Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shakespeare's Imagery - Spurgeon 2 of 10

Dr. Spurgeon’s flawed research on Shakespeare and Bacon images – cont. (2)

Dr. Spurgeon states (1) " With Shakespeare, nature images are the most frequent: with Bacon, nature definitely takes second place." 

This statement cannot, of course, be supported because, as we have pointed out, Dr. Spurgeon has not counted Bacon's nature images; her analysis has ignored the work in which she might reasonably have expected to find most of them; but let us see how far comparison of a few will take us.

In the first place (1) Bacon thinks of Nature as a Book of God both in his Interpretation of Nature and Parasceve IX . The same image is to be found in As You Like It, Act II, scene 1, and in Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, scene 2. Again, both for Bacon and Shakespeare, the Mind is a Mirror held up to Nature. Dr. Spurgeon is familiar, of course, with Hamlet, Act II, scene 2, but, although she has not analysed The Interpretation of Nature, she should have noted in the Advancement of Learning that "the mind of a wise man is a glass wherein images of all kinds in nature are represented". Again, both Bacon and Shakespeare insisted upon our liability to account to Nature: one in Cogitationes de Natura Rerum and the other in Sonnet 126; both saw Custom as an "ape of Nature"; one in the Advancement of Learning and the other in Winter's Tale, Act V, 2; to both the laws of Nature furnished models for government; Bacon in the Union of England and Scotland, Shakespeare in Richard 111, Act III, 4. Bacon was greatly attracted by analogies between Nature, animate and inanimate, and human society; he found one such analogy in the harmony of music, another in a bee-hive and a third in a garden. Shakespeare, too, used all three. Again both Bacon and Shakespeare compare the benefits of Nature with a loan; Bacon in Valerius Terminus and Shakespeare in Measure for Measure, and Sonnet 4. 
Examples might be multiplied indefinitely: not only did the same images occur in Bacon and Shakespeare again and again, but it is impossible to justify the statement that with the former they definitely take second place.

(2) "When thinking of mental activity," Dr. Spurgeon states, "some picture of light seems nearly always to come before Bacon. Shakespeare shows no sign or this great interest in light nor of Bacon's association of light with intellect." Well, for Shakespeare "there is no darkness but ignorance" (Twelfth Night) and, if ever there were a fine association of light with intellect, surely it is to be found in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

BEROWNE: Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain
Which, with pain purchas’d, doth inherit pain,
As painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look.
Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed,
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun,

(If only more Shakespeare lovers were open to the ‘light of truth’. Sigh)

The image of light as a window is not as well known. It is common to both Bacon and Shakespeare and is to be found in De Augmentis, VII, and I in All's Well, Act II, 3 and Love's Labour's Lost, Act V, 2 (“Studies my lady? Mistress, look on me; Behold the window of my heart, mine eye,”). The light of reason is referred to in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II, 4, (“And that hath dazzled my reason's light”); and the light of truth in Love's Labour's Lost, (see above); these examples would appear to indicate that Shakespeare as well as Bacon associated light (lumen iccum) with the operation of the intellect and its results. But does not Dr. Spurgeon completely falsify her own statement when she writes that Shakespeare shows no signs of Bacon's great interest in light? On page 213 of her book she writes that in Romeo and Juliet the dominating image is light; in the first scene of l Henry Vl she writes that we are at once struck by the effect produced upon us by the contrast of a blaze of dazzling light (p. 225) against a background of black and mourning. The conception of the King as the Sun is fairly constant with Shakespeare (page 235) and is not this a "light" image? Dr. Spurgeon traces it in Richard II , both parts of Henry IV, Henry V and Henry Vlll. Surely Shakespeare shows some signs of Bacon's great interest in light, Dr. Spurgeon herself being the judge. We have counted forty references to light in the Shakespeare plays, besides those I referred to by Dr. Spurgeon.


  1. Why is someone who believes Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare a "Shakespeare lover," and someone who thinks Bacon wrote him NOT a lover of Shakespeare? It's telling. It's an indication of a preintellectual resentment of something. Shall I say of a country boy, the product of a grammar-school education, who has more beauty than the college boys of his time?

    Why do you quote swathes of Shakespeare all the time, but you don't quote Bacon? Because he's not worth quoting? I'll read on.

  2. The Baconians I know, as well as other anti-stratfordians, do have a love of the author Shakespeare. I don't see where you get a different view. I quoted the whole article as I found it.