Saturday, December 1, 2012

Measure for Measure - Running from brakes of Ice

Running from brakes of Ice

As mentioned in the previous post, Bacon has close connections to a primary source for the play Measure for Measure. Recently I came across another one.

In Act 2, scene 1 (around line 40 depending on the edition) we find this passage by Escalus:

“Well, heaven forgive him, and forgive us all.
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall:
Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none,
And some condemned for a fault alone.”

There isn’t a clear interpretation on “Some run from brakes of ice”. In the 1997 Folger edition, the full note on page 215 says this:

‘Many changes have been proposed in editorial attempts to give meaning to these words. The most frequent alterations are from “ice” to “vice” and from “brakes” to “breaks”. None of the changes helps significantly. The clause stands in parallel with “some rise by sin” (line 42) and in contrast to “some condemned for a fault alone” (line 44). It may therefore be meant to suggest “some escape punishment for major crimes,” though no emendation thus far proposed captures that meaning . Editors have pointed out an interesting parallel with Claudio’s description of hell as a “thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice” (3.1.138) and have quoted The Three Voyages of William Barents to the Arctic Regions, (1594, 1595, 1596): “the ice whereon we lay . . . brake and ran one peece upon another . . .the ice brake under our owne feet.” Other editors have noted that brakes could be “tortures, traps, or thorny hedges,” as well as “engines of punishment,” “snaffles” or “sharp bits.”

An online edition of the play has even changed “ice” to “office”:

Considering that in the First Folio the word is spelt “Ice” with a capital letter “I” it hardly seems reasonable that the intent was the word “office”. But some editors may be a bit desperate to move away from the word “Ice”, especially the kind that ‘brakes’ and that sometimes cause some to run away from. And what in the heck would William of Stratford be doing reading an expeditionary treatise on the arctic anyhow?  Or maybe he just overheard talk of this voyage in one of his visits to the local pub, just as where he had also became an expert in law in a few short years!

Barents’ book is also referenced in Twelfth Night, 3.2 where Fabian mentions “ icicle on a Dutchman’s beard…”. And then a little later in the same scene does Shakespeare refer to “…more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies” which is thought to refer to a map made by Emmeric Mollineux in 1599 for the purchasers of Hakluyt’s Voyages, “showing more of the East Indies, including Japan, than had ever been mapped before.”

Well, it happens that Bacon is known to have read The Three Voyages of William Barents to the Arctic Regions, (1594, 1595, 1596). He refers to it in his Novum Organum, in which he mentions “in Nova Zembla” and the accompanying note says:

“This of course refers to Barentz’s expedition in search of a North-East passage. He passed the winter of 1596-7 at Nova Zembla.”

If you look for the post earlier in this section (Othello: The Bosphorus) you’ll also see that “Shakespeare” (the author) also seems to have read The Relation of a Journey begun an. Dom. iio, in four books (1615) by George Sandys which describes his travels to the Eastern Mediterranean. Shakespeare mentions both the “Ponticke Sea” and the “Proponticke” within four lines of each other in Act 3, scene 3:

or see page 326 in the First Folio Tragedies.

Here is the Bacon reference:

So, I vote for keeping the original as is: “Some run from brakes of Ice”.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Macbeth - Rhubarb - Purgative drug

Near the end of Act 5.3 in Macbeth, we have him saying:

 That should applaud again.  Pull’t off, I say,
What Rhubarb, Cyme, or what Purgative drug
Would scour these English hence:  hear’st thou of them?

We know that Bacon was fanatic about studying herbs as drugs. Was William of Stratford also?
Bacon wrote when listing purgative herbs:

“Astringents purgative, which, having by their purgative or expulsive power thrust out the humours, leave behind them astrictive virtue:

RHUBARB, especially that which is toasted against the fire: myrobalanes, tartar, tamarinds, an Indian fruit like green damascenes.”

Comedy of Errors - Turkish Tapestry

There’s a sentence in The Comedy of Errors, Act. 4.1

Antipholus of Ephesus:

Give her this key, and tell her in the Deske
That’s cover’d o’er with Turkish Tapestry

Well, this is from “Shakespeare’s England: an account of the life & manners of his age”:

At Gorhambury there is a carpet of Turkey work in perfect preservation with Elizabeth's cognizances and initials, made for and used by the Queen when making her frequent visits to Sir Francis Bacon. This Turkey work was a needlework imitation of an Eastern carpet, and was chiefly used for window seats, bed valances, and chair cushions. It was a treble cross-stitch on canvas in coloured wools, cut open to a close pile. There are constant allusions to it.

Measure for Measure - Sources

There is already a series of posts on Bacon’s connection to the play Measure for Measure. Now a little more.  As a reminder, this play was first known with the publication of the First Folio in 1623. One of Shakespeare’s primary sources for the play was The Right Excellent and Famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra: Divided into Commercial Discourses, by George Whetstone, published in 1578. Shakespeare also seemed to have used another Whetstone publication, The Roke of Regard (1576) when he wrote Much Ado About Nothing. This same George Whetstone, in 1579, wrote a biographical elegy in honor of Francis Bacon’s father, Sir Nicholas Bacon. In addition, Whetstone’s three brothers were at Gray’s Inn at the same time as Francis Bacon. So Bacon would almost surely be known to the Whetstone family and have easy access to George Whetstone’s published works.

Whetstone, George, 1544?-1587? A remembraunce, of the woorthie and well imployed life, of the Right Honorable Sir Nicholas Bacon Knight, Lorde Keeper of the Greate Seale of Englande, and one of the Queenes Maiesties most honorable priuie counsell, who deceased, the 20 daye of Februarie 1578. London : Imprinted ... for Myles Jennyngs [etc.], 1579. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Roses on raz'd shoes

Happy New Year!

Would not this, sir, & a forest of feathers,
if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me, with provincial
Roses on my raz'd shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players?

Hamlet 3.2.~286

Turn Turk means "go bad," in plain reading. Provincial means "from the provinces," that is, from out of town, from someplace in the country away from the big city. Roses were ribbons that protected shoelaces and kept them tied. Roses would vary with fashion; a rose on a country shoe would be different from the latest fashion in roses in the city. A razed shoe is one that has been cut to allow a colored sock to show through. That was done for decoration and fashion. This is on the Fashion theme. Razed puns with "raised," referring to a chopin.

Hamlet means, if he pretended to be a country boy, bringing such a good play to a city players' company, they'd let him become part of the company. He'd get the share on the quality of his writing, not because he was a Prince. Hamlet, the aficionado of acting, is revealing his fantasy of being a playwright.

From a Baconian standpoint that seems very close to what the author was getting at.

Bacon, who was under pressure to sell his woods at his Gorhambury estate, said:   "I will not be stripped of my feathers!"  from Aubrey's Brief Lives

Bacon was particularly known for the elaborate roses on his ‘raz’d shoes’.

Could William, assuming he was ‘Shakespeare’, have been referring to this?