Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Yesterday I was walking down Collins St, Melbourne, looking up at the tops of the buildings. To my surprise, I suddenly noticed that there was a statue of Pallas Athena prominently displayed on one, complete with helmet and spear, making it instantly recognisable. The building turned out to be The Athenaeum, prominent Melbourne theatre and landmark. Later that day I visitted one of my favourite Melbourne second-hand bookshops, and found pure gold: Letters from the Dead to the Dead, by "Oliver Lector".

Sunday, April 18, 2004

One word: axle-tree.

Shakespeare, Bacon and Christopher Marlowe all use it to signify the cosmic world-axis, as follows:

From "Troilus and Cressida":

ULYSSES:And thou most reverend for thy stretch'd-out life
I give to both your speeches, which were such
As Agamemnon and the hand of Greece
Should hold up high in brass, and such again
As venerable Nestor, hatch'd in silver,
Should with a bond of air, strong as the axle-tree
On which heaven rides, knit all the Greekish ears
To his experienced tongue, yet let it please both,
Thou great, and wise, to hear Ulysses speak.

From a letter of Francis Bacon to the Earl of Essex:

I desire your Lordship also to think that though I confess I love some things much better than I love your Lordship, as the Queen's service, her quiet and contentment, her honour, her favour, the good of my country, and the like, yet I love few persons better than yourself, both for gratitude's sake, and for your own virtues, which cannot hurt but by accident or abuse. Of which my good affection I was ever and am ready to yield testimony by any good offices but with such reservations as yourself cannot but allow for as I was ever sorry that your Lordship should fly with waxen wings, doubting Icarus' fortune, so for the growing up of your own feathers, specially ostrich's, or any other save of a bird of prey, no man shall be more glad. And this is the axletree whereupon I have turned 'and shall turn; which to signify to you, though I think you are of yourself persuaded as much, is the cause of my writing; and so I commend your Lordship to God's goodness. From Gray's Inn, this 20th day of July, 1600.

Your Lordship's most humbly,


From The tragical History of Doctor Faustus, attributed to Christopher Marlowe:

MEPHOSTOPHILIS As are the elements, such are the heavens,
Even from the moon unto the empyrial orb,
Mutually folded in each other's spheres,
And jointly move upon one axle-tree,
Whose terminate is termed the world's wide pole.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Spedding, who rejected to the end of his life the identity of Bacon and Shakespeare, nevertheless on several occasions himself notes parallels between the works, such as here:

"The scene in the 'Winter's Tale;' where Perdita presents the guests with flowers suited to their ages, has some expressions which, if this Essay had been contained in the earlier edition, would have made me suspect that Shakespeare had been reading it. "

He cannot bring himself to consider the reverse possibility: that Bacon heard the lines at a Shakespeare play, and later incorporated them into his Essay, because that would be incompatible with the conclusion he reaches elsewhere, namely that Bacon was not aware of Shakespeare or his writings. He comes to this conclusion from the fact that nowhere in either's work is the other mentioned.

But, how then, if Bacon was unaware of Shakespeare, could he have quoted him? Spedding cannot bring himself to contemplate this small problem.

Clearly, if there are parallels between Winters Tale and the Essays, and Shakespeare couldnt have read the Essays because they hadnt been published yet, and Bacon couldnt have seen the play because he lived his entire life oblivious to Shakespeares existence, then, there is only one possibility left which can explain the situation: Bacon and Shakespeare were the same man.

This would explain how a Shakespeare play came to be performed at Gray's Inn as part of the 1594 Christmas Entertainment which was directed, written and staged by Francis Bacon. It must have put Spedding into a mental pretzel to pen the following passage and not conclude the obvious:

"The Ambassador and his train retired in discontent; and when the tumult partly subsided they were obliged (in default of those "very good inventions and conceipts " which had been intended) to content themselves with ordinary dancing and revelling; and when that was over, with " a Comedy of Errors (like to Plautus his Menechmus)," which "was played by the players." This performance seems to have been regarded as the crowning disgrace of this unfortunate Grand Night; a fact, by the way, indicating (if it were Shakespeare's play, as I suppose it was) either rich times or poor tastes; for the historian proceeds, " so that night was begun, and continued to the end, in nothing but confusion and errors; whereupon it was ever afterwards called the Night of Errors.""

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"His imagination was fruitful and vivid; a temperament of the most delicate sensibility, so excitable as to be affected by the slightest alterations of the atmosphere."--Montagu.

"He belongs to the realm of the imagination, of eloquence, of jurisprudence, of ethics, of metaphysics; his writings have the gravity of prose, with the fervor and vividness of poetry."--Prof. Welsh.

"He possessed at once all those extraordinary talents which were divided amongst the greatest authors of antiquity. He had the sound, distinct, comprehensive knowledge of Aristotle, with all the beautiful lights, graces, and embellishments of Cicero. One does not know which to admire most in his writings, the strength of reason, force of style, or brightness of imagination."--Addison.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Let's straighten something out. Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was not reponsible for the works of William Shakespeare. He didn't write so much as a word of the Bard. The movement which has emerged to put forward his candidacy for the authorship is an intellectual cult. it's full of well meaning folk with just enough perspicacity to realise that something is very wrong with the orthodox position, but not enough clear-sightedness to see that the Oxford theory is utterly untenable. His dates are, for a start, all wrong. It's not just a question of his dying too early to have written many of the plays; the entire trajectory of the appearance of the Elizabethan theatre is utterly incongruent with his biography. Macbeth was written after the Gunpowder plot of 1605; the Tempest after the Strachey letter of 1609 and Henry VIII after Bacon's fall from grace in 1621. All objections to the contrary from Oxfordians are wishful sloppy thinking. Everything about the Oxford case crumbles to the touch: the 1000 pound annual bequest given to the Earl by the Queen is clearly stated as being for the relief of his estate after he blew the family fortune; the coat of arms allegedly used by DeVere with the "shaken spear" was actually not used by his family during his lifetime, and in any case features a broken spear, not shaken; everything is twisted, stretched, papered-over. There are some incidents from the Earl's life in the plays; they are biography, not autobiography. On this small misunderstanding, what edifices of error have been built. The entire debate is framed as William from Stratford against DeVere, and both sides wonder why they are unable to deliver the knock-out blow. Meanwhile, both the orthodox and the oxfordian resolutely refuse to perform due diligence on the case for Bacon. All assume that someone, somewhere has provided the definitive case against Bacon as Shakespeare. In fact, no one has. John Michell, sadly, in his popular book Who Wrote Shakespeare? dismisses Bacons candidacy on the basis that he never visitted Italy. In fact, contemporary documentary evidence attests to at least two trips there made by Francis Bacon.

Bacon is Shakespeare. The evidence is overwhelming: Northumberland. Promus. Parallels. Testimony of contemporaries. There is no counter-argument which stands up to scrutiny. Thus the orthodox and the oxfordians simply ignore the Baconians, as best they can. Meanwhile, the Oxfordians continue to look for the "smoking gun", which they freely admit is yet to be found. The reason it has not been found is that it does not exist; there is no smoking gun because Oxford did not write the Works; no, not even so much as a single word.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Bacon: "Mr Bettenham, reader of Gray's Inn, used to say that riches were like muck; when it lay upon a heap, it gave but a stench and ill odour; but when it was spread upon the ground, then it was the cause of much fruit." (Works vii p160)

Nashe: "As the hog is still grunting, digging and rooting in the muck, so is the usurer still turning, digging and rooting in the muck of this world" (Vol. iv p150)

Shakespeare: "The common muck of the world" (money) Coriolanus ii 2

- from The Bacon Shakespeare Anatomy by W.S. Melsome (1945)