The Holy Grail
All's Well That Ends Well
The Holy Grail Allegory
Academic and literary professionals alike label this profoundly esoteric document, a problem play, and a failure; an unsatisfactory piece dashed off in a time of distraction to get some quick cash, presumably while that exemplary gentlemen from Stratford on Avon was more interested in boffing the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. As to exactly whose problem, and whose failure, they would do well to take to heart the immortal words of the comic script character Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us". The fact is, they don't have a clue. But what can you expect from people who don't even know the author was Francis Bacon, or that, because he was the author, some of the secrets of his knowledge, veiled in allegory, are concealed in the play.
In the Advancement of Learning Bacon cited ENIGMATICAL AND DISCLOSED as an appropriate method for transmitting his knowledge:
"The pretence whereof is to remove the vulgar capacities from being admitted to the secrets of knowledges; and to reserve them to selected auditors, or wits of such sharpness as can pierce the veil."
This is both good news and bad news for the aforementioned pundits. The good news is it gives them an excuse (of a sort). Didn't Bacon say he was excluding 'vulgar capacities'? And can't these pundits claim, along with Huckleberry Finn, "Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?" The bad news is these people, to paraphrase Fitzgerald's Omar Khayyam, will never file a key that will unlock the door they howl without (sorry Charlie).
Even factoring in the fact of his fantastic intellect, Bacon set the bar for himself very high. Each play is a microcosm mirroring the macrocosm. Each play contains some notable aspect of knowledge from the past; some aspect of events from Bacon's own time; and some aspect of future knowledge. Each play is also an entertaining story on the surface, a commercially viable product designed for the consumption of theatergoers.
AWW is one of the plays that first appeared in the Shakespeare "First Folio" of 1623.
No record exists from that time of the performance of the play. As far as is known it was not performed on stage until 1741. Critics of the play considered it a failure, and it was performed only in bowdlerized editions until Tyrone Guthrie's Stratford-Ontario production in 1953 (1959 at Stratford-upon-Avon) in which the play proved to be a resounding success. Whereupon the stunned pundits proclaimed, "it acts better than it reads". Duh!!!
To return to our thread, we may conclude something is hidden in AWW, but what is It? Let's begin with the knowledge from the past:
It deals with the mystery at the root of the Holy Grail romances.
Limitations of 'vulgar capacities' aside, even a cursory examination of the play almost lets the cat out of the bag, because a number of Holy Grail motifs are readily apparent: a maimed and dying king cured in a miraculous manner; and (in a number of significant changes from the source on which Bacon drew for his play): a hero combining in himself the attributes of: son of a widow; fair young man; young fool; and extraordinary fighting ability. The source is changed also so that when young Bertram sets forth from his home the scene reflects the young Grail knight setting forth from his home.
In the Grail story, just as the young man starts to leave, his mother says he is not ready to go out into the world, there is so much more he needs to learn. She hurriedly gives him last minute advice:
You must be polite and give people your greeting
Always help a lady or maiden in distress
Speak to gentlemen, keep company with gentlemen
In the play, just as young Bertram starts to leave, the Countess says her son is an 'unseasoned' courtier. She is saying that he is not ready to leave the nest. She hurriedly gives him last minute advice:
Love all, trust a few
Do wrong to none
Keep thy friend under thy own life's key
Moreover, as in some of the Grail Romances, there is a war, and (in another change to the plot source) the end to the war follows the cure of the king.
There are differences. The Grail King is the, "The Fisher King". The AWW King is not (on the other hand that would have given everything away, wouldn't it?). In the Grail stories the King is cured by a man. In AWW he is cured by a woman. Perhaps, in light of the differences, the above instances seem tenuous hooks to hang the hat of an interpretation on. But these are the obvious ones. AWW also has a substructure of Cathar doctrine, those 'good men' murdered by the monstrous Roman Catholic Church, during the so called, 'Albigensian Crusade', their campaign of genocide against the people of southern France during the middle ages. At least 1,000,000 innocent men, women, children, and infants were slaughtered: tortured, and often burned alive in the most demonic fashion. Some people have speculated that the Grail Romances contain secret Cathar doctrines. To uncover the allegory in the play; the Cathar doctrines, and the other Grail material we must dig deeper. Bacon's gives us a method.
Although Bacon wrote in such a way as to screen out 'vulgar capacities' from the secrets of his knowledge he wanted selected auditors admitted. So he devised a stratagem. The stratagem Bacon devised was to use existing stories and make changes to their plots to incorporate the allegories he wanted. Bacon adopted existing stories and made changes to them, so those capable of piercing the veil could use the changes made to the sources as an indication of his concealed intent. To coin a phrase, we might call this method the 'holy grail' of Shakespeare interpretation.
The source Bacon used for the plot of AWW was the ninth story of the third day of The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio, translated by William Painter in his 1566 Palace of Pleasure. The correlation of this story with AWW clearly shows Bacon's intent in the allegory in the play. All that is required is to compare the changes made to the source with some background on the Grail story.
THE GRAIL ROMANCES
In the brief space of 50 years a mystery was born that has survived undiminished for more than 800 years. It began around 1180 with an unfinished book-length poem by Chretien de Troyes that broke off in mid-sentence, and was followed in quick succession by a handful of other works. Chretien was connected to the Court of Champagne in Troyes where Marie de Champagne, Countess of Champagne, had instituted a Court of Love, or more accurately Court of Fin'amor (pure, or refined love), the subject of the songs of the troubadour. This is not to overlook the fact that some of the songs of the troubadours were very erotic, one might almost say pornographic, but this was the eroticism of "The Song of Songs". Solomon, wisest of men, alike to the Templars, the troubadours, and Francis Bacon was a devotee of the black goddess of love/wisdom.
In Troyes an influential school of Cabalistic and esoteric studies had flourished since 1070. Hugues de Payen, founder of the Knights Templars was a vassal of the count of Champagne. In Champagne, also, around the area of Troyes, the so-called "Cathar heresy" first appeared. Some believe secret teachings of the Templars were concealed in the Grail stories, others that they are secret Cathar doctrines hidden in elaborate symbolism.
Of the fifteen surviving manuscripts containing Chretien's story, eleven contain one or more continuations written by other, later authors. In addition to Chretien's story, and to the continuations, a number of other Grail Romances appeared during this period. Grail Romances were of two types. The first implied a non-Christian, pre-Christian origin for the Grail. The second made the Grail the vessel from which Christ ate at the last supper, or the cup from which he drank. This was obviously a fabrication since the only hint of a Christian connection with the Holy Grail was the medieval legend from the Languedoc region of France that Mary Magdalene brought the grail to the coast of the south of France where she landed at Marseilles.
The list of medieval Grail Romance texts is as follows (The Thorton Ms.-Sir Perceval de Galles, is omitted since the grail is not mentioned in this work). And the Wauchier continuation to de Troyes' Conte du Graal is included among the Non-Christian accounts because, although a passage interpolated into some of the later MSS. makes the Grail the vessel Joseph of Arimathea used to receive the Blood which flowed from the wounds of Christ, this is obviously a later addition, since the whole point of the story in Wauchier's account is Gawain's failure to learn what the Grail was:
NON-CHRISTIAN, PRE-CHRISTIAN ORIGIN
Mabinogion "Peredur" (????)
Conte du Graal by Chretien de Troyes. (c. 1180-1190)
Conte du Graal by Wauchier (continuation) (c.1190-1200)
Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1210-1220)
Diu Crone by Heinrich von dem Turlin (c. 1230-1240)
Joseph d'Arimathie by Robert De Boron (c. 1191-1202)
Merlin by Robert De Boron (1191-1202)
Didot-Perceval by Robert De Boron (c. 1191-1202)
Perlesvaus (before 1210)
Conte du Graal (continuation) by Manessier (c. 1210-1220)
Conte du Graal (continuation) by Gerbert (c. 1226-1230)
Queste del Saint Graal (c. 1220-1230)
Grand Saint-Graal (c. 1230-1240)
Christian origin accounts began with Robert De Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie. Pilate gave Joseph the vessel Christ had used at the last supper, and he used it to collect blood from Christ when he washed the body. Joseph was joined by a small company, including his sister and her husband Bron. The title of Fisher King was explained by having a voice instruct Bron to catch a fish. Duh! Joseph along with the small company which included the Virgin Mary brought the Grail to Britain. Later Joseph delivered the Grail to the safe-keeping of Bron, who was now known as the Rich Fisher. Double duh!
In contrast the two main non-Christian origin accounts (de Troyes and Eschenbach) have precedents in folklore and myth going back thousands of years before Christ. Furthermore, Wolfram Von Eschenbach's Parzival, which towers far above all the other accounts, an initiate document of the highest order, and a work of literature, which ranks beside Dante's Divine Comedy, was of the non-Christian origin variety. Compared with Eschenbach other grail authors were mere children parroting in a patchwork fashion stories they had heard told. Eschenbach connect the Grail with both the Templars and the Cathers. He says the Templars are guardians of the Holy Grail, and his work is permeated with dualism, indicating a probable connection with the dualist doctrine of the Cathars. Bacon's allegory in the play is permeated with Cathar ideas.
Of all the people who have written about the Grail Romances the only one who really deserves the title of 'Grail scholar' is Jessie Weston (1850-1928). According to Miss Weston the theory of a Christian origin for the Grail story must be dismissed not merely as 'not proven,' but 'as thoroughly and completely discredited'. This Christian origin story breaks down, as Jesse Weston pointed out, because there is no Christian legend concerning Joseph of Arimathea and the Grail. Neither in Legend, nor in Art, is there any trace of such a story.
Three major types of adventure story were popular at the time the Grail stories first appeared: The Matter of Britain (Matiere de Bretagne), The Matter of Rome, and The Matter of France. The Matter of France told tales about Charlemagne and Roland. The Matter of Rome was made up of classical Latin adventures. The Matter of Britain were a group of Arthurian stories, current when Chretien de Troyes started the ball rolling on the Grail Romances. The main theme of the Grail Romances is the story of a knight on a quest which requires he heal the Fisher King who is dying of a mysterious wound to his genitalia (related in some way to a waste land), and who, upon meeting this King in the Grail Castle, sees a beautiful maiden carrying a mysterious Grail. In the Conte du Graal of Chretien de Troyes, when Perceval (the son of a widow) sees the beautiful maiden carrying the Grail, it is made of pure gold and emits a very brilliant light. The Grail also has the power to heal, and to feed.
An element of both de Troyes' and Eschenbach's account is a strong reflection of "The Great Fool" motif of the Welsh "Lay of The Great Fool". As a child, the hero, instinctively knows how to make bows and arrows, but after he kills a singing bird he weeps when the bird stops singing and does not understand why it stopped. He thinks the first knight he sees is God because the metal armor shines, and his mother has told him God shines like a summer day. When he insists on going away to the court of King Arthur to become a knight, although he is too young, his mothers dresses him in fool's clothing and gives him a broken down steed to ride (shades of Don Quixote).
Because he is a fool, the young Grail knight unwittingly and frequently causes harm to others. He rides away, not realizing that behind him his mother has died of a broken heart. At the court of King Arthur, he demands he be made a knight. Arthur tells him to dismount and all would be done in accordance with honor, but he refuses the order, and immediately sets out to met the Red Knight (just as Bertram initially refused the order of the King to marry Helena in AWW, and sets out to the wars). He kills the Red Knight who turns out to be his uncle. There seems to be an oblique reference to this in AWW where Bertram kills brother of the Duke on the opposing side.
An additional element was the fin'amor of the troubadour tradition. For instance, immediately before his adventure at the Grail castle, Percival spent the night in a castle in the wasteland in bed beside a beautiful, naked girl, but did no more than kiss her. Miss Weston analyzed the various accounts of the grail documents and gave the following summary:
"(a) There is a general consensus of evidence to the effect that the main object of theQuest is the restoration to health and vigour of a King suffering from infirmity caused by wounds, sickness, or old age.
(b) Whose infirmity, for some mysterious and unexplained reason, reacts disastrously upon the kingdom, either depriving it of vegetation, or exposing it to the ravages of war.
(c) In two cases it is definitely stated that the King will be restored to youthful vigour and beauty.
d. In both cases where we find Gawain as the hero of the story, and in the one connected with Perceval, the misfortune which has fallen upon the country is that of a prolonged drought, which has destroyed vegetation and left the land Waste; the effect of the hero's question is to restore the waters to their channel, and render the land once more fertile.
e. In three cases the misfortunes and wasting of the land are the result of war, and directly caused by the hero's failure to ask the questions."
Miss Weston found the basic motif of the Grail Romances (ailing king and wasteland) in Folklore and Mythology as far back as 3,000 B.C. in the Sumerian-Babylonian myth of Tammuz, and the later Phoenician-Greek myth of Adonis. In "Venus and Adonis", the poetic 'Shakespeare' treatment of the Adonis myth, the story is that of an obsessed woman pursuing a fair young man who flees her. This is the basic story found in AWW. In the Adonis ritual, women accompanied him to his tomb, weeping and sobbing wildly all night long. Miss Weston noted this feature was also present in the Grail romances, and the Tammuz cult, and there is an allusion to this in AWW.
The Persephone myth of the Eleusinian Mysteries closely parallels the Adonis myth. After Persephone is abducted to the underworld the earth becomes a wasteland (winter), only becoming verdant again when she returns from the underworld (summer). The story is macrocosmic, dealing with the planet as a whole, but also microcosmic since it deals with the individual. Sallust in his Gods of The World tells us the story of the abduction of Persephone to the underworld was a sacred myth concerning the descent of souls.
ELEMENTS COMMON TO BOTH THE SOURCE AND ALL'S WELL
A young man, the son of a Count, is brought up with a young woman, the daughter of a very skilled physician. Both fathers die and the young man is ordered to Paris to become the ward of the King. The young woman is deeply in love with the young man. The King, suffers from a fistula, is dying, and has abandoned all hopes of recovery and refuses to accept further treatment. The young woman goes to Paris hoping to heal the King and obtain the young man's hand in marriage as her reward. The King, reluctant at first to accept her aid, finally accepts, and agrees to give her any man for husband in his kingdom excepting only those of royal blood, if she heals him. The young woman heals the King, and he compels the young man to marry her, but the young man seeing the daughter of a physician as of far too lowly a station to be the wife of a Count, abandons her and goes off to Italy to fight with the Florentines in the wars between the Florentine and the Senoys. The young woman returns to the estate of the Count, but when she receives a letter from the Count saying he will never return to her until she has his ring on her finger, and his child in her arms, goes on a pilgrimage of expiation. She goes to Florence and takes up lodging in the inn of a kindly widow, in the guise of a poor pilgrim. Eager for news of her husband, she happens to see him riding past the inn with his men. The widow tells her he is head over heels in love with a young woman living nearby, who was a virtuous young girl not yet married on account of her poverty. Still wearing her pilgrim's habit the young woman goes to the house of the girl and reveals her true identity. Having persuaded the woman to help her she outlines her plan. Someone will tell her husband the daughter is at his disposal, but only on the condition he proves his love by sending her the ring from his finger. If he does this the woman will hand it over to her and send a message that the daughter is ready to do his bidding. This will cause him unsuspecting to lie with her in total darkness and silence instead of the daughter. The plan is carried out, as a result the young woman becomes pregnant. Soon afterwards the young man, knowing the woman is gone, returns home. After hearing this, she remains in Florence until she gives birth, then goes back to the Count's estate still wearing her pilgrim's garb. She confronts the Count, beseeching him to observe that she has fulfilled the conditions he imposed upon her, for there is the ring and she is holding his son in her arms. When the Count has heard how this came about he can no longer feel hostile to her and honors his promise.
ALL'S WELL THAT END'S WELL: THE MICROCOSM
In Parzival, Eschenbach gives indications that the Grail is an inner experience without precisely identifying it. Bacon tells exactly what The Holy Grail is. The Grail carried by the maiden in the presence of the ailing King in the Grail Romances emitted a brilliant light, and had the power of healing. When Helena ('light' in Greek, changed from Giletta in the source), is in the presence of the ailing King she describes the healing recipe bequeathed from her father:
"Many receipts he gave me, chiefly one,
Which, as the dearest issue of his practice,
And of his old experience th' only darling,
He bade me store up as a triple eye,
Safer than mine own two, more dear."
The reference, as G. Wilson Knight has noted, is to The Third Eye. In this significant addendum to his source Bacon lets us know that Helena [light] is the bearer of the Grail, which is The Third Eye.
What is the Third Eye? There are traditions regarding the Third Eye in various ancient nations. In Egypt it was depicted by the upright cobra (the uraeus) at the center of the forehead. China had a peacock's feather at the center of the forehead, and India had a small red dot in the center of the forehead, called the Tilak.
Hindu tradition describes centers in the human body (charkas) connecting the physical body with the spiritual body. The Ajna charka, located in the forehead between the eyebrows, when activated, is known as the 'Third Eye'. The Hindus call this the eye of the soul. Kundalini, a kind of fire, (Lafeu, "fire" a major character in AWW is not in the source) is the force that ascends the spinal column and activates the Third Eye. It should be noted that in her cure of the King, Helena is aided by Lafeu (fire) and actually brought to the King by Lafeu. When activated the Third Eye connects the physical with the spiritual giving clairvoyance, transcendence of time, vision into the invisible world, and the faculty of gnosis (the individual does not need memory or reason, but simply knows). A number of subsidiary attributes are associated with the activation of the Third Eye. Ailments are healed, the aging process reversed, and the third eye can even provide nourishment. In All's Well Bacon changes his source to insert repeated references showing the King is very old, but then has the King look no older than 30 years of age after his cure.
LaFeu has a daughter, with the rather odd name of 'Maudlin', (not in the source). The name 'maudlin' derives from Magdalene (Maudlin means tearfully emotional, Mary Magdalene was depicted as a tearful penitent). One remembers the weeping woman in connection with the Grail stories, and also that curious legend of the middle ages that Mary Magdalene brought the Grail into France, specifically to the coast at Marseilles, a location brought into the play, seemingly for no good reason, but significant in light of the medieval legend. Bacon has changed the source so it is the daughter of fire who brings the Grail to France.
Christian origin Grail accounts say Joseph of Arimathea, accompanied by the Virgin Mary brought the Grail to England. AWW changes the source, so that Helena in Florence (the underworld, or realm of materiality) encounters a small group on the street which includes the old Widow, Diana, Violenta, and Mariana. Violenta is Italian for violence; Mariana a variant spelling of the name of the Virgin Mary; and Diana is the moon goddess, regent of the sublunary sphere (earth, or realm of materiality). By making Mary Magdalene, who brought the Grail to France, the daughter of fire, thus putting her in the realm above materiality, and putting the Virgin Mary (who in the Christian origin Grail romances is with the group who brought the Grail to England) in the sphere of materiality and violence, Bacon fashions an allusion contrasting the two branches of the Grail Legend, showing which is true.
The Hindu tilak, or small red dot, tattooed on the center of the forehead symbolizes the need to cultivate the super-mental consciousness achieved by opening the mystic "third eye". They stress the need for meditation and asceticism to activate this center. A shining ball of golden light, like a miniature sun, located in the area of this Chakra, is said to accompany the activation of this center.
Hinduism says our world is a realm of illusion. Trapped in this illusion the soul goes through the endless chain of transmigrations. But when it achieves realization it sees that all is illusion, and attains freedom. The Third Eye is the door to freedom. Among the Hindu asceticism and deep meditation were widespread. The Cathars were devoted to this also. A woman of Poylaurens told the inquisitors of the 'extraordinary sight' of a Cathar Perfect seated in his chair 'motionless as a tree trunk, insensible to his surrounding.'
The Grail Romances give many clues of the real nature of the Grail. The Grail is a gold vessel which emits a strong light. In addition to the strong light associated with the Grail it also had the power to heal, to feed, and to reverse the aging process. The encounter with the Grail is an inner experience. Wolfram's Parzival begins with a detailed description of the Visuddha, (i.e. the throat center charka, described in the Yoga system as a 16 petal lotus blossom), describing a city called Petalamund with 16 gates against which there is a battle waged by two separate armies. A white army lays siege to 8 of the gates, and a black army to the other 8 gates.
This is followed by other indications that the account is an initiate document giving a detailed, and technical, account of the inner initiation experience.
According to Eschenbach the Grail tale was found in Spain. The allusion to Spain is very cleverly worked into AWW (in another change to the source). In a short conversation the Countess twice addresses her steward as Rinaldo. There is no reason for this, and it is all the more odd that she does it twice. This is obviously one of Bacon's allusions. In stories popular at the time the Grail stories were originated were those called the Matter Of France. These stories were about the court of Charlemagne and his illustrious knights. Next to Orlando the most illustrious knight was Rinaldo, but Rinaldo was banished from the Court of Charlemagne, and went to Spain, and served the king there.
Light is a common theme in association with the inner experience. In "Spiritual Guidance in Contemporary Taoism" Edwin Rousselle says, "The novice is led to perceive the third 'celestial eye' in the middle of the forehead; this is the true 'sun'". Data regarding "Third Eye" has all the phenomena needed to identify the Grail. In response to the question, "Please explain what was meant by the spiritual, or third eye", Edgar Cayce, the American Seer, in reading 262-20 described how there is a mechanism in the physical body by which spiritual forces may manifest in a material world. He said:
"In the body we find that which connects the pineal, the pituitary, and lyden, which may be truly called the silver cord, or the golden cup that may be filled with a closer walk with that which is the creative essence in the physical"
Edgar Cayce associated light, healing and sustenance with the Third Eye.
In the Taoist Secret of the Golden Flower, contact with the Third Eye is followed by the process known as the circulation of the light. In alchemy the process concerns the Philosopher's Stone. Once the alchemist contacts the inner light, known as the First Matter in alchemy, this embryo of the higher self is nourished and made to grow, to heal, transmute, and regenerate all of the lower nature. Repeated this process brings about the death of the lower man, and the birth of the New Man. When Eschenbach called the Grail a stone fallen from heaven he designated it as the Philosopher's Stone of the alchemists. After Helena heals the King, he gives her a ring. This ring is very special. The King later tells us that Plutus himself [the god of riches]:
"That knows the tinct and multiplying med'cine, Hath not in nature's mystery more science Than I have in this ring."
The ring is the alchemist's philosopher's stone that transmutes base natures into gold. That it is a ring further equates it with the circulation of light of the Taoist doctrine. In Bacon's allegory this ring is connected to the conception of the infant in Helena. In the Taoist allegory the circulation of light results in the conception of the puer aeternus, the eternal child, who will become the New Man.
Kundalini is the life force. It can either be used for reproduction in sex, or raised up the spine to activate the various spiritual centers, including the Third Eye. Activation of the Third Eye requires abstinence from sex so the Kundalini force may accumulate before ascending the spine. In the addition to the source where Helena and Parolles have a frank discussion of virginity, Helena strongly favors virginity. This is odd since Helena ardently pursues Bertram, and uses the bed-trick to have sex with him. But if the allegory depicts not physical sex, but the union between soul and spirit in connection with the activation of the Third Eye, the dialogue is a very apropos part of the allegory.
In AWW Bertram enters the bed where he has the union with Helena in total darkness and silence. This obviously parallels the ceremony in the Mysteries of Eleusis where the conception of the holy child takes place. The mystai entered the Pastos, the bridal bed, in total darkness. Asterius, Bishop of Amaseia at the turn of the fifth century says of this crowning rite of the Mysteries:
"Is there not performed the descent into darkness, the venerated congress of the Hierophant with the priestess, of him alone with her alone? Are not the torches extinguished and does not the vast and countless assemblage believe that in what is done by the two in the darkness is their salvation?"
After a preceding purification the Mystai, having been given some type of psychedelic drink, entered the Pastos, was struck with the 'Rod of Initiation' which produced a trance like state. The epoptic vision followed. Divine light, and visions, opened up before the mystai, i.e., the opening of the Third Eye resulted in the epoptic vision. This experience was viewed as a symbolic death and connected with the symbolic birth of a child. Both of these are present in AWW. We learn Helena made her pilgrimage to St. Jaques, and the rector said she died while there. (In the source Giletta lies with Beltramo several times, has twins, and there no mention of her death).
In the source we are told merely that Giletta goes on a pilgrimage. In All's Well she goes on a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostela. Next we find her at Marseilles and from there she goes directly to Rossillion (changed from Rousillion in the source). Rossillion sounds suspiciously like Rosslyn. Rosslyn derives from 'ros', the occult 'dew'. Accounts of the Third Eye experience include descriptions of a sensation as if dew was spread across the forehead. In the Edgar Cayce records a woman described a cool wet sensation during meditation as if menthol had been spread across her forehead. This was the 'ros' or occult dew.
Tim Wallace-Murphy & Marilyn Hopkins in, "ROSSLYN Guardian Of The Secrets Of The Holy Grail" tell us that, according to Trevor Ravenscroft, even before the advent of Christianity, Celtic pilgrims who worshipped the earth goddess journeyed from Iberia to Scotland via the seven planetary oracles corresponding to the seven charkas within them, and to the planets of our solar system: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Ravenscroft believed pilgrims journeyed from Compostela to Rosslyn, calling at each of the sites in turn, so the path corresponded to the path of the Kundalini force ascending up through the centers to eventually arrive at the pituitary center (Rosslyn) where the Third Eye is activated. The following is their graphic modified to show the location of Marseilles:
Cathars said humans were in the material world because the divine spark from the celestial fire had been trapped in the prison of the body, and doomed to go through the chain of transmigrations. This raised a question. How could an immaterial divine spark be caged in a coarse physical body? Cathars said the divine spark, prisoner of the human body, has left its angelic body (soul) in Heaven. Humans were torn and separated. The physical body/divine spark was linked to the soul which floated between Heaven and Earth searching for the divine spark which was its double. When found, and united with it the soul, humans would become Cathar, meaning 'perfect'. No longer divided they would become androgynous, no longer experiencing sexual desires, and ready to reenter heaven.
Helena is the soul searching for Bertram, the divine spark linked to her. In the play the marriage symbolizes the link between the two. Bacon said:
"For of the knowledges which contemplate the works of Nature, the holy Philosopher hath said expressly; that the glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the King [i.e., man] is to find it out."
Man is the King whose mortal illness is the separation of his soul and spirit. The cure is the "Third Eye" which brings the two together. The cure is effected by Helena who, in one aspect of the symbolism, represents fin'amor, or pure love. In AWW (in another significant change to the source) the Countess hopes that when Helena hears Bertram has returned to Rosillion, Helena, led by pure love, will also return.
In the Parzival of Eschenbach, instead of the twin aspects of the same individual, Helena and Bertram, there is the twin aspects of the same individual Gawain and Parzival, and instead of the contretemps between Helena and Bertram, there is the battle of Gawain and Parzival at the head at the head of two opposing armies. The symbolism is the same.
The soul seeking to retrieve the Divine Spark from the underworld where it had fallen is depicted in the myth of the dying god, which has become a common idea since James Frazer published "The Golden Bough". The ancients believed a correspondence existed between the sun and the divine spark, that the divine spark reflected events in the story of the sun. The sun during its annual cycle descended below the equator during the winter months and returned to the upper world above the equator during the summer months. The divine spark descended into the underworld (the earth) when it incarnated, and returned to the upper world between incarnations. This drama was an allegory of the soul seeking its spirit double. Tammuz and Ishtar (antedating 3,000 B.C.); Adonis; Atys; and Persephone are all instances of the dying god myth.
Sallust said the myth of Persephone dealt with the descent of souls (i.e., of the 'divine spark') . In the myth of Tammuz and Ishtar, Ishtar descends to the underworld to save Tammuz, who has died, i.e., the soul descends into the realm of materiality to bring back her double, the divine spark, which has fallen into the realm of matter. The manner of his death is obscure, but accusations made by Izdubar indicate Ishtar, indirectly at least, caused him to go to the underworld. In AWW Helena indirectly causes Bertram to go to Florence (the underworld). Helena goes after him, just as Ishtar went after Tammuz, and succeeds in effecting his return just as did Ishtar. The allegory is a profoundly esoteric doctrine of the relationship between the soul and the divine spark.
The Phoenician-Greek myth of Venus and Adonis had many elements of the tradition that later resurfaced during the middle ages in the Grail Romances. On a physical level Venus and Adonis was a thinly veiled allegory of the annual summer/winter cycle of the planet. In this symbolism Adonis was the sun. Helena says of Bertram, "Indian-like, religious in mine error, I adore the sun that looks upon his worshipper but knows of him no more." She is the earthly Venus, or nature, seeking union with the sun who engenders all growth in nature. But the earthly Venus, like Helena, is low-born. The sun flees her to meet his death, being gored in the reproductive organs by the boar of winter, and descends below the earth. Yet he spend only the winter months in the underworld, and the summer months in the upper world. The AWW change to the source where Helena, in Florence (the underworld), makes the statement, "Time will bring on summer All's Well That Ends Well", has the same idea. In Shakespeare's, Venus and Adonis, Adonis is referred to as a boy, 'tender boy', 'flint-hearted boy', 'sweet boy'. In AWW Bertram is referred to as boy, 'proud scornful boy', 'these boys are boys of ice', 'foolish, idle boy'. Bertram flees Helena just as Adonis fled Venus, and Venus says to Adonis:
"Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou feed
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead"
The similarity with the Sonnets where the fair young man is urged to breed is obvious:
In the initial appearance of some of these sonnets in the 1599 Passionate Pilgrim, the fair young man is Adonis, and the woman Venus. Commentators have noted connections between AWW and the Sonnets.
Bacon carries the idea further, in the final analysis he depicts not dying god, but God dying. In AWW the name of the young woman (Giletta in the source) is changed to Helena ('Light'), and a new character Lafeu ('Fire') is added. The ancient philosophers said the realm above the physical was a realm of light and fire. Moreover, there was a war in this realm just as in AWW. Revelations (Chapter 12) says there appeared a wonder in heaven:
a great red dragon and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them down to the earth. And there was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon fought and his angels, and the great dragon was cast out of heaven into the earth along with his angels.
In the scene where Helena watches Bertram passing with the army, the Widow says:
So, now they come.
That is Antonio, the Duke's eldest son;
This significant change to the source connects the play to Measure for Measure. The ancient Lord, Escalus, was a counselor to Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure. AWW has numerous similarities of plot. M. C. Bradbrook lists these as:
The rejection of a devoted bride for insufficiency; a compelled marriage ordered by the ruler; the substitution of one woman for another; the false self-accusation of the chaste woman; the prolonged lying from the culprit; all culminating in his exposure through the arrival of an absent person, and the slanderer who speaks ill of his lord is unmasked in public.
Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure is the evil god of the material world, that old fantastical Duke of Dark Corners. (Since Vincentio is modeled after King James, this also tells us Bacon's real opinion of King James). Angelo symbolized the fallen angels. This admits us to the allegorical context of the drama in AWW. This is moderate or mitigated dualism where there is a higher principle and two equal and opposing subordinate principles of light/good and evil/darkness. These two are in absolute and unrelenting conflict. Bacon expresses this opposition in a graphic simile. They are 'by the ears'. This evokes the image of two fighting dogs held by the ears, reared up on their hind legs in the struggle to get at each other. The King is the higher principle in this allegory, and Florence and Senoy the two lower principles. The King says they are equally matched so the war continues.
The Duke of Florence is the Evil God who rules the material world. The plays usually personify God as a Duke because Bacon follows the concept in which the God of the material world is a subordinate deity. Bacon's dualism seems close to the variant of Mazadaism named Zervanism. In Zervanism the opposing principles of goodness and light/evil and darkness, i.e., Ahura-Mazda and Ahriman were emanations of the higher principle Zervan, which meant "time" in the Zend language. In AWW the King is elderly, he says haggish age did steal on him (a significant modification from the source) and Bacon creates a whole cast of elderly characters &endash; The Countess, The King, Lafeu, and The Widow.
In Cathar theology the evil god, who rules the world, has trapped the divine sparks from the celestial fire above in the prison of bodies made of matter, where they are doomed to go through the endless chain of transmigrations. The Cathars knew him as The Prince of darkness; Satan; Prince of the World; or Rex Mundi (The King of the World). For the Cathars a perpetual war was waged throughout all creation between these two irreconcilable principles, and the Roman Catholic Church was a tool the Evil God had set up for the purpose of keeping human souls trapped in the material world.
This idea was connected with the legend of the Fallen Angels. Satan rebelled, and fell. The angels did not know what a woman was, so Satan showed one he had made to them. Many angels followed Satan, and fell. This refers to ideas in Genesis and the Book of Enoch where angels inflamed by lust for the daughters of men fell into materiality. We see a reflection of this in the change Bacon made to his source where the Clown seeks The Countess's good will to go to the world and marry. He wants to have issue of his body. The Countess demands why he will marry. He says his body requires it, that he is driven by the flesh, and he needs must go that the devil drives. This theme is continued later in the play where the Clown says to Lafeu, if I cannot serve you I can serve as great a prince as you are. When Lafeu asks who, he replies The Black Prince, sir; alias the Prince of Darkness; alias, the devil.
Although the King refuses to aid the Florentines, and his sympathies appear to be with the Senoys, he gives his gentlemen who want to see Tuscan service leave freely to take part on either side. In fact, he encourages them to go off to the war. Then he makes a statement (an addition to the source) that has a direct link with the legend of the Fallen Angels who were enticed by lust for the daughters of men. The King warns the Lords going off to war:
Those girls of Italy, take heed of them;
They say our French lack language to deny,
If they demand; beware of being captives
Before you serve.
But Bertram is no sooner in Florence than he is subject to lust. And he has a very significant object of his lust. The daughter of the widow who Bertram seeks to bed (unnamed in the source) is given the name Diana. Diana was the goddess of the moon, the regent of the sublunary realm, representing therefore the sphere of materiality into which Bertram has fallen. Therefore Diana symbolizes the daughters of men.
Satan is sometimes called the Lord of Lies, but ancient sources apply this title more appropriately to an evil being closely associated with Satan, Belial (worthlessness, the spirit of lies). According to the Dead Sea Scrolls the power of Belial was destined to be annihilated forever in the impending final war between the forces of good and evil, and of Truth and Untruth, when Belial, the lieutenant of the God of Darkness, would be exposed for what he was.
Bertram is seduced by Parolles (a character Bacon adds in AWW), into leaving the court of the King of France and taking part in the war on the side of the Florentines. Parolles ('words') is depicted as a detestable and worthless character, despised by every one in the play except Bertram who also comes to despise him before the play ends. He seems to represent the arch tempter Belial. Belial means 'worthlessness', and this is how Parolles is depicted in the play. Lafeu says of Parolles that his master is the devil, and refuses to recognize him as a member of the human race.
The fallen angels were divine sparks that descended from the realm of fire and light above, thus in the addition to the source in AWW Parolles tells the Lords why Bertram does not go off to the war, "Tis not his fault, the spark." He says, and the second lord says, "O, 'tis brave wars!" Parolles urges Bertram to go off to the war. The Lords bid farewell as they go off to the war, and Parolles addresses them as good sparks. Parolles tells Bertram the lords, wear themselves in the cap of time; and though the devil lead the measure, such are to be followed.
Since James Frazer published "The Golden Bough" the theme of the dying god has become a common idea. But this is not dying god, this is God dying, an idea that conflicts with orthodox theology viewing God. The fistula seems to represent the portion of His body lost when the divine sparks were seduced into the dark world of matter below. God is the Fisher King who seeks to draw them back up from that dark world (represented by the water of the river of Samsara).
This is a strange idea that the supreme God should have an ailment from which He is dying. The resolution to the conundrum seems to be, this is not God per se, but man's God. Millennia ago something happened to man's God that inflicted this ailment on Him. God and Goddess are one, but man's God became sterile because man separated Him from the Goddess. Only The Goddess can heal him, and bring the fallen spirits back from materiality.
From the most remote antiquity comes the story of The Goddess and her dying son, for whom she was, at the same time, virgin, mother, mistress and lover. Helena reveals her identity in the 'virginity' dialogue with Parolles, when referring to Bertram and to herself, she says:
There shall your master have a thousand loves,
A mother, and a mistress, and a friend.
A phoenix, captain, and an enemy,
A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
A counselor, a traitress, and a dear;
This summarizes the attributes of the Goddess. (See The Myth of The Goddess by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, and also the speech of the Goddess when she appears to Lucius in the book by Apulieus, The Golden Ass.)
In the episode where Parolles is exposed a Florentine company drum has been captured by the Sienese. Parolles proposes to retrieve it single-handed. The drum symbolizes empty noise, the very essence of Parolles. The evil God is the shadow of the good God. Bacon said words were the shadow of things. In the scene (an addition to the source) where Parolles 'words' is exposed, meaningless words are the instrument of his exposure.
Accounts enumerate millions of Fallen Angels. 3 Enoch has references to the horses of these angels. Near the end of AWW we are told that the army of Florence is breaking up, and they have only five or six thousand horses left. It is significant that in All's Well the exposure of Parolles, the end of the war, and the return of the participants to France (free) all go together.
Bertram depicts the young fool of the Grail Romances, the 'proud, scornful boy' as the King calls him. His ultimate rejection of Parolles when he is forced to realize Parolles for what he is, is expressed with juvenile spite, "I could endure anything but a Cat, and now he a Cat to me." Bertram should have embraced Helena and rejected the Parolles, but it is a litmus test of his nature as young fool that he does just the opposite.
Endgame, after the war between the two principles ends, is The Final Judgment. Thus the last scene (in a complete change from the source) is a Judgment Day scene, wrapping up the symbolism of the overall allegory. The King accedes to the plea of the Countess that Bertram's defection was a natural rebellion done in the blaze of youth, and says all is forgiven and all is forgotten. But suspicion of Bertram's culpability in the death of Helena arises, charge and countercharge follows. The appearance of Helena resolves all. Helena and Bertram with mutual pledges of love are united.
The ending problem, that sticks in the craw of our estimable pundits, is Bertram. Dr. Johnson put it in a nutshell long ago:
"I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram; a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helena as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate; when she is dead by his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a woman whom he has wronged, defends himself by falsehood, and is dismissed to happiness."
Bertram's faults seem to tarnish Helena because she idolizes Bertram, and to tarnish the play because the unredeemable Bertram is redeemed. Critics clamor that both the ending and the play is a failure, and that All's Well That Ends Well does not end well. What they do not realize, because they are unable to follow the allegory, is that their objection has already been anticipated and overruled with unassailable logic, a reductio ad absurdum that leaves no ground for objection. The allegory depicts Bertram tried, judged, and exonerated in the higher court of God. To say the play fails because Bertram is redeemed is tantamount to saying God fails. The ending is a 'perceived problem' only, and results from the critic's failure to understanding the allegory.
ASPECT OF KNOWLEDGE FROM THE PRESENT
The Oxfordians (people who believe Edward de Vere wrote the 'Shakespeare' plays) all agree that Bertram is Edward de Vere. And they are right. In the 1836, Histories of Essex, by Morant and Wright, T.J. Looney, the appropriately named fellow who first set them all baying off on the wrong track, found the following passage about the rupture between the Earl and Countess of Oxford:
"He forsook his lady's bed, [but] the father of Lady Anne by stratagem, contrived that her husband should unknowingly sleep with her, believing her to be another woman, and she bore a son to him in consequence of this meeting."
Having read this Looney penned the following loony words, "We would willingly be spared the penning of such matters", but for "its importance as evidence". Other facts matching those found in AWW, was that that de Vere, a martial type of exceptional fighting ability, forced by the monarch to marry Anne, the low-born daughter of Burghley, left Paris to seek military service in Italy. But the parallels between the detestable character of de Vere and the character of Bertram are most pertinent.
Perhaps the most revealing window into the true character of Bertram in the play comes when, supposedly a changed man, after hearing of the death of Helena, he comes sauntering out, completely unfeeling, completely self-centered, and completely self-satisfied, and says to the Lord:
"I have to-night dispatch'd sixteen businesses, a month's length apiece; by an abstract of success: I have congied with the Duke, done my adieu with his nearest; buried a wife, mourn'd for her; writ to my lady mother I am returning; entertain'd my convoy; and between these main parcel of dispatch effected many nicer needs. The last was the greatest, but I have not ended yet." [The 'last' refers to bedding Diana]
The news that Helena was dead caused him to have a change of heart, to discover her worth and that he loved her? So how much time does he spend mourning her? Ten minutes? And he lumps her in with all those other matters, and furthermore says the greatest matter was his bedding Diana.
Harold Goddard says of Bertram:
"Moreover, he [Shakespeare] has blackened Bertram so utterly that, though we admit the general possibility of miracles, this particular combination of green boy, mettlesome animal, and arrogant young count seems to have placed him beyond the pale . Cad! It is the word that seems to spring to almost every lip in the attempt to characterize this blackguardly young count with his precious 'honor'."
M.C. Bradbrook notes that:
"The Elizabethan code of honor supposed a gentleman to be absolutely incapable of a lie. In law his word without an oath was in some places held to be sufficient. To give the lie was the deadliest of all insults and could not be wiped out except in blood. Honor was irretrievably lost only by lies or cowardice. These were more disgraceful than any crimes of violence. Alone among Shakespeare's heroes, Bertram is guilty of the lie."
Bertram returned from the war with a 'patch of velvet' covering one cheek. Such patches were used to cover scars won in battle, but also to cover syphilitic ulcers. The Fool (a character often used in the 'Shakespeare' works to pronounce unsavory truths) suggests Bertram's was used for the latter purpose. De Vere died in 1604 at the age of 54 of some mystery illness. It could very well have been syphilitic. Bacon would have known the real facts. The register of the Church of St. Augustine in Hackney where de Vere was buried , had the annotation "The plague", but this could have well been a cover up for his real illness.
These sordid characteristics of Bertram reflect Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, like a mirror. The Oxfordians, detecting the play's depiction of their hero (only God, or students of aberrant psychology have any hope of understanding why he is their hero) are absolutely certain that this means he was the author of the play. On the other hand, if not for that curious deficiency in reasoning power that characterizes all Oxfordians, it might occur to them that it would be totally preposterous that de Vere would have, as Goddard said, "blackened Bertram so utterly", since Bertram was de Vere himself, that same himself of which de Vere was vain beyond all measure.
ASPECT OF KNOWLEDGE FROM THE FUTURE
The play certainly has an aspect of knowledge from the future demonstrating the operation of Bacon's discovery device in the inquiry into some particular in nature related to the compendium from the past, but the details of this would serve no useful purpose, and would make this study (already over long) even longer.
see : The Shakespeare-Bacon Essays of Mather Walker