Candidates for Shakespeare

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor (b. 1561 d. 1626) aged 65.

He could well have had some guiding role over the man Shakspere and was quite capable of organising a flow of ‘anonymous’ aristocratic writings for the brilliant young playmaker to turn into quality and performable plays. A lawyer of aristocratic birth, a child prodigy, of a comprehensive education, he was superbly well-connected, moving among most of the great families, and “knowing everyone’s secrets”. He loved being in the centre of intrigue and scheming and planning. Some describe Bacon was “a wise and compassionate man”, others seem him as cold and calculating, even a man with a dual, even split-mind, because he related all to his unshakable objectives and great, universal ideas.

Friends knew him also as a “warm heart, combining merry jest with silent gravity.” He was naturally a schemer, capable of following two opposing courses of action and finding credit and the practical in both. (After Lord Essex had been most generous to Bacon, for many years, Bacon acted in prosecution of Essex for disloyalty to the Queen; however, the other side of that coin is that he Bacon was unaware of any planned armed rebellion – 200 soldiers carrying weapons marching through London; Bacon refused to countenance that).

He was very capable of seeing ‘truth’ at its rawest: “Nature to be commanded must be obeyed.” “Truth lies beyond scientist and artist.” “Great men keep away from the weak passion of (human) love.” “In the theatre of human affairs, it is only for gods and angels to be spectators.”

He aimed to free the Elizabethan, Jacobean royal Courts, Universities even Europe of the Aristotelian scholasticism theology of all its medieval authority. He saw himself as inventor-to-be of rational, ‘scientific’ methods and a system which would “eventually disclose and bring into sight all that is most hidden and secret in the universe.” He believed the way forward was that of inductive science finding proof, proof, proof before theory. It is seen today as naive science grounded on a crude, limited observation of Nature – how could it be otherwise at that time? But he is credited with the breakthrough; the original thinking and analysis, and perceptions which are undeniable.

Away from these obsessional viewpoints, he was host and patron to poets and writers at his house in Twickenham, mysteriously “a gift from Queen Elizabeth”.

In matters literary, he saw himself as affected by “divine inspiration and illumination”. It is said that Jonson, after Shakespeare’s death, was a regular helper, even literary assistant to Bacon for a while (he was also served by Thomas Hobbes in his last years).

Bacon’s Twickenham “Scriptorum” encouraged writers, poets, playmakers to stay and receive his counsel, AND provide an output of labours, mainly Essays, for his use. Unproven, but such could well have augmented his own flow of ideas to one Shakspere?

All see Bacon the philosopher, thinker, visualiser, as a star of proven idealism and virtually universal viewpoints, of unyielding concentration on the achievement of well-considered goals, and brilliant with many talents, shining with the power of mind and marvellous persuasiveness in expression.

He and Philip Sidney were both in their age particular though very different examples of Renaissance-man.

Sidney’s aim was to help “stimulate a humanistic refined and committed Protestant patriotic aristocracy”. Bacon “saw his inductive method as not only a renovation of science and philosophy, but also as the work of divine providence, part of a larger scheme, a vast unfolding, a great instauration of learning and liberation” (instauration is renewal, beginning afresh).

Bacon’s perception was “identical to that described by the ancient Vedic seers, who saw the entire universe as illusion, produced by maya.” Man’s work involved opposites, good and evil, in ‘seeing and becoming’ truth.

So Bacon’s goals were broader, deeper and agreed assessment is that he was possibly the only genius who could have written Shakespeare, or seriously influenced the writing of the canon.

Bacon was well travelled, and a very mature 31, when ‘Shakespeare’ first appeared on the London scene with his apparent major breakthrough, the first performance of Henry 6 Part 1 (there is argument over this, ‘Hari or Harey the vi’ : Part 1 or Part II?).

At that moment, 1592, the future Lord Chancellor of England, Baron Verulam and Viscount St Albans, was an MP seeking his fortune. Bacon, aristocrat, struggled for wealth and position until middle age, several times in debt, several times jailed and quickly rescued by relatives.

There is no evidence that Bacon and Shakspere ever met. For several years, as Shakespeare grew in success from 1592, Bacon was reportedly in several minds as to continuing within law and politics - as nothing was seemingly opening up for him as he desired - or to pursue his literary bent and philosophy/science.

He went on to achieve much in both areas, particularly in the literary field. He was finally rewarded with several Court government posts, before reaching the top of the country’s legal profession as Lord Chancellor. And eventually failing again, forced to retire – some say ‘fitted up’ politically but obedient to the King’s wishes – because of the allegation of taking bribes (quietly acceptable to many judges in those times). Later, perhaps convenient to the Bacon reputation, a servant admitted taking bribes and swore Bacon knew nothing of this. Even Bacon’s defence of that ‘failing’ was brilliant put and, of course, comprising two differing lines of persuasion!

His earliest notes were in 1582, on “The State of Christendom”, after his travels. He was 32 when his “Birth of Times” Essay was published, in 1593. A volume of Essays (eventually there were 58), the Table of Colours of Good and Evil, and the Sacred Meditations, appeared published by 1597.

His government report on “The Virginia Colony” was made in 1609. Other works afterwards, actual publication dates variable up to his death 1626, include The Advancement and Proficience of Learning 1605; the Instauration Magna/ Novum Organum (possibly begun in 1589); Wisdom of the Ancients 1609; Description of the Intellectual Globe, 1612; De Dignitate & Augmentis Scientiarum (Latin translation of ‘Advancement’); The New Atlantis 1623; Apothegms in 1624. There were many other works – many published after his death - all helping to emphasise that this was a man “so rare in knowledge... expressed in so choice and ravishing a way with words...”

This was a man who “constantly thought in metaphors”. He perceived analogies that indeed evoked superb metaphors and similes, expressed effortlessly. To Jonson, himself no mean wordsmith nor a man of humble eloquence, Bacon was an oratorical god.

Bacon’s poetic writings are analysed as not similar to Shakespeare’s. Though of great elegance, they do not seem of the same mind, in detailed emotional intelligence, as the phenomenon Shakespeare’s ‘peculiarities’.

He among several thinkers of his time, saw the universe as “a problem to be examined, meditated upon and solved, not as an externally fixed stage upon which man walked.” (It reminds of Shakespeare’s “In Nature’s infinite book of secrecy, a little I can read.” – soothsayer, Antony and Cleopatra).

His Great Instauration proposed that “every subject the human mind could apprehend was to be categorised and their truths established by direct observation from Nature.” This is seen as, among several great aims, a founding statement – at the time - for ‘modern’ science.

However, to attempt to see him as the full-time, complete Shakespeare might well deny his other, more realistic role: the man who achieved his own goals INCLUDING the one that might have ensured Shakspere of Stratford achieved his deserved destiny, too.

He had specific goals from his youth, one aspect of one of them, in particular, is explored in this site’s Summing Up: that was the Fourth Part of his Great Instauration (the regeneration of the highest educational standards and learning – via a distinctly Baconian path). It was outlined, picturing what experts consider an environment of theatre and stage for completion. It was, apparently, not undertaken under Bacon’s name.

There, in the Summing Up of this website, you may find a challenging presumption of involvement!

Additional notable points

  • Bacon represents “elitist-intellectual” approach of many anti-Stratfordians in the mystery of the Shakespeare authorship
  • He venerated Pallas Athena, one description of whom is “Goddess of Knowledge” who (and this assertion not proven) “shakes her spear and causes the darkness of ignorance to retreat”
  • His religious view was : “There is no other true religion than to meditate on the Universe and give thanks to the Creator.” (Einstein put his religious understanding as “a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law”)
  • Some 200 pages have been found of parallel “thoughts, phrases and expressions” which occur in the writings of Shakespeare and Bacon. They include “studies, quotations, opinions, identical expressions, metaphors, unusual words, errors, styles and characters”
  • His “Promus” or personal “storehouse-workbook” was particularly interesting. Its 1,500 “formularies and elegancies” were dated 1594/95 (on two of the pages) but conceivably jotted down by him (and transferred to the Promus later?) probably from 1584 after becoming a barrister and an M.P - and in aid of his oratory?
  • They include aphorisms, Bible texts, special phrases, forms of greeting and proverbs – in Latin, English and many other languages
  • However, love of words bonded all Elizabethan and Jacobean writers and meant that they often developed, used similar expressions; many are in the notebooks of the poets, writers, playmakers of Shakespeare’s time
  • But the questions arise, in the face of parallel quotations, such as Bacon’s “Be so true to thyself as thou be not false to others” is so poetically philosophic as Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” (Polonius, Hamlet).
  • Yet Bacon was not a man of sporting pastimes. Shakespeare surely was, or we have to explain his country knowledge - from archery to angling, falconry to fox-hunting, a dozen different activities. So, Bacon as sole author? – but one who knows not his subject?
  • There is a painting which depicts the death of Adonis, gored by a wild boar: the subject of the Shakespeare narrative poem Venus and Adonis. It is not in Stratford, but in St Albans, in an ancient hotel, near the home of Bacon.
  • Bacon was very close to his brother Anthony – who was “an honoured guest” at the Court of Navarre (“Love’s Labour’s Lost”, written approx 1589-91) and was close to the Court life, there for five-six years. He returned to London by 1591. Francis and Anthony were close and corresponded all their lives.
  • In the First Folio, 1623, when Bacon was alive, Heminges and Condell expressed the wish “that the Author himself had lived to have set forth and overseen his own writings”. As ‘Shakespeare’ had died seven years previously, could Bacon have written ‘Shakespeare’ and allowed this?
  • Or unless Shakspere was co- or often primary-playmaker and had earned his recognition, and Bacon, though ‘in retirement’, of course would not involve himself and claim anything at that time?
  • His answer might well have been: let sleeping dogs lie – the main objective (fulfilling the need of the Fourth Part of his Great Instauration) was comfortably underway towards achievement... just how many attendances at performances of Shakespeare plays had there been 1590 –1612 or to 1616?
  • True the population of London may have been 200,000 – 220,000. True, Shakespeare’s plays were part of broad programmes of plays by different playmakers undertaken by the different troupes at different theatres. But with repeat attendances by enthusiasts, audiences in London up to 3,000 per performance, AND tours in the country ? It may not be too fanciful to claim in all several million attendances?
  • Yet this great universal mind had closure at times, weaknesses. Bacon as early scientist was ”unaware of many of the new developments of his Age” - the work of Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Napier’s logarithms, Harvey’s blood circulation, Gilbert’s De Magnete empirical research
  • But he is credited with several ‘firsts’ - the primary “notion of experimentation expressly formulated” and “situations seen and reported with great clarity - the discovery and re-discovery of the truth”
  • Bacon and his brother Anthony were believed by many as homosexual - the Greek vice, as it was known, something other or more than platonic love and something many see indicated in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Yet a love affair, between Francis Bacon and Marguerite de Valois, is also spoken

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See also She Died Twice
A dramatisation of the story of the death of the Quaker Mary Dyer in 1660


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