Shakspere was Shakespeare? Or was it Bacon, Oxford, Marlowe, Derby, Rutland, the Countess (or Dyer?) If they were not Shakespeare, were they aware of the Author’s real identity? Were they involved?
The truth of the Authorship Question, perhaps never to be agreed, surely lies within these projections: The Lost Years: no, not after Shakspere’s married in 1582, at 18, but perhaps earlier, starting when he was 13-16 and his father’s debts began to crucify the family, debts caused by injudicious entry into illegal wool trading?
When with genius half-tutored, impelled by half-education, he began writing as a maturing student, sketching out poems, maybe beginning a play arising from his studies and creative impulse: The Comedy of Errors? or The Two Gentlemen of Verona?
Even if then merely sketched, the works when finished display a complexity and promise of sophistication truly worthy of young literary genius in the making. As any pro – not being Shakespeare – will report: Genius arises from a light which shines, from inner rules and in focused framework; ‘mastership’ begins with ever-more research and re-writing ! And “True genius is the gift of always being able to FIND what has always been there” (this came from a Hollywood scriptwriter seven years ago!)
As a result of that early work (and WHICH of theatre’s original writing talents at that time would not have TRIED at 13-16?), when the chance came at 16 to join say my Lord Worcester’s Men, he was able to show those writings, with their obvious imaginative and constructional promise allied to clear intelligence and sheer enthusiasm.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Brutus to Cassius
William Somerset’s Men (or Servants), The Worcester Players, were a small, under-estimated provincial group, destined to arise, twice, perform for several decades, and vanish after Browne, Alleyn, Shakspere moved on.
If he did accept Shakspere, this bright, intelligent youngster before him, his father former Mayor of Stratford, what impressed Robert Browne, chief actor and shareholder, and possibly his apprentice master ? How many rustic-based writing talents such as Shakspere had Browne experienced ? There is no indication that another young talent in Worcester’s Men when Shakspere joined, the prodigious 15 or 16 year old actor Edward Alleyn, even then a sharer in the Company, had tried his hand at playmaking!
How well did Shakspere’s playmaking and his acting develop with the troupe’s visits to Gloucester and Worcester, Southampton, Coventry, Leicester, possibly Bristol, besides Stratford many times?
As for no record of the young Shakspere’s playmaking, during the 1580’s, we remember that the ‘Company’ (in which he was perhaps apprentice then hireling, and not a sharer) OWNED the rights to all its plays. And in addition to the investment in costumes, props, primitive sets and their maintenance and replacements, the cost to the company, not playmaker, of licensing a new play rose to seven shillings as demand for good new plays grew unceasingly, and pirating became a problem, with no copyright law in being. Licensing was via the Stationer’s Register in London, and performance Her Majesty’s Master of Revels.
So, his plays emerged and prospered in instant popularity, from the success of Henry VI in 1592, and his career progressed, he retired around 1612, died in 1616, and was apparently unremarked for seven years, until the First Folio in 1623.
Was William Shakspere actor and the fabulously talented, accomplished actor-dramatist? Or a somewhat competent actor and a sometime occasional playmaker, and allowed to add a few lines to scripts from others? Or was he a cypher, who wrote out, in neat handwritten final copies, “with no blots”, the plays drafted by mysterious contributors to the Company?
The historical dramas, given his name from 1592, were an amazing feat of research and imaginative writing – and the suggestion now acceptable is that many of his ‘early’ plays were in fact begun and sketched out, even completed 1583-1588, while research for the historical plays was being undertaken.
If the true actor-playmaker, source of his wonderful Canon, then he was committed to theatre, he wrote always for his ‘cry of players’. This ‘Johannes fac totum’ WAS the theatrical all-rounder – the term applied to literary applications, not sweeping the stage!
Later, at the Blackfriars indoor theatre, 1608-1612, few men in theatrical history were “so completely bound up with the acting troupe – playmaker, actor, shareholder, patent member, manager and housekeeper”. That was where the most money was made, this new ‘covered over’ opportunity which with higher ticket prices recorded a tremendous jump in profit compared with the Globe.
He was a successful businessman. He was businesslike. He was efficient. Even ruthless? He was denounced by Greene who accused him of theatrical malpractice, plagiarising and virtually stealing other people’s writings.
Stealing, borrowing, being inspired by…. his own genius bore theatrical and materialistic harvests. He was a sharer for many years in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He became wealthy by the mid-1590’s. One report has arisen that he earned – from several of his activities – £163 in one year (x £156 to £200 today). Even if this is accurate, how can we truly value it today? Costs and expenditures then have no comparisons with today’s hugely expensive values.
He may well have had researchers to pay, some collaborators to share with, but their remunerations would hardly have dented his earnings. Also, we know not what financial income a ‘secret patron’ would have given him over the years.
Shakspere’s circle of friends encompassed theatrical colleagues and (a few?) collaborators – but also dubious acquaintances, associates who had fingers in many ‘near the knuckle’ business activities, entrepreneurs near to criminal. He by nature or nurture was acquainted with the dark side of business and LIFE.
Shakspere, under the name Shakespeare, was summoned to a local court in 1596 in London, and bound over the keep the peace. It was one incident in a long running business emnity-rivalry into which he was drawn.
Shakspere’s demeaning involvement, as “a man of commerce and master of his craft”, was in support for a theatre owner who was also connected with many other areas of low-life business.
Besides Shakespeare, others had their dark periods which they would have preferred to hide from: Marlowe, de Vere, even Jonson all killed a man, and escaped serious consequences.
Bacon, knighted by James 1st on his accession in 1603, gave in an Essay his “three degrees of this hiding and veiling of a man’s self”. Many literary talents in the Elizabethan and Jacobean aristocracy hid their writings, keen to be heard in theatre but … unperformed, unheralded, and unheard. They could never openly publish plays, without “ damage to a man’s dignity”, to his reputation and thus preferment at Court; for poesy or poetry was THE form. If they wanted performance, WHO did they know, that was the question? WHO could act as a go-between?
Today, traditional scholarship is weakening in the view that ‘ALL courtier poets’ would not dare defy the stigma, resulting from publishing and openly printing poesie or plays 1570-1600. The understanding now is that a small number of courtier poets DID publish their work, without reputation injured; though innumerable ‘closet dramas’ were regularly available with no author, that is anonymously.
In the plays of Shakespeare, the sheer breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding, of feeling and passion, of imagination and poetic expression, of lightness, wit and humour, of dramatic impact with wisdom threaded throughout, all underpin argument AGAINST one man (or woman) having been sole Author.
We associate Shakespeare with all that is best in the emerging Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre – a new form of performance, communication, impact; and possibly a new dimension in the achievement of higher objectives – such as were promoted by Francis Bacon in his Great Instauration.
The age, he said, needed a regeneration of learning and new ways of working for a new age of enlightenment. This man, “so rare in knowledge”and imaginative vision, saw the outline of his life’s work when 16.
“I have taken all knowledge to be my province,” he said, breathtakingly, a decade later. Truths of the “Four Parts” of the new knowledge could be established by direct observation from nature.
In the plays of “Shakespeare”, according to the London scholar/teacher, “We witness virtue corrupted and overcome by vice, and vice transcended and transformed into virtue. And they are all dramas of the human soul, facing in different ways during its journey, either away from or towards Beauty, light, joy, Truth… all great works of Art speak of this… the struggle between the forces of darkness and light, and good and evil.”
Bacon planned that the lessons of this new understanding (of human psychology) would be taught through “visible representations” and through “actual types and models” set before the eyes and ears. There would be a comprehensive analysis detailing the numerous types of passions and emotions and their interplays, our temperaments and minds, and what in life and through the senses influences and drives them.
Bacon knew his life’s work early. Shakspere/Shakespeare’s genius in theatre arose early, equally directed at achievement of inner goals (which from his unbroken invisibility were not goals of fame and literary immortality, though one Sonnet did mention the word).
The supporters of Bacon, and those particularly with knowledgeable of theatre, believe he actually ‘played’ out his theory of the types through a variety of plays – comedies, tragedies and love stories. The start might well have been the historical dramas.
Bacon’s ‘missing Fourth Part’ consisted of the plays which this brilliant patron sketched out, recruited, encouraged, organised, funded and saw to performance ….. using in collaboration the genius of the man from Stratford.
Bacon had worked on a ‘new method’ for delivery of his knowledge and messages. In his teens (17, say 1577 when Shakspere was 13) he wrote, “a new method must be found for quiet entry into minds so choked and overgrown.” He could hardly have envisaged his Works later “beguiling by art” the rowdy groundlings of Theatre, or Curtain or Globe.
He sought for “the strongest means of inspiring Hope which will bring men to particulars”, means which would both amaze and entertain, whether in what he saw as men’s three main dominations of “anger, fear, or of shame”. Anger was “the short madness of men”, fear was “the absence of rulership of Self”, and shame was “public disgrace, and alienation from the social Mother”.
From the beginning, says another theory, Bacon helped in the further education of the young man from Stratford, ensuring the potential of such a natural talent was fulfilled, in the achievement of writings which are capable of meanings understood of many levels. Bacon knew everyone, and had access to all. The library at Wilton? the library at Belvoir? his own ‘school’ at Twickenham?
Hazlitt said, “The wisdom displayed in Shakespeare is equal in profoundness to the great Lord Bacon’s Novum Organum.” Bacon, according to my understanding, “placed the study of man’s mind and character above all other enquiries”. Who better to help and, Bacon to study? than the man Shakspere?
This is all unbelievable! cry the Stratfordians. “Where is this shown, recorded? Where, indeed. And where are the one hundred, two hundred FACTS we need to know, and may never know, about how the invisible man Shakspere/ Shakespeare obtained education, acting and stage expertise, his skillful, unrivalled facility with words and playmaking, and to gain insights into the social mores, personal environments and histories of his times?
The agnostic eye to any camp, Stratfordian or heretical, could easily murmur, “There is a natural truth running throughout Shakespeare’s Canon – just as it is natural and valid to ask questions about a genius who emerged unbelievable and unheralded.”
This Baconian possibility is no more incredible than many of the half-dozen main theories posited, some extreme – such as a large conspiracy of writers in a hidden Shakespeare Group. Secrecy could never have been kept and we know nothing tangible as evidence of such a group. (Nor, in truth, for closeness between two geniuses).
Whereas both Bacon and Shakspere life-long were each secretive to their souls.
That the genius Shakespere had a guiding mentor and supplier of literary ideas, plots, “sparkling pictorial gems”, and even half-written scripts might well challenge both Stratfordian and anti-Stratfordian platforms. But it is only as challenging a proposition as that which pre-supposes ONE aristocrat as the mysterious secret writer and sole playmaker, whose hidden activities were never uncovered and his/her name identified.
An academic favouring Shakspere as Shakespeare comments: “In Shakespeare’s plays we have thought, history, exposition, philosophy, all within the round of the poet. It is as if into a mind poetical there had been poured all the matter which existed in the mind of his contemporary Bacon.”
Regarding Shakespeare and a mysterious long-term patron, if there was a secret it surely could only stand the test of time if both parties involved had great aims, and the temperaments to achieve those aims, to universal benefit? And were discreet, circumspect, prudent and wise in their practical activities.
There is no proof that Southampton was Shakespere’s primary patron, and nothing even hinting at a truth that others were supporters and intermediaries. Whereas, Bacon could, in speech and in writing, provide the talented Shakspere with an insight, a poetic sensitivity, a brilliant colouring, a word-picture pre-empting even answering unasked questions; one genius merging into the dimension of another genius, producing the amazing heights and depths – physical, mental even causal – found in a play by Shakespeare.
As said before, it is hardly credible that a ‘conventional conspiracy’ involving numbers of professional or aristocratic writers of the Canon would have remained a secret over many years, and certainly not into posterity!
Though one conceeds, as one author puts it, seeing “the past as a huge library that has burned down; and recorded history as a single line in a single book that happened to survive the fire” (C S Lewis/Sobran)…. with Shakspere it seems we can prove nothing in certainty.
A broken timeline; but what of secrets? hiding truths to benefit all? never the aim to disclose themselves? According to Jonson, the man Shakspere “he was of an open and free nature.” With no secrets? But surely a man, one of higher consciousness and intent on a larger aim, can with practice hide. His secrets have value, to him, and are not to be easily disclosed.
“Secrets are seductive. They offer knowledge, power, belonging – initiation into a world neatly divided into the knowing and the unknowing, us and them”…. “such secrets were not for sharing, they were a sacred trust to be protected against misuse.” (Tim Sherratt,
Clarence Hardy, Hist. Records of Australian Science, June 2000)
Shakespeare may not have possessed Bacon’s cypher-nature, but there is awareness in his “most still, most secret, and most grave” (Hamlet on Polonius)
“There be three degrees of this hiding and veiling of a man’s self,” said Bacon.
The first closeness, reservation and secrecy. The second dissimulation – he lets fall signs and arguments that he is not that he is. Thirdly, simulation – he industriously and expressly feigns and pretends to be that he is not. Bacon approved the first two. His ‘skirts of secrecy’ as Shakspere’s were tight.
So, what might we make of TWO master craftsmen working together? Two spirits finely touched by Nature each abundantly? And an inherent if not, practised, state of secrecy? ‘Assume the virtue’….. so as to accept ‘the stamp of nature’.
What a meaningful, fruitful, productive and effective output might have resulted! The Tempest, baffling, is seen as containing the mystery about the levels of consciousness and knowledge which illumine Man, depth upon depth.
What an output – not merely as in one final play, The Tempest, but in a real, meaningful life – and career – of two giants, spanning decades.
It can only be emphasised again: both Bacon and Shakspere life-long were each secretive to their very souls.