Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hamlet's Universe - 1 - Shakespeare's Astronomy

Note to Visitors: This topic is not part of the top-line Baconian evidence. It's just additional evidence when Shakespeare's astronomical or scientific knowledge is being considered.

Hamlet’s Universe   Part 1 of 9

A recurrent theme in Shakespeare studies seems to be that more and more continues to be found in the Shakespeare works the more that those with expertise in various fields examines them. This has been because on the surface many educated persons often didn’t see much depth of learning in them. I posted on this some time ago, especially in one of the posts on Ben Jonson and The Eton College Discussion. So it has taken experts in the Bible to notice all the biblical allusions through subtle metaphors and the like. It has taken experts in English literature to discover the variety of sources Shakespeare used. It has taken experts in English law to find many allusions to legal knowledge and to legal cases of Shakespeare’s era in the works. It has taken some expertise to show that Shakespeare likely had to be able to read Greek. And more research seems to show that he likely had to have travelled extensively in Europe.

Now, an expert in astronomy is showing that it also appears that Shakespeare was well versed in matters of astronomy and the discoveries and controversies happening in that field following the Copernican revolution. Prior to his investigations it seemed to many that Shakespeare may only have been superficially knowledgeable about the celestial heaven and the current beliefs about its nature.

Scholarly work by Peter D. Usher, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University, explores this new topic. He has described his research before the American Astronomical Society and other groups of scholars and Shakespeare enthusiasts. His bio can be found here:

He published Hamlet’s Universe in 2006 and later Shakespeare and the Dawn of Modern Science in 2010. I’ve read the first book and am just reading now the second book, but I have plenty to post on this topic already.

I won’t post here what can easily and more thoroughly be read elsewhere on the internet. Here are a few good sites to quickly get the gist of Professor Usher’s findings and thesis:

Much of the Shakespearean evidence Professor Usher provides easily escapes the non-astrophysist, especially if he/she isn’t familiar with the Copernican Revolution. So a background on this would be very helpful for readers:

Among the types of evidence presented in Hamlet’s Universe are Shakespeare’s knowledge of many astronomical terms, familiarity with many of the key individuals involved with astronomical research in Shakespeare’s time and before, and familiarity with various proposed models in competition to replace the Ptolemaic model of the heavens.

He argues that Shakespeare’s knowledge in this area, as other experts have shown in other areas, is presented indirectly through the language and characters and plots and subplots such that with the play of Hamlet it amounts to an allegory of the active astronomical research occurring at the time.

After more than ten years of this research and writing on this topic, Professor Usher must have been so convinced of the validity of his theory that he concluded, from the expertise shown in the Shakespeare works, as he sees it, that only one of the active researchers in this endeavor is likely to have been the author of the Shakespeare works. Though the English mathematician and astronomer Thomas Digges   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Digges   was the hero of Prof. Usher’s first book, by his second book he had come to the conjectured solution that Thomas’ father Leonard Digges was actually the true playwright Shake-Speare, in hiding, and who had not died in 1559 as has been thought. Prof. Usher is aware that there have been some 50 proponents as the ‘real’ Shakespeare (as opposed to the man from Stratford), though he doesn’t seem to have studied the Shakespeare authorship literature. He does though strive with  evidence and argument, helped with his decades of scientific training, to make what might seem a plausible case for Leonard Digges as Shakespeare.

A problem for his theory that proposes Leonard Digges as the real Shakespeare is that he needs to greatly stretch the circumstantial evidence to try and tie Digges to the name and body of work of Shakespeare. And this isn’t much different than has been done for William himself as his supporters try to show how he could appear to have the legal knowledge of a trained lawyer. The Stratfordian Hotson doesn’t doubt that Shakespeare used some of the work of Thomas Digges. But the Digges' connection to William, with their advanced astronomical knowledge, has a few degrees of separation too many for believability, if Usher is correct in the amount and accuracy of that knowledge that he sees in the Shakespeare works. So the argument goes that William “lived near the Digges" home in London, and after the death of Thomas Digges in 1595, Digges’ widow married Thomas Russell, the overseer of Shakespere’s will. And that supposedly, though there’s no evidence of this, Thomas Digges’ son Leonard (grandson of the original Leonard), who wrote a commendatory verse for the First Folio, became friends with William. So, the unspoken argument, apparently, is that Thomas Digges (or maybe even his father Leonard) dumped a very great deal of their astronomical knowledge into the brain of Thomas’ wife who then dumped it all into her second husband Thomas Russell, who then dumped it all over again into the head of William. And just because this somehow seems very plausible to them that therefore it must be true. 

What I intend to show, with Prof. Usher’s extensive research and new theory of Shakespeare’s cosmic allegory, is that the evidence again points to Francis Bacon. And that there is no need at all to jump through multiple hoops to strain a relationship between Shakespeare’s astronomical knowledge and a legitimate alternate author candidate.

Hamlet's Universe - 2 - Allegory

Hamlet’s Universe   Part 2 of 9

Shakespeare, Bacon and the knowledge and use of Allegory

Prof. Usher, in his Preface to his second book “Shakespeare and the Dawn of Modern Science”, says that “The bard was knowledgeable in many different areas of learning and was oftentimes ahead of his contemporaries, yet his Canon appears to lack a coherent account of contemporary cosmological thinking. It is simply not credible that a poet of this stature could remain ignorant of the cultural impact that the New Astronomy was having during his lifetimeor that he would refrain from using the literary devices at his command to address the topic if he was not ignorant of its significance.”

In Hamlet’s Universe he shows how other leading poets of the time did write about the New Astronomy: John Donne, Fulke Greville, George Chapman, Christopher Marlow, Thomas Nashe, and John  Davies. However they make only passing references to it and show no deep knowledge of it or interest. Edmund Spencer goes further and describes the basic geocentric model in his An Hymne of Heavenly Beauty (1595-6), and Robert Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, “devotes considerable commentary to the various world models of the time…”

Usher argues that Shakespeare used the technique of allegory to conceal his astronomical knowledge as a way to report and reveal discoveries that could not be openly written about. He writes “Critics deem a work allegorical when they sense that an author has a meaning in mind that is broader than the work appears to have. … This technique of expressing something in such a way as to convey nonliteral meaning is especially useful when it comes to dealing with sensitive issues like new worldviews, false cosmologies, and the overthrow of corrupt regimes.” He provides examples in the publications by Copernicus, Galileo and Thomas Digges as intentional efforts to circumvent government and religious censors of heretical views. He adds that “Understanding allegory with an astronomical component requires attention to science and a variety of other disciplines, among which are interpretation theory, history, and philosophy of science, as well as literature itself.”

Is there any precedent for a belief that Shakespeare sometimes used allegory in his other works? A quick search turned up this sample out of a large number of other Google hits:

Article title:
To Balk Logic and Practice Rhetoric: Allegories of Rhetoric and Dialectic in Shakespeare’s Plays

Sentence within article:
“Many scholars also view All’s Well as Shakespeare’s allegory for Christianity:”

Theater advertisement:
A Noise Within presents "Pericles," Shakespeare's allegory of regeneration and resurrection.

Sentence within article:
“…it’s (a film version of Macbeth) a haunting and claustrophobic film that offers a very 20th century take on Shakespeare’s allegory of war and the quest for power.”

Article title:
Shakespeare’s AllegoryThe Winter’s Tale, by J. A. Bryant, Jr. in The Sweanee Review

Chapter title: Cymbeline in The Meaning of Shakespeare Vol. II by Harold C. Goddard  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Clarke_Goddard
“This play is as much a moral as a political allegory.” (discussed at end of chapter).

Sentence within article:
Shakespeare’s allegory of empire Cymbeline (1610) where ‘Britain’, the designation for a long wished for but never achieved nation state, occurs no fewer than thirty-four times.” English Renaissance Literature and Culture, Introduction, p. 6.

Allegorical Impulses and Critical Ends: Shakespeare's and Spenser's Venus and Adonis
Journal article by Sayre N. Greenfield; Criticism, Vol. 36, 1994   “The interpretive histories of the two works considered here, Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and Book Three of Spenser's The Faerie Queenedemonstrate how these poems, especially Shakespeare's, move in and out of "allegory."   http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2220/is_n4_v36/ai_15990315/


So, it should be agreed that Shakespeare likely used the technique of Allegory in his repertoire of literary devices. Then it is quite possible, if he had a knowledge of the astronomy of his time, that he also created a “cosmic allegory” in Hamlet.

If he did use allegories, not only in Hamlet, but in other of the Shakespeare plays, as many think he did, then one of the Shakespeare authorship candidates that is most capable for authoring these allegories would have to be Francis Bacon.

As evidence in support of this view there’s the analysis of fables or allegories that Bacon had authored Wisdom of the Ancients, and a few related comments or links to articles:

1.     A Handbook of Greek Mythology by H. J. Rose, Professor of Greek at St. Andrews, “begins with an admirable summary of the history of mythological study: the allegorical theory (as in Bacon’s Wisdom of the Ancients)…”

2.        “Francis Bacon, Allegory and the Uses of Myth", Review of English Studies 61 (2010), 360-89   http://res.oxfordjournals.org/content/61/250/360.full

3.     “Janus of Imagination: Francis Bacon’s Theory of Imagination and the Wisdom of the Ancients, by D. P. Hurley    http://www.english-renaissance.com/2010/08/janus-of-imagination-francis-bacons-theory-of-imagination-and-the-wisdom-of-the-ancients-by-d-p-hurley/    The writing of [Bacon’s] De Sapientia signified the resolution of an internal struggle concerning the status of ancient fable. I suggest that Bacon had come to accept the view that fables did indeed contain ancient wisdom, but that much of that wisdom remained closed to subsequent readers. He believed also that fables had a double function – to illuminate no less than to conceal – and he had decided that it was acceptable for him to employ those fables in order to convey his philosophy to a wider audience.”

Hamlet's Universe - 3

Hamlet’s Universe       Part 3 of 9

For Professor Usher to show that there could be an allegory on the New Astronomy as a sub-text in Hamlet, one of the things he needed to do was to show that there is some serious understanding of the leading research in astronomy of that era both in Hamlet and in other plays. Findings of astronomical terminology or argot then in use is one goal. And then finding references to related ideas is another, though they may only be described or suggested by metaphor.

Here are some of these terms and ideas that he and others have found in the Shakespeare works:

INNOGEN: O, learned indeed were that astronomer
That knew the stars as I his characters;
Cymbeline (3.2.27-28)

ULYSSES: The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre
Observe degree, priority, and place…
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthroned and sphere
Amidst the other..Troilus and Cressida, (1.3.85-91)

BEROWNE: Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun
That will not be deep search with saucy looks.
Small have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority from other’s books.
These earthly godfathers of heaven’s lights,
That give a name to every fixed star,
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and know not what they are.
Too much to know is to know naught but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.
Love’s Labours Lost (1.1.86-95)

Usher comments that Shakespeare is saying here that “There is little profit in merely seeing a star without seeking to know more about it.

HOLOFERNES: This is a gift that I have, simple, simple—a foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions.
Love’s Labours Lost  (4.2.66-68)

Usher comments” Holofernes speaks better than he knows because all eight of these could pertain to geocentric models of the Universe. In particular they could refer to Plato’s “forms” as representing “ideas” that include use of circles and spheres and the manner of their motions.

ROSALINE: My face is but a moon, and clouded too. Love’s Labours Lost 5.2.214
ROSALINE: Thus change I like the moon. LLL (5.2.224)
Usher comments: “meaning that Venus [that Rosaline represents] has phases like the Moon”

BARNARDO: Last night of all,
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course t’illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself
The bell then beating one --  Hamlet (1.1.35-39)

Usher says that this would be a reference to the North Celestial Pole, and since a star westward of it is pointed out as of some importance in the play, we may be able to identify it. He mentions that Payne-Gasposchkin have identified this star as the “New Star” of November 1572 known as “Tycho’s supernova” after Tycho Brahe, who published his discovery in 1573.

HORATIO: As stars with trains of fire, and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse. (1.1.117-120)

Usher comments: “The “moist star” is the Moon, and its eclipse is as ominous as comets with their “trains of fire”.  Neptune refers to the seas and oceans that may be influenced by the moon.

Some more astronomical terms used:

GHOST: Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres
(1.5.17) A reference to shooting stars leaving their shell or spheres as imagined in early Geocentric models.

CLAUDIUS: Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie, it is a fault to heaven,
CLAUDIUS: It is most retrograde to our desire.
CLAUDIUS: She is so conjunctive to my life and soul
[Conjunction: An event that occurs when two or more celestial objects appear close together in the sky.]

CLAUDIUS: Something have you heard
Of Hamlet’s transformation..
(2.2.45) Usher comments that “the first scientific use of the word “transformation” was in the sixteenth century by none other than Thomas Digges”.

HAMLET: I could be bounded in a nutshell and
Count myself a king of infinite space..   (2.2.253-4)

Usher sees this as another clear reference to the “stellar spheres (nutshells)” of the geocentric model or particularly of Tycho’s model. But then it’s contrasted with the modern view of “infinite space” put forward by Thomas Digges.

HAMLET: This most excellent canopy,
The air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament,
This majestical roof fretted with golden fire..
An obvious reference to the Celestial Sphere with “golden fire” meaning those stars and planets shining by fire.

HAMLET: …his umbrage, nothing more.   (5.2.119)
  Umbrage is a reference to the  Moon’s shadow.

HAMLET: …Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command,
A station like the herald Mercury
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill
Usher sees these references to telescopic observation of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – since Mars is reddish.

POLONIUS: [Reading Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia:]
Doubt thou the stars are fire.
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt truth to be a liar.
But never doubt I love.
Comment: Usher sees the first two lines here as a reference to the Old Astronomy.

The above references are just a sample found in the Shakespeare works. The point being that an expert (Usher) in the field of astronomy has asserted from evidence that Shakespeare, whoever he was, was learned in both the language of this field as well as of its concepts.

In the next post I quote from some of Bacon’s works.

Hamlet's Universe - 4

Hamlet’s Universe         Part 4 of 9

This post brings excerpts from Bacon’s writings on his and other’s astronomical observations and his philosophizing about them. It shows that he had a deep interest and understanding of the astronomy of his time, the terminology it used, and the questions being asked or that he was asking, for further research to be done. A deep understanding of a subject should make it easier to think of it in terms of metaphors and allegories.

Much, or maybe all, of these quotations come from either Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620) and from his De Augmentis Scientiarium (1623). Shakespeare had several revisions of Hamlet, just as Bacon kept revising his works. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have Bacon’s earliest drafts of his major works to see how they changed over time. Bacon was a latecomer to accepting the sun centered solar system as he was working on his own theory that he thought for some time had greater explanatory power. Though he clearly spent time pondering the various models being discussed.

Some quotations from Bacon’s writings:

“By the tradition of astronomers some stars are hotter than others. Of planets, Mars is accounted the hottest after the sun; then comes Jupiter, and then Venus. Others, again, are set down as cold; the moon, for instance, and above all Saturn. Of fixed stars, Sirius is said to be the hottest, then Cor Leonis or Regulus, then Canicula, and so on.”

“Again, let the nature investigated be the Spontaneous Motion of Rotation; and in particular, whether the diurnal Motion, whereby to our eyes the sun and stars rise and set, be a real motion of rotation in the heavenly bodies, or a motion apparent in the heavenly bodies, and real in the earth. We may here take for an Instance of the Fingerpost the following. If there be found in the ocean any motion from east to west, however weak and languid; if the same motion be found a little quicker in the air, especially within the tropics, where because of the larger circles it is more perceptible; if the same motion be found in the lower comets, but now lively and vigorous; if the same motion be found in planets, but so distributed and graduated, that the nearer a planet is to the earth its motion is slower, the further a planet is distant from the earth its motion is quicker, and quickest of all in the starry sphere; then indeed we should receive the diurnal motion as real in the heavens, and deny such motion to the earth; because it will be manifest that motion from east to west is perfectly cosmical, and by consent of the universe; being most rapid in the highest parts of the heavens, and gradually falling off, and finally stopping and becoming extinct in the immoveable, that is, the earth.”

“Again, let the nature in question be that other Motion of Rotation so much talked of by philosophers, the Resistent and Contrary Motion to the Diurnal, from west to east; which old philosophers attribute to the planets; also to the starry sphere; but Copernicus and his followers to the earth as well; and let us inquire whether any such motion be found in nature, or whether it be not rather a thing invented and supposed for the abbreviation and convenience of calculation, and for the sake of that pretty notion of explaining celestial motions by perfect circles. For this motion in the heavens is by no means proved to be true and real, either by the failing of a planet to return in its diurnal motion to the same point of the starry sphere, or by this, that the poles of the zodiac differ from the poles of the world; to which two things we owe this idea of motion. For the first phenomenon is well accounted for by supposing that the fixed stars outrun the planets,”

“Again, if there be any magnetic power which operates by consent between the globe of the earth and heavy bodies, or between the globe of the moon and the waters of the sea (as seems highly probable in the semi-menstrual ebbs and floods), or between the starry sphere and the planets, whereby the latter are attracted to their apogees ; all these must operate at very great distances.”
[In the above, Bacon seems to be anticipating Newton’s theory of universal gravitation, though I’m not saying he was the first to do so].
“…no more than if a man should hope by force of memory to retain and make himself master of the computation of an ephemeris.”
“But whether the distances at which these powers act be great or small, it is certain that they are all finite and fixed in the nature of things, so that there is a certain limit never exceeded; and a limit which depends either on the mass or quantity of matter in the bodies acted on……….all which things should be observed and brought to computation.” [as Newton did]
[And then he contemplates variation in the speed of light]
“…This fact, with others like it, has at times suggested to me a strange doubt; viz. whether the face of a clear and starlight sky be seen at the instant at which it really exists, and not a little later; and whether there be not, as regards our sight of heavenly bodies, a real time and an apparent time, just like the real place and apparent place which is taken account of by astronomers in the correction for parallaxes.”

which of the planets is swifter, which slower; which of them move in the ecliptic, and which deviate to right or left of it; which of them may be retrograde, and which cannot; which of them may be at any distance from the sun, and which of them are confined to a certain limit; which of them move swifter in perigee, which in apogee; finally the anomalies of Mars, the wandering of Venus, the labours and wonderful passions which have been detected more than once both in the Sun and Venus.”
“Now distances are discovered either from parallaxes, or eclipses, or calculations of motions, or differences in apparent magnitude.”

“Hence that there are four coessential and conjugate natures, and those of two kinds, preserving the respective order I have mentioned (for the source is heat and cold, the rest are emanations.)”

“…but by reason of her elevation towards the perpendicular and approximation to the larger stars, in the same manner as the sun. Thirdly, let there be received the apogees and perigees of the planets,”

“…all the remaining accidents of the motions of planets; what are the accelerations and retardations of each in its course; what their progressions, actions, and regressions; what their distances from the sun, combustions, increases and diminutions of light, eclipses and the like;”

“…as their size, their colour and aspect, their twinkling and vibration of light, their situation with reference to the poles or the equinox, their asterisms;”

“which of them move in the ecliptic, and which deviate to right or left of it; which of them may be retrograde, and which cannot…”

More of his thoughts and language related to astronomy will be included in later postings.

Hamlet's Universe - 5

Hamlet’s Universe     Part 5 of 9

Our next line of inquiry concerns who were the key players in the New Astronomy the author ‘Shakespeare’ appears to have knowledge of.

First would be Ptolemy, the champion of the earth-centered model of the universe for some 1400 years. There were of course many others that contributed to various models, and Professor Usher goes into more background on this, but I’m going to only focus on what I think are the key actors in this drama. Ptolemy’s complete name was Claudius Ptolemy and part of Prof. Usher’s theory is that  the names, or characters, of the key players are represented in Hamlet. Ptolemy, fittingly, is represented in Hamlet by King Claudius, who is the allegorical representative of the geocentric model.

Second, is Copernicus, who was born in Poland in 1473.  Copernicus, along with Thomas Digges, together are represented by the character of Hamlet who himself represents the New Astronomy of the sun-centered model. A student from Wittenberg named Georg Joachim, but who called himself Rheticus, visited Copernicus and studied with him for two years. He then returned to Wittenberg and established there the first school of heliocentric planetary astronomy. This is to explain why Wittenberg has such a prominent place in the play. Another interesting point is that the person that got Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus into print, Andreas Osiander, was so concerned about its implications, for his safety as well as Copernicus and others, that he prefaced the publication with a note explaining the new book shouldn’t be taken literally, but only used for algorithmic calculations. (Thomas Digges later saw through this ‘ruse’).

Third, is Tycho Brahe, of Denmark. Tycho (pronounced “Tee-ko”) had attended for a short time the University of Wittenberg but returned home due to the plague. He was granted the island of Ven (Hven) by the Danish King Frederick II. And while Tycho built his observatory at Ven, the king built Kronborg castle at Helsingor  (the Elsinore castle in Hamlet  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsinore_Castle  ). He developed his own competing model of the cosmos that was a bounded geo-heliocentric hybrid. By ‘bounded’ is meant that Tycho didn’t accept an ‘infinite’ universe but one that still had a ‘shell’ of stars at its outer boundary. A couple other key things to remember about Tycho Brahe, besides his Supernova of 1572, is that 1) Tycho sent four copies of an engraving of his portrait to England, along with a book of his, to Thomas Savile. He also sent his regards to multi-talented John Dee and the mathematician and astronomer Sir Thomas Digges. Around Tycho’s portrait were represented the escutcheons of Tycho’s sixteen great, great, grandparents. Of these, one was named Rosencrantz and the other Guildenstern. Professor Usher, and others, make the plausible case that it is from this portrait that Shakespeare obtained the names for two of his characters in Hamlet. Here is a link to this picture:

You can see Guildenstern in the lower left and then four names up is Rosencrantz. Since there were four copies of this portrait and they were meant people like Dee, Digges, and those involved with the New Astronomy, it’s not hard to imagine that one of them found its way to whomever wrote Hamlet. Prof. Usher sees Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as together representing Tycho’s hybrid model of the cosmos. One other thing to keep in mind is that Tycho studied the heavens with his naked eye and did not use a telescope. You’ll notice also in the portrait that his hands appear to be switched, as if cut off and transplanted to the opposite arm. Prof. Usher thinks this could explain Shakespeare’s term of ‘handsaw’ as a reference to Tycho’s naked eye observations. They contrast with the term ‘hawk’ which suggests telescopic vision.
HAMLET: I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.  (2.2.377-278)
(You’ll need to read the book for additional insights and explanations!)

Fourth, is Galileo   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei   who, as you can read, “played a major role in the  Scientific Revolution”. You’ll see that he is credited with the discovery of the phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter, observations of sunspots. Any contemporary astronomer serious in this endeavor would have to be aware of Galileo’s work. Remember that Galileo was convicted of heresy by the church and perhaps was lucky to escape with his life. Other intellectuals, such as Giordano Bruno were burned at the state for such offenses. Galileo once hid his findings in the phrase “Cynthiae figuras aemulatur amorum” which translates to (“the mother of love [Venus] emulates figures [phases] of Cynthia [the moon]”). The purpose of him doing this was “to establish priority for his discovery of the phases”. And this is something he wouldn’t have done if it was known that the phases of Venus had already been discovered and announced.

Fifth, as mentioned in my first post, is Leonard Digges. He was born in 1520 and thought to have died in either 1559 (according to Wikipedia) or  around 1572 (according to Usher’s book). As mentioned previously, Prof. Usher thinks this could have been a ruse to allow Digges to go into hiding. While known for being an excellent mathematician and surveyor, he also has been credited with inventing the reflecting telescope. Since there appear to be a number of astronomical discoveries alluded to in Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays, Prof. Usher believes that Leonard and/or son Thomas used their telescopes for making the observations that were ‘announced’ by Shakespeare. In the play, Leonard is represented by the ‘Ghost’ of the elder Hamlet.

Sixth, then, is Thomas Digges, who as young Hamlet, champions the model of an ‘unbounded’ sun-centered universe with stars scattered throughout an infinite space. See again his illustration here  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Digges 
Leonard didn’t think much of England’s university system at the time, as they would not give serious consideration to the sun-centered system until 1619 when a professorship was established for it at Oxford. So Leonard arranged to have Thomas be tutored by John Dee. A key thing to keep in mind is that even Thomas, like Galileo and others, was worried of how his ideas would be received if known by the authorities. He knew that Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus actually was meant to be taken literally. So he, too, didn’t publish his ideas and research very openly, but rather alluded to them only in his father’s almanac. This same concern with one’s safety in promoting the New Astronomy is believed by Prof. Usher as to why ‘Shakespeare’ used allegory to announce many new discoveries as well as to compare the various cosmological models rather than to openly question the legitimacy of the geo-centralized system with its connection to the Church and to kings as God’s representatives.

Seventh, now is Thomas Harriot or Hariot,   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Harriot  
In Hamlet he is represented by Laertes. Prof. Usher says that Shakespeare honored Harriot like Digges because Harriot had opened up the geographic horizons as Digges did the cosmological horizons. Harriot accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh in an attempt to colonize the North American continent, ending up at an island now part of North Carolina. But Harriot was also a mathematician like Digges and developed a refracting telescope like Galileo’s to make the first known drawing of the Moon. He also discovered sunspots and the rotation period of the sun. Prof. Usher believes that Shakespeare described about two dozen characteristics of Laertes that can all be connected to Harriot.  For one, Shakespeare has Osric saying words very similar to those written by Harriot from his voyage to North America as described in a report of his voyage. For just one example, it’s explained how Hamlet’s and Osric’s “it is very hot” and “tis very cold” are taken from Harriot’s comparison of the climates of Virginia and England.

Harriot’s companion Raleigh is the eighth person I’m mentioning that Usher identifies in Hamlet, this time represented by Osric. His characteristics as described by Shakespeare can also be connected with Raleigh.

Finally, the ninth and last person in this special group is Sir Henry Percy, the ‘wizard’ 9th Earl of Northumberland. Percy had the wealth to be a patron to Harriot and other experimenters who shared his interest in science. Prof. Usher doesn’t clearly identify a counterpart for him in the play but he does show how several references seem to point to him in a role of patronage.

There are several other characters in the play that Prof. Ushers suggest may be representations of real persons which he takes a stab at, but the above are the important ones for my purpose. Again, I’ve only touched on a little on how these individuals fit into Shakespeare’s allegory of the beginnings of the New Astronomy. In fact, if he’s mostly right in his analysis, and I think he is even though there may be some lesser sub-texts also in Hamlet, then one can’t really understand the Cosmological sub-text story within the play unless one first clearly understands the astronomy and history in his two books.

Hamlet's Universe - 6

Hamlet’s Universe     Part 6 of 9

Now we want to look at Bacon’s familiarity with the key players in astronomical studies. It’s not just the mentioning of the names that is important, but also showing the ideas that Bacon pondered, again showing his deep knowledge of contemporary astronomical research, and also the ideas that Prof. Usher may also have found in the Shakespeare works. You need to at least read Hamlet’s Universe to begin to appreciate some of these excerpts.

First,  we start with some excerpts from Bacon’s writings mentioning Ptolemy.

“Not however that there is any hope of gaining any truth of the purer kind from these or the like theories. For as the same phenomena, the same calculations, are compatible with the astronomical principles both of Ptolemy and Copernicus; so this common experience of which we are now in possession, and the ordinary face of things, may adapt itself to many different theories, whereas to find the real truth requires another manner of severity and attention.”

“…but that would be the best history of the celestial bodies which might be extracted and worked out from Ptolemaeus and Copernicus and the more learned writers on astronomy, taking the experiments detached from the art, and adding the observations of more modern writers.”

“For an apotheosis of Folly, like that of the Emperor Claudius, is a thing not to be endured; and most mischievous it is, and a very pest and destruction of the understanding, for vanity to be made an object of veneration. Then follow questions concerning the substance of heavenly bodies;” [Note—though this Claudius is different from Claudius Ptolemy, Bacon is thinking of this one other Claudius in the context of the cosmos, adding to the associative significance of the name].

Second, is Copernicus (in addition to the references above):

“…which old philosophers attribute to the planets; also to the starry sphere; but Copernicus and his followers to the earth as well;”

“So we may see that the opinion of Copernicus touching the rotation of the earth (which has now become prevalent) cannot be refuted by astronomical principles, because it is not repugnant to any of the phenomena;”

“Besides, the sun manifestly has Venus and Mercury as his satellites, and in the opinion of Tycho the other planets also; whence it is plain that the sun can sustain the nature of a centre, and perform its office in some things, and so has the better title to be constituted the centre of the universe; as was asserted by Copernicus.”

Third, is William Gilbert was another important figure on this topic that Bacon was familiar with, so I’m including him.

“But if the earth moves, the stars may either be stationary, as Copernicus thought, or, as is far more probable, and has been suggested by Gilbert, they may revolve each round its own centre in its own place, without any motion of its centre, as the earth itself does; if only you separate that diurnal motion of the earth from those two supposititious motions which Copernicus superadded. But either way, there is no reason why there should not be stars above stars till they go beyond our sight.”   [infinite space]

“But if Gilbert's opinion be received, that the earth's magnetic power of attracting heavy bodies does not extend beyond the orb of its virtue (which acts always to a certain distance and no more), and if this opinion be verified by a single instance…”

“Besides, it is now ascertained by telescopes that these spots [of the moon] also have their own inequalities, so that the moon is found to be clearly of manifold configuration, and that selenography, or map of the moon, which Gilbert conceived, seems now by the industry of Galileo and others to be nearly attained.”

Fourth is Tycho Brahe.
“There remains the last question, concerning the position of the parts of the system; that is, whether there be many different centres in the system, and as it were many dances; especially as not only the earth is set down as the centre of the primum mobile, and the sun (according to Tycho) of the secundum mobile; but Jupiter likewise is supposed by Galileo to be the centre of those smaller and recently discovered wanderers.”

Fifth is Galileo Galilei.

“Of the second kind are those other glasses discovered by the memorable efforts of Galileo, by the aid of which, as by boats or vessels, a nearer intercourse with the heavenly bodies can be opened and carried on. For these show us that the milky way is a group or cluster of small stars entirely separate and distinct; of which fact there was but a bare suspicion among the ancients.”

“…but the census now made by Galileo of the celestial population

Bacon also had his own direct correspondence with Galileo going on for some time, through the help of his close friend (and “alter ego”) Tobie Matthew:

One Baconian commentator wrote that: “In Arnold Matthew's "Life of Sir Tobie Matthew" we find Tobie Matthew served as an intermediary for Bacon in his communications with Galileo. A letter from Tobie Matthew to Bacon, dated October 1, 1615  described his conference with Galileo. Another dated April 21, 1616 transmitted part of a letter of Galileo's about the text in the book of Joshua, of the sun standing still.”

And then in 1919 Matthew wrote to Bacon:
Most honourable Lord :

It may please your Lordship, there was with me this day one Mr. Richard White, who hath spent some little time at Florence, and is now gone into England. He tells me, that Galileo had answered your discourse concerning the flux and reflux of the sea, and was sending it unto me; but that Mr. White hindered him, because his answer was grounded upon a false supposition, namely, that there was in the ocean a full sea but once in twenty-four hours. But now I will call upon Galileo again. This Mr. White is a discreet and understanding gentleman, though he seem a little soft, if not slow; and he hath in his hands all the works, as I take it, of Galileo, some printed, and some unprinted. He hath his discourse of the flux and reflux of the sea, which was never printed; as also a discourse of the mixture of metals. Those which are printed in his hand are these : the Nuncius sidereus [starry messenger]; the Macchie solaria [sunspots], and a third Delle Cose, che stanno su I'acqua  [Of Things which are of the water?], by occasion of a disputation that was amongst learned men in Florence about which Archimendes wrote de insidentibus humido [setting on of moisture].
I have conceived that your Lordship would not be sorry to see these discourses of that man, and therefore I have thought it belonging to my service to your Lordship to give him a letter of this date, though it will not be there as soon as this.......I most humbly do your Lordship reverence.
Your Lordship's most obliged servant,

Tobie Matthew
 Brussels, from my bed, the 4th of April, 1619

[Incidentally, Sir Tobie Matthew spent much time in Italy and is known to have  stayed in Florence, Naples, Venice, and Rome. So Matthew would be an additional source of information about Italy, it’s geography and customs, that Bacon could have used in writing the plays.]

Hamlet's Universe - 7

Hamlet’s Universe     Part 7 of 9

Sixth/Seventh is Leonard Digges and son Thomas Digges.
A book by Leonard Digges was published by his son Thomas and dedicated to Sir Nicholar Bacon, father of Francis:

A geometrical practise, named Pantometria”, by Digges, Leonard, d. 1571?  Imprinted at London : By Henrie Bynneman, 1571. Dedicated to Nicholas Bacon

The dedication reads in part:

“To the right honorable my singular good Lord Sir Nicholas Bacon Knight, Lord Keeper of the great Seal of England. Calling to memory Right Honourable, and my singular good Lord, the great favor your lordship bare my father in his lifetime, and the conference it pleased your honor to use with him touching the sciences mathematical, especially in geometrical mesurations, perusing also of late certain volumes that he in his youth time long sithens had compiled in the English tongue, among others I found this geometrical practice, which my father (if God had spared him life) minded to have presented your honor withal.”

Francis Bacon recalled his father and Leonard Digges discussing geometry. So it appears that Sir Nicholas and Leonard were close enough that Leonard had been in the Bacon household. At least, Sir Nicholas should have received a copy of the book Pantometria that was dedicated to him. Then, Francis, who read pretty much everything, would very likely have read it. He may even, as a youngster, have received his distaste of Aristotle from this book and learned of the scientific attitude of thought that the Digges’ developed.

Yet, I haven’t found Bacon mentioning Thomas in his writings, though I can’t say I’ve done an exhaustive search. Prof. Usher said that even William Gilbert, who was pretty well versed in astronomy was not familiar with the works of Thomas Digges. It seems doubly surprising since Bacon is known to have visited John Dee who tutored and was like a father to the younger Digges.

Eighth is Thomas Harriot, and I’ll include with him Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy, since all three are lumped together in Prof. Usher’s book.

Though Bacon may not have referred to Harriot in his books, we know that Harriot, Raleigh and Bacon were all connected to the Virginia company and its explorations. Thomas Harriot was on Sir Walter Raleigh’s first expedition of 1594. Bacon was one of the Council members from the Second Virginia Charter. When Raleigh was in the tower he was visited by his friends “Here Bacon, Ben Jonson, Sedden, Hariot, Allen, Walter Warner and Robert Huer, to name but a few, would come and discourse with Sir Walter on mathematics, astronomy, anatomy, theology, and a hundred other “obscure parts of learning.” At times Raleigh would step over to the Martin Tower to have a chat with the “wizard-Earl” of Northumberland. Ben Jonson wrote a ‘brilliant preface’ to Raleigh’s History of the World, and Hariot is said to have written the scientific section. (See Tower of London by Richard Davey for these references). And Harriot said that he corresponded with Johannes Kepler, the German mathematician and astronomer who had assisted Tycho Brahe.

One Baconian writer (Mather Walker I think) researched and wrote that: After the Gunpowder Treason of the papists, Guy Fawkes and his fellows, was uncovered on November 5, 1605, the little monster, Robert Cecil, seized upon the occasion to realize his ambition of destroying Henry Percy. Even though evidence was lacking Cecil managed to get the Earl convicted on several counts, and have him confined to the Tower for life. Percy drew his scientific retainers - Harriot, (Walter) Warner, (Robert) Hues, (Nathanael) Torporley, and (Thomas) Allen into the Tower, and Raleigh (who had already been cast into the Tower) was there along with the rest of them. Percy had all of his scientific equipment set up in the tower, and there is a record from personal notes Bacon made in 1608 that refers to: "The setting on work, my Lord of Northumberland, and Raleigh, and therefore Harriot, themselves being already inclined to experiments." The importance of this is that not only was Bacon active in staying up on the latest experiments and observations in astronomy in England and elsewhere but he appears to have been actively involved in directing some of this work, maybe even influencing some of the work of Galileo to have some questions of his answered.

Though Bacon isn’t mentioned, this is referred to in the Wikipedia article on Henry Percy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Percy,_9th_Earl_of_Northumberland

It seems they had at least one telescope in the Tower with them and together may have contributed to the title of School of Night (since they were studying the night sky, among many other matters) mentioned in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Prof. Usher mentions this possibility in his second book on page 60.

The above has been to show that Bacon was close enough to these individuals having an interest in science and astronomy that he could easily have written about them while masking their actual identities.

Next we will look at more direct links of Bacon’s writing and that in Hamlet.