespeare Plays and Poems (1925), pp. 93-4, recorded that he submitted his arguments on the Hall and Marston satires to an unnamed Stratfordian scholar who replied: “Mediocria firma must stand for Bacon, but does it stand for Labeo? It seems probable, but it seems difficult to prove it”. Then he added: “It is only an assumption that Labeo is Bacon”. But it is not “an assumption” unsupported by evidence, else the Stratfordian himself could not have described it as “probable”. It is a high probability based on valid inference to be drawn from the 6 points I have listed. (Note: his 6 points are best read in the context of his whole analysis).


  1. Hall says that Labeo, a superior poet, was writing poetry (which may include plays) under the name of a man of low degree.  
  2. This, especially when coupled with a reference to erotic poetry and apparent references to 1 Henry IV, makes it very probable that by Labeo and the thirsty swain Hall meant Shake-Speare(the author) and Shakspere (the actor of Stratford). We know of no other pair of Elizabethans who could fit these roles.   
  3. Hall gives no clue as to the identity of Labeo/Shake-Speare except that the name Labeo tends to imply that he was a lawyer.

  1. In his Postcript to Pigmalion’s Image he clearly identifies Labeo as the author of Venus and Adonis.
  2. In his Certain Satires, Satire 4 (Reactio), he reveals that Bacon had written “mirror” poetry.
  3. Very probably he believed that poetry to be Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.

Were Hall and Marston mistaken?

If Hall and Marston were right, the Baconian theory is proved, as to the narrative poems at least. So what are the chances of their having been mistaken? [note: here Cockburn gives 6 reasons why they probably were not mistaken]. Here is a summary of them:

  1.  It is likely that, at any rate to some extent, they had separate sources of information.
  2.  A challenge to a printed authorship ascription is much more significant than an acceptance of it. Where an authorship ascription is disputed, the challenge is likely to be based on some evidence.
  3.  A man may speculate freely in private as to the true authorship of a  work; he is less likely to commit himself in print unless he feels reasonably sure. The assertions of both Hall and Marston are categorical.
  4.  If Hall and Marston were merely guessing at the identity of the true author, Bacon would have been a most improbable choice.
  5.  Marston, as a barrister and a major poet himself, is likely to have been in quite a good position to know if his fellow barrister, Bacon, was the true author. As to Hall, it was said that “he was well acquainted with members of the elder branch of the Bacon family”.
  6. The view which Hall held about Labeo’s identity was not a passing fancy but was maintained over a period. And there is no evidence that either Hall or Marston ever changed their minds about Labeo’s identity.

One of the very few Stratfordian scholars that have at least half-heartedly considered this evidence, H.N. Gibson in The Shakespeare Claimants (1962), after saying that Hall and Marston had “hazarded a guess” about who “Labeo” was, concluded that “It may prove that Hall and Marston were the first exponents (back in 1597) of the Baconian theory, but it does not, and cannot, prove that the Baconian theory is true”. Cockburn’s response is that “But it can and does prove that the theory is true, at least as to the narrative poems, if Hall and Marston were right. And for the reasons I have given “hazarded a guess” is unlikely to be a fair description of their identification”.  Keep in mind that probably none of the evidence posted here has been viewed by Baconians as ever having received “a fair description” from Shakespeare scholars.

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 4

The Hall and Marston Satires, Part 4

And now here is Barry R. Clarke’s summary. Some of the references can only be fully understood from having read the full piece, which is included in his book’s appendix, pages 226-232.


E5 A summary
We now have possession of the following facts. In the Virgidemiarum, we can identify a reasonable association between Labeo the Cynick —Hall’s main target — and Shake-speare’s Venus and Adonis. With far less certainty, we can claim a connection between Labeo and Love’s Labour’s Lost. Joseph Hall claims that Labeo the Cynic is a “fool” to have given up “his handsome drinking bole” to a “swaine” who nourishes himself from it. However, in doing so, Labeo has become immune from criticism because he “shifts it to another’s name”, presumably the same low-ranking “swaine”.

Labeo first makes his entrance in Hall’s Virgidemiarum, Book 2,Satire 1:

For shame write better Labeo, or write none
Or better write, or Labeo write alone.
Nay, call the Cynick but a wittie fool,
Thence to objure(a) his handsome drinking bole:
Because the thirstie swaine(b) with hollow hand
Conveyed the streame to wet his dry weasand(c)…
Key : (a) renounce, (b) country person — see below , (c) throat

In Marston’s The Authour in prayse of his precedent Poem there is a strong connection between Labeo and Venus and Adonis. Marston also introduces Lynceus, a boar hunter who, since a boar features on Francis Bacon’s coat of arms, might represent Hall the Bacon hunter. The piece suggests that Lynceus (Hall) knows of a metamorphosis other than the one in Venus and Adonis, perhaps one that has transformed Labeo into another person. Labeo does not appear in Reactio, however, in the course of Marston’s defence of ‘mirror’ poetry, we find good allusions to Venus and Adonis around Bacon’s family motto.

So it is a reasonable interpretation that between them, Hall and Marston intended Labeo the Cynic to be Francis Bacon, who had renounced his possessions (particularly, Venus and Adonis) to a man of humble origins (“thirsty swaine”) who was both profiting from the work (“wet his dry weasand”) and acting as a mask (“shift it to another’s name”). This could only have been Shakspere.

“Who list complaine of wronged faith or fame
When hee may shift it on to anothers name?”

In 1599, in light of the Hall–Marston controversy, the Archbishop of Winchester and the Bishop of London banned satires and epigrams, confiscating all copies of the Virgidemiae and publically burning the works of Marston.

Clarke’s online book can be found here:     (note: you may need to copy and paste this into a browser. It will automatically download the full book).
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Finally, another writer, Ross Jackson, summarized it like this:

“An interesting tale identifying Bacon as the concealed author of the two poems, Venus and Adonis, and Lucrece, and the play, Henry IV, is found in the writings of two well-known satirists, Joseph Hall and John Marston in 1597-98. The information is not provided in so many words, but must be dug out by sophisticated literary analysis, which has been done by various scholars. The conclusion is not disputed by Stratfordians who have studied the writings, but their reaction is: so what if two people claimed that Bacon was the concealed author of the three works. That is not proof.”

Jackson continues: “The evidence is, of course, circumstantial, but I happen to think it is very relevant because it is consistent with other evidence. Two people in the heart of the London literary scene both told the world in no uncertain terms that Bacon was the real author of these works. And this was at a time when these were the only works published in William Shakespeare’s name. It is especially interesting because Marston was not only a lawyer from Cambridge, and therefore very likely knew Bacon personally, but he was also a close friend of Thomas Greene, who in turn was a cousin of Will Shaksper, came from the same area, rented rooms from him at one time, and even named his children after Will and his wife Anne. So Marston was one of the few people with close links to both Shaksper and Bacon. This suggests why he knew and adds a good deal of credibility to the story. It is also relevant that Bacon’s good friend and former tutor, John Whitgift, at this time Archbishop of Canterbury, ordered Hall’s and Marston’s satires to be burned, probably to protect Francis Bacon from unwanted publicity”.

James Spedding - 1 of 2

Nigel Cockburn – on Spedding,  1 of 2

Doubters of Bacon's authorship of the Shakespeare works also at times point to his main biographer, James Spedding, who didn't believe he was Shakespeare. But N.B. Cockburn among others have shown the faults in Spedding's own thinking. Cockburn writes:

It is necessary to say a word about James Spedding, and this may be as a good a place as any at which to do it. When he was writing The Works of Francis Bacon, the main rebirth of the Baconian theory, after its Elizabethan origins, had not yet taken place. But in 1867 an American judge, Nathaniel Holmes, confronted Spedding with the suggestion that Bacon was Shake-Speare. In a reply dated 15 February of that year (which is printed in Holme's book The Authorship of Shakespeare (1886), Vol. 2, pp. 612-618 Spedding rejected the suggestion outright, declaring: "If there was any reason for supposing that the real author was someone else, I think I am in a condition to say that, whoever it was, it was not Francis Bacon". O fortunatam natam me consule Roman! (How fortunate for Rome that I am Consul!). Spedding's ipse dixit has exerted great influence, by reason of his reputation as Bacon's biographer.

But how reliable is he on this question? He performed an invaluable service, let it be said, in editing Bacon's works, letters and life, and without his great labours, which produced order out of chaos, study of Bacon would be a nightmare. On the other debit side, however, and despite his 14 volumes, his understanding of Bacon remained surprisingly incomplete. To give one example not connected with the Shake-Speare authorship dispute, he delivered himself of this pronouncement: 'All his life he [Bacon] had been studying to know and speak the truth; and I doubt whether there was ever any man whose evidence upon matters of fact may be more absolutely relied on, or who could more truly say with Kent in Lear 4.7.5-6:

All my reports go with the modest truth,
No more, nor clipp'd; but so.

Alas!, Bacon's statements were sometimes decidedly 'clipp'd' rather than 'so'. Certainly he was a relentless seeker after truth about men and nature. But to suppose that he was always a paragon of veracity in his own affairs, whether public or private, is a comical misjudgment. In his Essay on Dissimulation he openly advocates a degree of dissimulation; and in Chapter 4 [of Cockburn's book] we shall find him putting theory into practice by forging two letters. The Spedding misjudgment which is relevant to the present book is his failure to recognise Bacon's interest in poetry and the Theatre. The underlying reason for this failure is all too apparent from something he wrote when discussing Bacon's Psalm paraphrases: "The truth is that Bacon was not without the fine phrenzy of the poet; but the world into which it transported him was one which, upon express condition that fiction should be utterly prohibited and excluded. Had it taken the ordinary direction, I have little doubt that it would have carried him to a place among the great poets; but it was the study of his life to refrain his imagination and keep it within the modesty of truth; aspiring no higher than to be a faithful interpreter of nature, waiting for the day when the Kingdom of Man should come".

But there is absolutely no warrant for the assertion that it was "the study of Bacon's life to refrain his imagination". What Spedding should have said and thought is that it was the study of his life to refrain his imagination when searching for truth about men and nature. Any sensible person will be guided in such matters by the evidence, not by imagination. But it is a non sequitur to suppose that this debarred him from indulging his imagination to his leisure hours. In the next chapter we shall see many statements by Bacon of his enjoyment of poetry and the Theatre. He described poetry as "rather a pleasure or play of the imagination than a work or duty thereof"; and as "a thing sweet and varied that would be thought to have in it something divine".

James Spedding - 2 of 2

Nigel Cockburn – on Spedding,  2 of 2

Spedding's false premise coloured all his thinking about Bacon as a poet, and gave him a blind spot. In his reply to Judge Holmes he made a number of points and I discuss (and reject) them all in the ensuing chapters, with or without reference to Spedding's name. But I will cite two at once: (1) In his letter to Holmes he gave as one of his reasons for rejecting the Baconian theory that Bacon "was never suspected [by his contemporaries] of wasting time in writing poetry". And in writing in the Works of Bacon's acknowledged poem The World's a Bubble and another poem ascribed to him, he described them as "the only verses certainly of Bacon's making that have come down to us, and probably, with one or two slight exceptions, the only verses he ever attempted". But quite apart from the intrinsic probability that Bacon wrote a good deal of verse, did Spedding not know of the evidence of Edmund Howes, Edmund Waller and John Aubrey?  

(2)  In a footnote Spedding writes of some comments by Bacon in his De Augmentis on the public Theatre: "It is a curious fact that these remarks on the character of modern drama were probably written and were certainly first published in the same year which saw the first collection of Shakepeare's plays; of which, though they had been filling the theatre for the last 30 years, I very much doubt whether Bacon had ever heard". An astonishing suggestion! Assuming that Bacon was not himself Shake-Speare, it is inconceivable that he had never heard of the playwright and his plays. Shake-Speare certainly meant far less to his contemporaries than to us. But in the next chapter we shall see Bacon's interest in the Theatre, public and private.

At least one of the Shake-Speare plays, The Comedy Of Errors, was performed at Gray's Inn, Bacon's Inn, and as part of Christmas Revels for which Bacon himself, as Spedding agrees, did at least part of the writing. At least one play, Twelfth Night, was performed at the Middle Temple. Many were performed at Court, where Bacon was a courtier; others in great private houses owned by his friends, some of whom owned or patronised theatre companies. One Shake-Speare play, Richard II, Bacon certainly knew of. On the eve of the abortive Essex rebellion in 1601 some of the conspirators persuaded Shake-Speare's company to put on a performance of that play in the hope that its theme of the deposition of a King would incite the mob to join the rebellion. Afterwards, it fell to Bacon to draft a report on the trial for treason of Essex and his confederates. And in his report he mentioned the performance of the play. It had been published under Shakespeare's name in 1598 and its author must have been much in mind after the rebellion in case he got into trouble over it. Bacon also mentioned the play years later in his charge against Oliver St. John.

One can find partial excuse for Spedding's blindness in the circumstance that much of the evidence on which modern Baconians rely had not been unearthed or assessed in Spedding's day. For example, the significance of the Hall and Marston satires was not perceived till 1903. But the evidence known to Spedding was more than sufficient to put a reasonable person on enquiry as to the possibility of Bacon's authorship of the Shake-Speare works.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bacon and Shakespeare - Interest in Philosophy

Opinions, attitudes and interests of Shake-Speare and Bacon.

Philosophical Bent

A.L. Rowse, comparing Bacon and Shake-Speare in a newspaper article, wrote that Bacon was "a kindred spirit, though with a more intellectual cast of mind". For my part, I cannot see that Shake-Speare is any less intellectual than Bacon, when due allowance is made for the hugely different media their acknowledged works occupy. Obviously, intellectuality in overtly philosophical works will be far more concentrated than in plays and poetry. But one never ceases to be amazed by the intellectual density of the Shake-Speare works. He was as addicted to philosophizing as Bacon was. In Shake-Speare it mainly took the form of world-wise comments on the human condition. Such comments were fairly common in Elizabethan drama, but according to William Creizenach in his English Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (English translation, 1916), p. 127, "It was certainly the example of Shakespeare which led other dramatists to vie with one another in adorning the lines of their tragic hero with philosophic or would-be philosophic utterances." 

Even more remarkably, Shake-Speare's philosophizing was not limited to wise saws but extended to technical doctrines of philosophy and natural science, which are quite often dragged in for no dramatic purpose but simply because they were of interest to the author. An example is Hamlet 3.4.71-3. Hamlet is upbraiding his mother for marrying his uncle, and says to her: "Sense sure you have, / Else could you not have motion; but sure that sense / Is apoplex'd." These lines (which are in Quarto 2 but not in the Folio) were only introduced because, as the Arden editor notes: "It was an Aristotelian maxim that the external senses are necessarily present in all creatures which have the power of locomotion." Bacon refers to this doctrine in his The Advancement of Learning and in his Natural History. One is left with the impression that the philosophical and scientific side of Shake-Speare's work meant at least as much to him as the poetic.

Was William Shakspere of Stratford too "all sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought"? With the possible exception mentioned below, none of the stories about him, whether true or apocryphal, present him in his light. Nor can his Stratford upbringing or the hurly-burly of the London Theatre, have conduced to a habit of philosophical reflection.

Here are some quotes from Shakespeare's Philosophy by Colin McGinn (2006). McGinn has taught philosophy at University College of London, Oxford, and Rutgers University, and is currently distinguished professor of philosophy at the university of Miami.

"If I were to award him [Shakespeare] a single label, it would be "naturalist." "
p. 15

"He has the curiosity of a scientist, the judgment of a philosopher, and the soul of a poet. ...He is a beady-eyed naturalist of raging human interiority and social collision. ...In both Montaigne's and Shakespeare's work, there is a kind of appalling, but exhilarating, candor. And some of that ruthlessness is philosophical: the determination to expose reality for what it is, to undermine dogma and complacency. In the end, of course, this is nothing other than a dedication to the truth".
p. 16

"Here we see Shakespeare the empirical naturalist, the proto-scientist."
p. 30

"He [Shakespeare] also approached the mind in the spirit of a scientist--he is interested in how it works, what the components are, and how they interact".
p. 164

"Shakespeare, as a dramatic naturalist, must give us a rendering of this part of nature."
p. 179

Some quotes regarding Bacon:

"He was poet, orator, naturalist, physician, historian, essayist, philosopher, statesman, and judge."
Edwin Reed

"If a man will begin with certainties, he will end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he will end in certainties." Bacon

"There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth."

"For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of truth; as having a Mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the Resemblances of Things (which is the chief point) and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their Subtler Differences; as being gifted by Nature with Desire to seek, patience to Doubt, fondness to Meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of Imposture. So I thought my Nature had a kind of familiarity and Relationship with Truth."  Bacon, On the Interpretation of Nature

And finally:

“For of all the strange things about this man William Shakespeare one of the most remarkable is the fact that he could contrive no scene so theatrical, no stage effect so comic or dialogue so nonsensical, as to protect himself from the insertion right in the midst of it of touches of nature scientific in their veracity. Such was the grip that truth seems to have had on him.”

The Meaning of Shakespeare, (1951) by Harold C. Goddard, vol. 1, p. 288

Bacon and Shakespeare - Interest in Medicine

Opinions, attitudes and interests of Shake-Speare and Bacon.

Interest in Medicine

Shake-Speare's work teems with allusions, literal or metaphorical, to medical science, to surgical operations, to potions and poisons and their effects. Dr. John Charles Bucknill in his The Medical Knowledge of Shakespeare (1860), p.2, wrote: "It would be difficult to point to any great author, not himself a physician, in whose works the healing art is referred to more frequently and more respectfully than in those of Shakespeare; the sacred writings alone being excepted". At p. 12 he added: "[the medical allusions in Shake-Speare] appear to amount not merely to evidence but to proof that Shakespeare had read widely in medical literature"; at p. 290: "The great dramatist had, at least, been a diligent student of all the medical knowledge existing in his time"; at p. 292: "The cumulative evidence...[is] unanswerable proof that his mind was deeply imbued with the best medical knowledge of his age". In similar vein Herman Pomeranz in his Medicine in the Shakespeare Plays and Dickens Doctors (1936), p. 9, wrote: "The Elizabethan dramatists in general...had a hearty contempt of medical men. Shakespeare appears to have been the sole exception". At p. 210: "All in all there is more mention of medical botany in his plays than in all the other late Elizabethan or early Jamesian writers". At p. 206: "He had a deeper interest in herbs, medicinal or otherwise, than any contemporary dramatist or poet".

Bacon's interest in medicine was almost obsessive. In Amboise's French version of Bacon's Natural History Bacon wrote: "His own health ought to be the first study of every man". He was dogged by frail health from childhood and called it "my second original sin". He records that his doctors thought he would not reach 14. He would concoct potions of his own recipe for his health's relief. For example, in his private notebook Commentarius Solutus, compiled in the summer of 1608, there are jottings of remedies for indigestion, bowel troubles and "vicious humours". One of his more attractive self-prescriptions (to be found in his Medical Remains, is: "In the third hour after sun is risen, to take in air from some high and open place, with a ventilation of rose maschetae and fresh violets, and to stir the earth with infusion of wine and mint".

Lord Macauley in his Essay on Bacon wrote: "Of all the sciences, that which he regarded with the greatest interest was the science which, in Plato's opinion, would not be tolerated in a well-regulated community. To make a man perfect was no part of Bacon's plan. His humble aim was to make imperfect man comfortable...He appealed to the example of Christ, and reminded his readers that the great Physician of the soul did not disdain to be also the physician of the body".

Pomeranz, op.cit. p. 155, wrote: "Bacon was a deep student of the medical literature of past ages - of Hippocrates, Galen and Celsus in especial - and of the antics of the quacks of his own period". Francis Osborne (1593-1659) in his Advice to a Son (1658) Part 2, p. 67, related how he once heard Bacon "outcant [out-jargon] a London chirurgeon [surgeon]" in a discussion about surgical matters.

It seems improbable that William Shakspere of Stratford would have had such a profound interest in medical science, ancient and modern.

Shakespeare, Bacon - Sports and Games

Opinions, attitudes and interests of Shake-Speare and Bacon.

Interest in Sports

The sports with which Shake-Speare seems to have been most familiar, to judge from the number of his (usually metaphorical) references to them, were hunting, falconry and bowls. These were sports of the nobility and squirearchy.

On hunting A.L. Rowse comments in his William Shakespeare, p. 51-2: "He knew all about hounds, down to points like 'the hound that runs counter and yet draws dry-foot well" (The Comedy of Errors 4.2.39). "Draw dry-foot well" means "tracks game by the mere scent of the foot".

As to falconry, an Act of Parliament allotted birds of prey to degrees and orders of men according to their rank and station. And as the Derbyite A.W. Titherley pointed out in his Shakespeare's Identity (1952), p. 5-6: "When Shakespeare refers to specific kinds of hawk, it is usually to the falcon or tercel (male); it is to birds restricted to the nobility; but only rarely to the goshawk, sparrow hawk or kestrel of the people".

As to bowls, Caroline F.E. Spurgeon in her Shakespeare's Imagery, p. 110, writes: "Of all the games and exercises Shakespeare mentions - tennis, football, bowls, fencing, tilting, wrestling - there can be no doubt that bowls was the one he himself played and loved best. He has 19 images from bowls, besides other references, or more than thrice as many as from any other game, and these all show close knowledge of the game and of the peculiar run of the bowl". She adds at p. 111: "In 11 other dramatists - 49 plays - we find, if we except Dekker, only one image from bowls". Like hunting and falconry, bowls was a sport of the upper classes. Playing of the game was prohibited by Act of Parliament, except that a gentleman whose land brought him in at least £100 per year might play on his own bowling green. The reason for this embargo was that public bowling alleys were often the scene of gambling and dissipation.

Shake-Speare makes less frequent references to sports of the common people. For example, he was not much interested in fishing. And he never mentions ninepins or skittles.

How comes it, then, if Will Shakspere was the playwright Shake-Speare, that he was apparently most familiar with sports not available to his class? He could not have participated in hunting or falconry. He might have been able to play bowls since the Act of Parliament was not wholly successful in stamping out public bowling alleys; but only if he was prepared to mix with gamblers and the dissolute, which would not have been the best way to climb the social ladder. By contrast, why so little interest in fishing? Did William Shakspere never fish in the river Avon?

With Bacon there is no problem. As a member of the upper classes, he would have been familiar with the sports in question. Francis Osborne wrote of Bacon: "So I have heard him entertain a country Lord in the proper terms relating to hawks and dogs". The physical recreations he himself enjoyed (as Canon Rawley tells us in the Latin version of his life of Bacon prefixed to Rawley's Resuscitatio (1658) were "gentle walking, coaching, slow riding, playing at bowls and such other like exercises". As to bowls, Bacon wrote in his De Augmentis: "Playing at bowls is good for diseases of the reins". In 1608 a bowling green was constructed at Gray's Inn, Bacon's law school. In notes Bacon made for a proposed conversation with the Duke of Buckingham in 1624 he wrote: "You bowl well if you do not horse the bowl an hand too much. You know the fine bowler is knee almost to the ground in delivery of the cast". It seems he hoped this advice in metaphor would induce Buckingham to show more restraint and humility ("knee almost to the ground"). It is right to add that Bacon in his prose works only mentions bowls on two other occasions, namely in his Essay on Wisdom for a Man's Self and in his Essay on Studies, making 4 references in all, but there is still no difficulty in supposing that he would have made Shake-Speare's frequent metaphorical use of bowls.

Shakespeare, Bacon - Weather, Gardening, Animals, Birds

Opinions, attitudes and interests of Shake-Speare and Bacon.

Interest in Gardening

Caroline Spurgeon, in her Shakespeare's Imagery (1935), p. 86 writes: One occupation, one point of view, above all others, is naturally his [Shake-Speare's], that of a gardener; watching, preserving, tending and caring for growing things, especially flowers and fruit. All through his plays he thinks most easily and readily of human life and action in the terms of a gardener". "A devoted gardener", Lord Dacre calls him in his essay "What's in a Name", "only Francis Bacon compares with him here". Bacon begins his Essay on Gardens: "God almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures". Bacon delighted in making improvements to the gardens at Twickenham Lodge, Gorhambury and at Gray's Inn. Aubrey adds: "At every meal, according to the season of the year, he had his table strewed with sweet herbs and flowers, which he said did refresh his spirit and memory".

Will Shakspere can have had little or no opportunity for gardening till his retirement to Stratford around 1610-1613 after the plays had been written.

Interest in the Weather

Lord Dacre, in the same essay mentioned, also commented that Shake-Speare "had a great eye for the weather and its nuances, for the seasons and their changes". Bacon's prose works offer little opportunity for comments on the weather, save his Historia Ventorum [History of the Winds] (1622) which is an encyclopedic 60-page analysis of winds. To quote a single sentence: "In a south wind the breath of men is more offensive, the appetite of animals is more depressed, pestilential diseases are more frequent, catarrhs common, and men are more dull and heavy; whereas in a north wind they are brisker, healthier, and have a better appetite". It is reasonable to infer that he had a similar interest in other aspects of the weather, which would only be one facet of his interest in nature generally.

Interest in Animals, especially Birds

Shake-Speare had a fondness for animals generally, especially birds. Caroline Spurgeon, p. 48, writes: "Of the large animal group, the outstanding point is the great number drawn from birds. If we except the human body, its parts, movements and senses, Shake-Speare's images from birds form by far the largest section drawn from any single class of objects". Shake-Speare mentions 70 kinds of birds, including sea birds, in 600 allusions - see J.E. Harting, Birds of Shakespeare (1871).

Bacon too seems to have been an animal lover. At Gorhambury in the old House he installed windows on the glass of which were painted animals and plants - see Aubrey's Brief Lives. In his Historia Vitae et Mortis (History of Life and Death) he displays much knowledge of animals. And his special interest seems to have been in birds. Aubrey tells us that Bacon had an aviary built in the grounds of York House at a cost of £300. "The crane that flew into the Thames" (for sending after which the Washwoman was rewarded with 5 shillings) had probably escaped from the aviary. In 1624 in notes of a proposed conversation with the Duke of Buckingham Bacon jotted down: "I have somewhat of the French: I love birds, as the King doth, and have some childish [next word illegible] wherein we shall consent".