Saturday, November 28, 2015

Henry VIII – the case for Francis Bacon - 3 - British Politics History

Extracts from Clarke’s The Shake-speare Puzzle continued:

The last two Shake-speare plays, King Henry VIII and the Two Noble Kinsmen, have been dated to 1613, and in October of that year, Bacon became Attorney General, a position that subsequently absorbed all his free time. Around the period, Shake-speare’s output ceased. When in May 1621, as Lord Chancellor, Bacon was stripped of his office by proceeding for corruption, his leisure time returned and by October he had finished his book History of the Reign of Henry VII. Leonard Dean states that Bacon seasoned his narrative with the aid of documented counsels and speeches from Sir Robert Cotton’s depository, and relied on well-known literary chronicles for the main structure such as Polydore Vergil’s Anglicae Historiae (1570), Edward Hall’s Chronicle (1550), Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587), and John Stow’s Annals (1580). He also informs us that:

Henry VII … was the last reign for which documentary evidence was readily available, all later reigns depending on State Papers which were closely guarded.”

While the life of Henry VIII could be found in the above chronicles (particularly Stow’s), one wonders how far Shake-speare’s play went beyond them and made use of these secret State Papers. Shakspere [the man from Stratford] would certainly have been in difficulty here but Sir Francis Bacon in his position of Solicitor General and with his contacts in court would have found far easier entry. 

According to Leonard Dean, Bacon’s method of writing histories shares certain features with the craft of a dramatist:

“ … he is like his Italian counterparts. For Machiavelli whatever is instructive is contemporary, and Patrizzi is concerned only with such details as how to narrate two or more groups of actions that take place at the same time.  … Bacon explains events almost wholly by an interpretation of personal motives, and neglects social and economic causes.”

This emphasis on character is the essence of drama and appears to liberate Bacon from the charge that his sensibility was too limited to have penned the Shake-speare work.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles, later to become Charles I, had been pressing Sir Francis Bacon for a history of Henry VIII. [note the earlier quotes on this from the first post]. On 10 February 1622, the King authorized the Paper Office Keeper, Sir Thomas Wilson, to provide Sir Francis Bacon, who had been denied access to library resources by his sentence for corruption, with any papers he might require to research the project. [evidence of his still active historical research]. 

Then once Prince Charles had returned from Spain, Bacon sent a copy of his De Augmentis Scientiarum with a different excuse for not beginning the requested history [of King Henry VIII]:

“For Henry the Eighth, to deal truly with your Highness, I did so despair of my health this summer as I was glad to choose some such work as I might compass within days; so far was I from entering into a work of length.”

In the end, Prince Charles was sent a mere two pages of an outline of the history which Dr. Rawley published in 1629. Evidently, Bacon was avoiding the project.

As we have seen in 1610-, in his The Beginning of the History of Great Britain, Sir Francis Bacon was still interested in writing about Henry VIII. From 1622 onwards, despite the Prince’s repeated requests and King James making available the necessary research materials, he attempted to avoid doing so. Was it because the history had already been completed in the Shake-speare play in 1613 nine years earlier? In 1621, why did Bacon choose to compose a book on Henry VII? Was it because he was the only monarch Shake-speare had omitted in the period 1377-1547? If Bacon and Shake-speare were different men then it is remarkable how each managed to avoid duplicating the other’s projects. However, if Bacon was writing under the pseudonym of Shake-speare it suddenly makes sense

Leonard Dean observes that:

“Bacon believed that the chief functions of history are to provide the materials for a realistic treatment of psychology and ethics, and to give instruction by means of example and analysis in practical politics.”

He further summarizes Bacon’s scheme as an:

“...approach to the good life through the realistic analysis of human nature by historians.”

[now a couple more quotes from Clarke’s book, again, of which I’ve only supplied a portion of extracts]

[Hadfield in Shakespeare and Rennaissance Politics, writes of Shake-speare] “No other contemporary dramatist explored the meaning and significance of such a wide variety of political and social systems, or established such a carefully nuanced relationship between examining alternative constitutions in their own right, and reading them in terms of English or British politics.”

Also “His [Shake-speare’s] works appear to be indebted to the numerous attempts made in that decade [1590s] to study history, politics and society in the relatively detached and relatively objective  manner pioneered by thinkers such as Lispius, Montaigne, Livy and Tacitus, as well as their English disciples such as Francis Bacon and Sir John Haywood.”

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