Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bacon and Shakespeare - Attitude on Love - Part 1

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

Attitude to Love   Part 1 of 2

Many Stratfordians see Bacon as a cold fish, incapable of love, who therefore (they argue) could not have written the many love scenes in Shake-Speare. They have attempted to make much of this, and some have proclaimed it as conclusive refutation by itself of the Baconian theory.

Since Bacon was at least predominantly homosexual (Cockburn believes), it is certainly unlikely that he was ever deeply in the throes of heterosexual love, though at the age of 45 he contracted a childless marriage to a girl of about 14, and had earlier contemplated marriage to Lady Hatton. He avouched the body's need for sexual intercourse. In a little known passage in Pierre Amboise's French version of Bacon's Sylva Sylvarum Bacon wrote: "It is certain that the moderate use of love is necessary to maintain the body's health, by soothing and releasing the spirits which otherwise in excess would heat and inflame the whole body. It is for this reason that physicians for certain maladies prescribe sexual intercourse for the patient who then discovers whether he would rather lose his life or his virginity". Canon Rawley omitted this passage from the English version of Sylva Sylvarum but includes a similar passage which begins: "Pleasure in the act of Venus is the greatest of the pleasures of the senses". And there is another similar passage in Bacon's History of Life and Death.

Nor was he blind to the merits of love on a higher plane. In the same work he wrote: "Love, if not unfortunate and too deeply wounding is a kind of joy". But he begins his Essay on Love:

"The Stage is more beholding to Love than the life of man. For as to the Stage, Love is ever matter of comedies, and now and then of tragedies. But in life it doth much mischief: sometimes like a siren; sometimes like a fury. You may observe that amongst all the great and worthy persons (whereof the memory remaineth, either ancient or recent) there is not one that hath been transported to the mad degree of love; which shows that great spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion".

So Bacon thought Man capable of higher things than "mad degree of love". But this would not preclude him from following the convention he recites and treating of love on the stage. In my view Shake-Speare handles his love scenes in a superficial and purely conventional way. But even if this criticism is unjust, homosexual writers have shown that they can handle heterosexual love scenes convincingly.

As to Shake-Speare's dramatis personae, they express whatever view of love their characters and the context require. Sometimes they enthuse over it; at other times they belittle it, in terms in keeping with Bacon's Essay. For example, in Measure For Measure 1.3.2, we have: "Believe not the dribbling dart of love/Can pierce a complete bosom". Bacon's sole fictional treatment of love in his acknowledged works - the speech in Praise of the Worthiest Affection which he wrote for the Device which the Earl of Essex presented before the Queen on 17 November 1595 - praises love because the context required that. Two of the sentiments in the speech are: "For love doth so fill and possess all the powers of the mind, as it sweetneth the harshness of all deformities"; and "Love is a pure gain and advancement in nature".

end of part 1 of 2

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