Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bacon's Signature Ciphers in Shakespeare -6- Acrostics


Fun with Baconian Ciphers
Part 3

Now we begin with a review of the basics of acrostics. The following extracts are from Wikipedia:

An acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message. Acrostics are common in medieval literature, where they most commonly serve to highlight the name of the poet or his patron, or to make a prayer to a saint. They are most common in verse works but can also appear in prose. Often the ease of detectability of an acrostic can depend on the intention of its creator. In some cases an author may desire an acrostic to have a better chance of being perceived by an observant reader. Acrostics may also be used as a form of steganography [the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message, a form of security through obscurity], where the author seeks to conceal the message rather than proclaim it. This might be achieved by making the key letters uniform in appearance with the surrounding text, or by aligning the words in such a way that the relationship between the key letters is less obvious. This is referred to as null ciphers in steganography, using the first letter of each word to form a hidden message in an otherwise innocuous text. Using letters to hide a message, as in acrostic ciphers, was popular during the Renaissance, and could employ various methods of enciphering, such as selecting other letters than initials based on a repeating pattern (equidistant letter sequences), or even concealing the message by starting at the end of the text and working backwards.

The Friedman’s, in their The Shakespeare Ciphers Examined, had this to say of acrostics: “Acrostic devices have the advantage that, unlike ciphers which depend on accidents of page-numbering or particular kinds of type, they leave no doubt that the author of the open text must also have been responsible for any hidden message—once it is established that one exists.” ”If, therefore, any genuine messages of this kind exist, they must be taken as conclusive.” About Elizabethan acrostics they write “Certainly, they were very popular at the time. Walsh, in his Hand-Book of Literary Curiosities, comments that the business of composing acrostics ‘was carried to its most ridiculous and wasteful excess by the Elizabethan poets’.”  They give some examples. One has the name of spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham’:

Shall Honour, Fame, and Titles of Renowne,
In Clods of Clay be thus inclosed still?
Rather will I, though wiser Wits may frowne,
For to inlarge his Fame extend my skill.
Right, gentle Reader, be it knowne to thee,
A famous Knight doth here interred lye,
Noble by Birth, renowned for Policie,
Confounding Foes, which wrought our Jeopardy.
In Forraine Countries their Intents he knew,
Such was his zeal to do his Country good,
When Dangers would by Enemies ensue,
As well as they themselves, he understood.
Launch forth ye Muses into Streams of Praise,
Sing, and sound forth Praise-worthy Harmony;
In England Death cut off his dismall Dayes,
Not wronged by Death, but by false Trechery. 
Grudge not at this imperfect Epitaph;
Herein I have exprest my simple Skill,
As the First-fruits preceding from a Graffe:
Make then a better whosoever will. 

The RED-BOLD was added for this example and was not part of the original form.

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