The Stratfordian and Baconian Theories

In the Light of Science



When Mark Twain quipped,

"In Paris even the children speak French,"

he touched, with his wonderful comedic genius, an important aspect of language acquisition that would only be investigated and understood in the second half of the next century. The scientific study of language acquisition falls under the umbrella of Developmental Psycholinguistics (DPL), a special sub division of Psycholinguistics, that arose in the 1960's. This is one of the many disciplines covered under the more general field of Linguistics. Although it had a slow beginning the study of language acquisition made great strides in the 20th century. The relevancy for the present article is that information developed by that discipline has an important bearing on the question of William Shakespeare's authorship (Stratfordian Theory). It provides data that constitutes a very solid basis for ruling out the Stratfordian Theory, while at the same time providing strong support for the Baconian Theory. This is further supported by data from Developmental Psychology (DP). Before extracting and applying the relevant information from these two fields a brief overview is in order.

"In the beginning all was void and a darkness was on the face of the deep"



For most of the first six decades of the 20th century, the dominating theory of linguistics was Behaviorism, a theory of learning described by the psychologist John B. Watson in 1923. Language acquisition was believed to be the product of interaction with the environment through stimulus-response conditioning. The Russian psychologist Pavlov, at the turn of the 20th century, trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell by giving them food when the bell was rung. The conditioned stimulus (CS), the bell, substituted for food in causing the conditioned response (CR), salivation. Behaviourism was at least passively accepted by the influential Bloomfieldian structuralist school in Linguistics, which were influenced by the work of the American linguist Leonard Bloomfield, whose major 1933 work "Language" endorsed Behaviourism. The psychologist B.F. Skinner produced a Behaviourist account of language acquisition in 1957 in which linguistic utterances served as CS and CR.

In broad outline it was believed that language acquisition was effected through stimulus-response learning as follows: Some event in the environment (the unconditioned stimulus, or US) elicited an unconditioned response (UR) from an organism capable of learning. That response was then followed by another event pleasing to the organism. That is, the organisms response was positively reinforced (PR). If the sequence US-UR-PR recurred a sufficient number of times, the organism would learn to associated its response to the stimulus with the reinforcement, and would produce the response regularly when confronted with the stimulus. In this way, the response would become a conditioned response (CR), and sequential stimuli eventually resulted in language acquisition.

Behaviourist accounts had a certain intrinsic appeal because of their essential theoretical simplicity, andbecause of the success of numerous controlled learning experiments. But with the accumulation of datarelating to the acquisition of language this was countered by the Nativist position that the rapidity of language development, in the absence of concerted explicit instruction, and often with variable data in the immediate environment, could only be explained on the assumption that there is innate linguistic knowledge determining the direction of language development and constraining to a considerable degree that final form that adult linguistic knowledge will take.

And Chomsky said, "Let There Be Light, and There Was Light!"

Even today, people tend to believe that children acquire their mother tongue through imitation of the parents, caregivers or the people in their environment. Linguists too had the same conviction until 1957, when a then relatively unknown young man, Noam Chomsky, a young linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (b. 1928), propounded his theory that the capacity to acquire language is in fact innate. Chomsky questioned the views of Skinner in 1959 in his, "Review of B.F. Skinner, Verbal Behavior. in Language", and with the publication of Language and Mind (Chomsky 1963), and with "Aspects of the Theory of Syntax" in 1964, mainstream linguistics became fundamentally Nativist. This idea revolutionized the study of language acquisition, and after a brief period of controversy upon the publication of the last book cited above, his theories are now generally accepted as largely true. As a consequence, he was responsible for the emergence of a new field during the 1960s, Developmental Psycholinguistics, which deals with children’s L1 acquisition. Finally in his 1988, "Language and the problems of knowledge", Chomsky presented his definitive theory declaring that we acquire language not just because we are taught it, but because we are born with the principles of language. According to Chomsky, they're in our genes. We have language, he said, not because of nurture, but because of nature.

Chomsky’s Innate Hypothesis is based on the observation of a number of indisputable facts in relation to language acquisition:

All children, regardless of I.Q. level, can acquire language;
Children acquire language effortlessly, and in a relatively short period of time;
Children do not have to be taught formally to acquire language;
Language is a complex system;
Children discover the system of language from a small, unsystematic amount of data;
Language acquisition involves very little imitation;
Language acquisition is an active process, involving ‘mental computation’: Children say things that they have never heard from adults, e.g. camed.

From these observations, Chomsky drew the following conclusions:

Infants are born with what he termed a Language Acquisition Device (LAD). This area cannot be pinpointed in the brain, but is generally presumed to exist through the neurological networks we have developed; Exposure is all that is necessary for a child to learn language.

Chomsky’s first conclusion is drawn from the assumption that, as the brain is divided into specialized areas, so the LAD is among them. Like learning to walk or developing limbs, the human facility for language is inherent in our genes, and just as we are designed to walk upright rather than climb trees, so we are designed to talk. Language acquisition, as opposed to language learning (which implies a degree of consciousness in relation to the process), is as natural as human physical growth.

Not all aspects of language are innate, however Chomsky has claimed that in fact we are all born with what he terms a Universal Grammar, an inherent sensitivity to linguistic structure and patterns applicable to every human language. From this point (at the cooing stage), a child begins to reproduce the particular language-specific sounds he encounters in his linguistic environment, and these are the sounds he eventually produces when he acquires the lexis and specific grammar of his own language. To summarize in Saussurian terms, then, the child is born with an innate capacity for language and parole, but needs to learn the language.

Certain standard aspects span the whole range of language acquisition. Many of the most complex aspects of language are mastered by three- and four-year-old children. All children follow roughly the same path in language development, and reach essentially many of the same conclusions about language, despite differences in experience. All preschool children, for example, have mastered several complex aspects of the syntax and semantics of the language they are learning. This suggests certain aspects of syntax and semantics are not taught to children, but are innate. Further underscoring this conclusion is the finding, from experimental studies with children, that knowledge about some aspects of syntax and semantics sometimes develops in the absence of corresponding evidence from the environment.

To explain this remarkable collection of facts about language development, linguists attempted to formulate a theory of linguistic principles that apply to all natural languages. These principles, known as Linguistic Universals, offer insight into the acquisition scenario: why language is universal, why it is mastered so rapidly, and why there are often only loose or incomplete connections between linguistic knowledge and experience. These features of development follow from a single premise--that Linguistic Universals are part of a human 'instinct' to learn language, of a biological blueprint for language development.

There is another way in which knowledge of language and real-world experience are kept apart in the minds of children; they do not always base their understanding of language on what they have come to know from experience. Children are able to tell when sentences are false, as well as when they are true. This means they use their knowledge of language structure in comprehending sentences, even if this entails ignoring their wishes and the beliefs they have formed about the world around them.

And Lenneberg made two great lights

But then, along came a neuropsychologist named Lenneberg who added a special twist to Chomsky's ideas. Eric Lenneberg agreed we're born with the principles of language, but said there is a deadline for applying them. Lenneberg proposed a "critical period hypothesis," suggesting there's a Critial Learning Period (CLP) in the life of humans when they're ripe for learning languages . If a first language isn't acquired by puberty, according to Lenneberg, it may be too late. (Lenneberg, Eric. H. (1967). Biological foundations of language. New York: Wiley.)

Between the ages of two and three years language emerges by an interaction of maturation and self-programmed learning. Between the ages of three and the early teens the possibility for primary language acquisition constitutes to be good; the individual appears to be most sensitive to stimuli at this time and to preserve some innate flexibility for the organization of brain functions to carry out the compex integration of sub-processes necessary for the smooth elaboration of speech and language. After puberty, the ability for self-organization and adjustment to the physiological demands of verbal behavior quickly declines.

The brain behaves as if it had become set in its ways and primary, basic skills not acquired by that time usually remain deficient for life (Lenneberg 1967:158).

The Critical Learning Period between the ages of 2-7 suggests that first language learning, just like walking, is an innate capacity of human beings triggered by a level of development more than feedback from the environment. That is, so long as a child hears a language-any language-when they reach this critical period they will learn it perfectly. Conversely, any child not hearing language during the second critical learning period (that is by puberty) not only will not learn to speak but also will not be able to learn to speak.

In addition, the quality of the language they learn is in direct proportion to the quality of the language they are exposed to during the CLP, and this quality of language learned is part of their permanent heritage from the Critical Learning Period. Second language researchers have also looked at this hypothesis in relation to second and additional language learning. It was argued that L2 acquisition also has a critical period. This period ends around puberty. It is quite well known that people are relatively incapable of acquiring a native-like accent of the L2 after the age of puberty. And in addition, the ability to learn additional languages is limited or augmented by the quality of the first language learning during the 2-7 year Critical Learning Period, and whether additional languages were learned prior to puberty. That is, people often learn additional languages after puberty, but not with the degree of mastery of those learned before puberty, and their degree of proficiency is in direct ratio to the degree of proficiency of the learning acquired during the critical learning period.

During the 2-7 year period children show an uncanny ability to absorb language in all its complexities, and not just one language! But the language must be used in the child's environment in the first years of his or her life, in the sense that one or more persons should speak the "extra" language to the child. Amazingly, Psycholinguists have found that if two, three, four or five different persons speak different languages around the child, the child can easily absorb them all without any particular effort, during this critical period provided each person speaks to the child ALWAYS AND ONLY in their language. But this is possible only in the first years of life.

Two important bodies of evidence to support the Lenneberg hypotheses comes from the so-called Wild Boy of Aveyron, Victor, and from the case of the young girl who was called "Genie".. Victor is the name given to a boy found roaming the woods of Averyon in southern France toward the end of September 1799. He behaved like a wild animal and gave all indications that he had been raised by wild animals, eating off the floor, making canine noises, disliking baths and clothes. He also could not speak. He was taken in by Doctor Jean Marc Itard who had developed a reputation for teaching the deaf to speak. However, after years of work, Itard failed to teach Victor to more than a few lexemes.

A similar event unfolded in Los Angeles in 1961 when a 13-year-old girl was discovered who had been isolated in a baby crib most of her life and never spoken to. She was physically immature, had difficulty walking and could not speak. Psychologists at UCLA spent years trying to teach 'Genie', as they called her to protect her identity, to speak. While Genie did get to the point she could communicate, her speech never advanced beyond the kind of constructions that precede the point where the language explosion in normal children begins. In other words, she could use words to the same extent as chimpanzees but could not manipulate grammar, as indicated in the prefixes, suffixes and 'function' words, and at middle age she stopped talking altogether and was soon committed to a mental institution.

Another strong support for the Critical Period Theory was the study done by Johnson and Newport, in reference to second language acquisition. In 1989, Johnson and Newport proposed the "maturational state hypothesis" which states that "early in life (i.e., infancy to puberty), humans have superior capacity for acquiring languages. This capacity disappears of declines with maturation." In order to test this hypothesis, forty-six native Korean and Chinese speakers were tested with regards to basic English grammar. These subjects had emigrated to the United States three to twenty-six years ago, between the ages of three and thirty-nine. Johnson and Newport concluded the following:

Subjects who arrived in the United States before age of seven reached native performance on the test. Arrivals after that age showed was a linear decline in performance through puberty. Arrivals after puberty performed on average much more poorly than earlier arrivals. After puberty performance did not continue to decline with increasing age. Instead, while performing on the whole more poorly than younger arrivals, they distinguished itself by having marked individual differences in performance, something not found in earlier arrivals. Thus language learning ability slowly declines as the human matures and plateaus at a low level after puberty. The precise level of this plateau depends on individual differences.

His views has been widely accepted because of its clear explanation for difficulties in second language learning after puberty. It explains well our experience of seeing small children speak foreign languages quite naturally, and the experience of hearing unnatural foreign accents in the speech of adult learners.

Because it is difficult to fix the exact span of years during which language learning can take place naturally, some researchers have presented a revised version of the CPH. They use the term 'sensitive period,' rather than 'critical period,' for second language acquisition. The question is whether acquisition is 'possible only within the definite span of age, or 'easier within the period.' Oyama (1979:88) says sensitive periods are preceded and followed by less responsive periods. Seliger's (1978) says there may be multiple critical or sensitive periods for different aspects of language. The period 'during which a native accent is easily acquirable' appears to end earlier than the period governing the acquisition of a native grammar.

Various aspects of research, including behavioral and neural, suggest a critical or sensitive period for language acquisition. Many studies demonstrate a close relation between the age of exposure to a language and the ultimate proficiency achieved in that language (Newport, 1990: Emmorey & Corina, 1990; Mayberry & Fischer, 1989; Johnson & Newport, 1989, 1991; Oyama, 1973; Patkowski, 1980; Krashen, Long, & Scarcella, 1982; Long, 1990). Peak proficiency in the language, in terms of control over the sound system as well as the grammatical structure, is displayed by those whose exposure to that language begins in infancy or very early childhood. With increasing ages of exposure there is a decline in average proficiency, beginning as early as ages 4 to 6 and continuing until proficiency plateaus for adult learners (Johnson & Newport, 1989, 1991; Newport, 1990). Learners exposed to the language in adulthood show, on average, a lower level of performance in many aspects of the language, though some individuals may approach the proficiency of early learners (Birdsong, 1992; Coppetiers, 1987).

With the new understanding of the CPH numerous educators begin to get into the act. Dr. Silvana Montanaro noted, "There is a 'sensitive period' for naming things, and if adults respond to the hunger for words in an appropriate way, they can give their children a richness and precision of language that will last a lifetime." Dr. Wilfred Funk, one of the world's greatest authorities on word and vocabulary acquisition, noted author of eleven books with a vast scholarly background, and for many years president of Funk & Wagnalls Company, publishers of dictionaries and encyclopedias, along with his associate Norman Lewis (also an outstanding authority in the field) notes that in the growth process there is a period during the ages of 3-6 where children possess an amazing ability for vocabulary acquisition. Thereafter, say Funk and Lewis, the acquisition of additional words steadily declines until around the age of 25. At this point, say Funk and Lewis, the average person has acquired 95 percent of the vocabulary that they will attain in their entire life. It is to be noted that the qualifier "average" must be applied here. Some people become interesting in vocabulary building and acquire a life long interest in learning new words. With the proper discipline and study the process of vocabulary augmentation can continue beyond the age of 25 and all through life just as additional languages can be learned beyond the age of puberty and beyond the age of 25. But the important point to remember is that the Critical Learning Period limits or augments the possibility for additional vocabulary acquisition.



The more recent view from Developmental Psychology (the discipline that studies the various aspects of human development) is even more stringent. Their view is that during the critical learning period the brain possesses a 'plasticity' that allows intellectual development and establishes the potential for the entire life, that is, there is a neurological basis for both the critical period of language acquisition, and for intellectual development. Joy Hirsch says:

"When language is being hard-wired during development, the brain may intertwine sounds and structures from all languages into the same area. But once that wiring is complete, the management of a new language, with new sounds and structures, must be taken over by different parts of the brain.

The current viewpoint of Developmental Psychology is as follows:

Because the different systems in the brain develop at different times, specific parts of a child’s brain must be stimulated within a specific span of time in order to develop normally. If the crucial environmental cues are not present during these periods, the parts of the brain that regulate those functions will not develop appropriately.

The window of opportunity for vision, for example, takes place from birth to about six months. Children who are deprived of visual stimulation during this time will not develop the necessary neural connections, and may end up visually impaired.

For speech and vocabulary development, the critical window is open between birth and 3 years of age. The sounds a child hears in those years will largely determine the size of his/her adult vocabulary. (Another example is a 'crystallization' of the chaffinch whose songs are highly intricate. If a young bird does not hear an adult singing within a certain period, the bird will never sing a full song.) In addition, children who are not spoken to regularly early in life do not learn to think conceptually as well as those who are exposed to a great deal of spoken language.

Academics who support the Stratfordian Theory, might have tumbled to the import of this information even without the special knowledge of the DPL's and the DP's, but they tend to be "ivory tower" types who have lost their contact with nature. There was a time when everyone realized that all living beings had their part in a natural growth process. Even today farmers do not have to be told that a truly exceptional crop is the result of truly exceptional conditions. The seed from which the crop comes, the quality of the soil, the conditions of rain and sun all enter into the rare, and fortuitous combination of circumstances that enables the exceptional result. The development of exceptional performance in human genius is ALWAYS the result of an intellectually rich soil that permits exceptional growth. There are no cases of exceptional performance growing from a garden of sand. Scratch that, for the moment. There is one, and one only if you choose to believe it. And the most incredible thing of all is that the one exception is the greatest genius of them all. That one exception is William Shakespeare - supreme master of the language, the greatest vocabulary, The greatest writer, the greatest poet, the greatest dramatist, the greatest universal genius, the greatest intellect that this planet has ever produced.

Profiling the High-End Achievers

Many studies have been made of the developmental period of the lives of the greatest geniuses and many common features have been found. A representative sample of cases is:

Mill, J.S. 1806-1873, Leibniz 1656-1717, Grotius 1583-1645, Goethe 1749-1832 , Pascal 1623-1662, Macaulay 1800-1859 ,Bentham 1748-1832 , Coleridge 1772-1834,Voltaire 1694-1778, Leopardi 1798-1837 , Chatterton 1752-1770 , Niebuhr 1776-1831 , Mirabeau 1749-1791, Adams, J.Q. 1767-1848 , Wieland 1733-1913, Tasso 1544-1595 Pope 1688-1744, Pitt 1759-1806, Musset 1810-1857, Melanchthon 1497-1560

As far as IQ is concerned, the people on the above list are all at the high-end of the genius category with the lowest estimated IQ shown as 160 and most well above. All of these people grew in rich intellectual soil.

Three related features were found in their childhood's. Firstly, an exceptional degree of attention was given to the child. There was a 'very strong positive parental interest' in the cases of Mill, Liebniz, Grotius, Goethe, Pascal, Macaulay, Bentham, Coleridge, Niebuhr, Adams, Wieland, Pope, Pitt and Melanchthon.

In the cases of Mill, Goethe, Pascal, Bentham, Niebuhr, Adams, Wieland, Tasso and Pitt, this led to the children being subjected to remarkable and intensive educational programmes. Secondly, this attention caused the child was very much in the company of adults, and relatively cut off from other children. Thirdly, as a result of the isolation, there was a marked tendency to develop a rich fantasy life. John Radford noted that,

"It is reasonable to assume that the greatest single influence on children is that of the parents or parent substitutes."

Another feature common to the individuals on the list is they enjoyed an intellectually rich home environment. Jeremy Bentham's great-uncle was a bookseller, whose unsold books were readily available to Jeremy. At 3 he read a long adult history of England with enjoyment; then began Latin at the same age, and at 4 was writing in Latin and Greek. At 10 he was granted admission to Oxford University, but because he was so undersized and sensitive admission was delayed for two years. He graduated at 15. The father of Thomas Macauley was a distinguished administrator and Fellow of the Royal Society, with an ample library, in which Macauley from the age of 3 read incessantly and with a phenomenal memory. At 6 Macauley wrote a compendium of universal history comprising almost 50 pages. The father of Leibniz, a university professor, died when he was 6, but the boy had access to his prized library. Goethe was carefully taught by his father, as was Pascal, whose father was a mathematician. Both as children were mainly in the company of adults. Grotius was likewise close to his father, a highly cultured scholar, and in addition had a private tutor. Leopardi, Voltaire, and Coleridge all enjoyed favorable, even exceptional early educational environments.

The father of John Stuart Mill carried out a systematic plan of education. In his plan of education James Mill spared neither himself nor his son, teaching him at the same time as he was actually writing his own massive works. 'My father, in all his teaching, demanded of me not only the utmost that I could do, but much that I could by no possibility have done.' This began with Greek at the age of 3, and in the next few years Mill read substantial parts of the classics as well as a great deal in English, especially history. Everything he read he made notes on, and the next day gave an account of it to his father as they took their morning walk.

The one case of delayed indication of development among the 20 cases listed above is that of Chatterton. Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) was the greatest literary prodigy of the eighteenth century, perhaps of English letters. He was termed the 'marvelous boy'. Posthumous son of a Bristol schoolteacher, poor but of some culture, he was, at first, regarded as stupid. At 4 he knew only one or two letters; at 5 he was rejected by a day school as dull; at 6 1/2 he was said by his mother to be 'little better than a fool'. But about this time he became fascinated by the illuminated capitals on some old manuscripts his mother was tearing up as waste paper. He quickly learned to read, and by 7 was thought remarkable for his brightness. By 8, he was so insatiable a reader as to forgo eating and drinking. Chatterton became obsessed with medievalism - old manuscripts, heraldry, and statuary. In 1762 he was greatly affected by his confirmation, celebrated by the Bishop of Bristol, and following it produced his first poem, On the Last Ephiphany, or Christ Coming to Judgment, which was shortly afterwards published in a local paper. During the next year he filled several notebooks with poetry and prose, some which was published. In particular he produced a poem in the 'medieval' style that was then fashionable, a spurious genealogy of a local worthy (perhaps as a joke) and a extensive glossary of 'old words'.

In 1767 Chatterton was apprenticed to an attorney, but his time was largely occupied in writing; above all a series of poems supposedly written by twelve different - in fact fictitious - medieval authors, centered round an imaginary monk of the fifteenth-century, Thomas Rowley. At different times Chatterton seems to have wished to present his works as copied from old manuscripts. Chatterton became involved in lengthy negotiations with publishers which came to nothing, although some other works appeared. Disappointed in this, and with his indentures cancelled, in 1770 he left Bristol for London, where he hed a life not then unusual for a struggling writer - writing furiously, selling sometimes, starving usually, and refusing charity. On August 25, 1770, Chatterton killed himself with a dose of arsenic, having first destroyed the manuscript he was working on. Walpole later remarked,

'I do not believe there ever existed so masterly a genius', and Johnson said, 'This is the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge.'

On first glance Chatterton might be thought an exception to the Critical Learning Period, but the point is that he was exposed to the intellectual influence during that period and incubated the effect until it manifested itself a little later, much as was the case with Albert Einstein.

In 1962 Goertzel and Goertzel presented a sample of 400 eminent persons who lived into the twentieth-century. Of fewer than 10 per cent of these could it be said that neither parent showed some strong interest in learning, (but generally in cases some other authority figure filled that role) and this trait of parental interest was often accompanied by physical exuberance and a persistent drive toward goals. James Sully (1886), perhaps the first British Developmental Psychologist, provided a study of the early talents of geniuses. Sully concluded that in a sample of 287, 231 showed clear evidence of talent before the age of 20. He added:

'I doubt, indeed, whether one could find in the lists of musicians, artists and poets, a single clear instance of a man of supreme genius having failed to give these early indications'.

Among these he noted that Poets are the most precocious writers. According to Sully genius is:

"essentially a native quality. A truly great man is born such…he is created with a strong and overmastering impulse to a definite form of origination. And hence he commonly give a clear indication of this bent in the first years of his life.On the other hand, actual production presupposes other conditions as well."

In view of the extreme plasticity of the human brain during the critical learning period it is not surprising that prodigious achievement is often the result of "Hot House" education. Perhaps the supreme example of this is the case of William Sidis. William's training in reasoning and logic began before the age of 2; one of his father's beliefs was that education was generally started too late. By 3 he read fluently, by 4 he used a typewriter, by 5 he read in Russian, French and German as well as English. At 6 he entered a grammar school and in six months easily passed through all seven grades. Before he was 8 he had passed the entrance examination for Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Medical School anatomy examination (anatomy was one of his enthusiasms). At the same age he devised a table of logarithms using the base twelve instead of ten. Although eligible academically he was refused admission to Harvard at 9 as being too young, and was eventually admitted at 11. Shortly after his arrival he gave a lecture to the Harvard Mathematical Club on the subject of the fourth dimension. Sidis had no access to existing sources - thus the content was his own. Another remarkable prodigy, Norbert Wiener, later wrote:

"The talk would have done credit to a first or second year graduate student of any age…"

But Sidis was a case of a prodigy who 'burned out' early. He dropped out of academic life and public view, taking a series of low-paid clerical jobs, apparently seeking a less demanding life.

The distinction between the "burn-out" cases of prodigious achievement, and those who go on to exhibit great genius and great achievement in later life, is the autonomy, and encouragement without undue control, afforded the individual, and the acquisition by the individual of some sustaining interest that carries them on beyond the early achievement. Many just lose interest. D.H. Feldman described the case of an anonymous parent who wrote to him about her son. At about 22 months he became interested in language. In the next couple of years he studied Hebrew, classical Greek, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Yiddish, German, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Sanskrit. He then appeared to lose interest, and on being asked why this was so, he explained that he had found the answer to the question he was interested in. 'I've figured out', he said, 'that there was a parent language for these languages [he listed the Indo-European ones] but not for these.' He listed the non-Indo-European languages.

Another factor that should be noted is that those who reach the top in any field seldom, if ever, seem to do so without the application of great effort. During their formative years they all acquire the habit of intense application of their intellect and their energies, and this habit persists throughout their lives. So a profile of the high-end achievers would be as follows:

1. All have an intellectually rich home environment during the critical learning period
2. All are given exceptional attention and intellectual training during childhood
3. All have access to an extensive collection of books
4. All tend to be much in the company of adults
5. All develop a rich fantasy life
6. All acquire the habit of intense application of their intellectual energies
7. All are afforded a considerable degree of autonomy
8. All give indications of exceptional ability at an early age.
9. All acquire some sustaining interest at a fairly early age that carries them on beyond the early achievement


The data we have surveyed demands a hard look at the Stratfordian Theory. Even the most dyed in the wool Stratfordians can't escape a simple fact. THE PARENTS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPERE OF STRATFORD ON AVON WERE ILLITERATE. Samuel Schoenbaum, who made a survey of all the major biographies of the Stratford Shakespeare in his "Shakespeare's Lives" notes in "Shakespeare the Globe and the World" that the parents of Shakespeare were illiterate. He says,

"Mary witnessed legal documents with her mark, a cross; so did her husband, although he used as his sign manual a pair of compasses emblematic of the glover's trade."

(Schoenbaum does not bother to point out the even more damning evidence that Shakspere's younger daughter, Judith was illiterate: she signed with a mark, and although she was not alienated from her father; they lived for years in the same town and he remembered her in his will, yet he gave her no education, not even in reading and writing. And that his first daughter, Susanna, who married a doctor, could sign her name, but there is evidence that she could do little more than that) We must evaluate this fact in the light of the CPH hypothesis and the DP data and then let the chips fall where they may. It has the most crucial bearing on the Stratfordian Theory.

During the all important critical learning period Shakspere was in an illiterate family, a family possessed of only a minimal vocabulary. This means the critical learning period of the man from Stratford was spent in a garden of sand. He was exposed to a very limited language acquisition input, and this influence during this critical period would have affected his ability to learn for the remainder of his life. This would have had a life long effect on his language skills, on his vocabulary development, and on his capacity for vocabulary development. It may be objected that since John Shakspere apparently enjoyed a period of prosperity from 1556 to 1576, becoming a property owner and rising from chamberlain to burgess to alderman and bailiff, that in keeping with his prosperity he may well have hired a tutor for his son. But certainly if John Shakspere had had any intellectual interest he would have at least learned to write his own name. The fact that neither he nor Mary did so indicates the intellectual milieu of the household. During the critical learning period Shakspere living in a home environment in which he had access neither to vocabulary or to books. And this fact must be compared with the fact that the author of the Shakespeare plays displayed an extensive vocabulary and evidence of extensive reading from the time he wrote his first play.

Based on the evidence we must assume that just at that critical learning period when young William's brain was the most plastic he had no access to books or to intellectual influence. True there was the famous Stratford Public School. But, in the first place, there is absolutely no evidence that the man from Stratford ever attended this school. Even to get into this school he would have had to know his letters. St. Paul'sand Shrewsbury (which Philip Sidney attended) demanded ability to read and write both English and Latin. T. M. Baldwin speculates that,

"William Shakspere should have learned from someone, at present unguessable, to read English, and about the age of seven, in the course of 1571 have entered the grammar school"

If he did, who did he learn it from? Certainly not his parents. And, in the second place, we must consider the kind of instruction that was provided if he did enter the school. The famous educator Ascham spoke of the "the master many times being as ignorant as the child", and called teaching in English schools, "mere babblement and motions." Furthermore, as Rowse put it, "Grammar-school education was almost entirely in Latin." So where did he get his mastery of English? Then again, just as the circumstances of his Critical Learning Period indicates, perhaps he never had any mastery of English. Shortly before his death, in high anxiety least his remains should end up in the bone yard, he mustered all his mastery of the English language to produce a masterpiece for his epitaph:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare
To digg TE dust enclosed here
Blese be TE Man yt spares ths stones
And curst be he yt moves my bones.

The fact is that this little bit of doggerel is exactly what science predicts for the man from Stratford based on the circumstances of his Critical Learning Period. This is supported by the six "signatures". They are either incomplete or appear executed with painful difficulty. Although Aubrey may not be the best of witnesses, nevertheless, he had an interesting memorandum on Shakspere that supports the impression made by these signatures:

"The more to be admired q[uia] he was a company keeper lived in Shoreditch, wouldn't be debauched, & if invited to writ: he was in paine."

Stratfordians like to doctor this little passage, but the truth is, that as written, it clearly indicates that if invited to write, our Stratford Shakspere was in pain. Of course, we are told that the epitaph was written when he was old and his mental powers were failing (this despite the attestation on his will of 'sound mind and body'). Then what about the little masterpiece of verse he supposedly penned following the deer poaching episode?:

A Parliamente member a Justice of Peace,
At Home a poore Scarecrow at London an Asse.
If Lowsie is Lucy as some Volke Miscalle it
Then Lucy is Lowsie whatever befalle it
He thinkes himselfe greate
Yet an Asse in his State
We allowe by his Eares but with Asses to mate
If Lucy is Lowsie as some Volke miscalle it
Sing Lowsie Lucy whatever befalle it.

This was supposedly written when he was 25, at the full height of his mental powers, yet demonstrates a poetic ability of which even a Stratford Grammar schoolboy could scarcely feel proud. These facts must be contrasted with the case of the actual author of the Shakespeare plays who was the greatest poet, and possessed the ultimate attainment in language ability in all of history, who possessed the largest vocabulary of any writer who ever wrote, not to mention the fact that he was a universal genius, learned in all areas of knowledge. I wonder if Stratfordians ever really give any thought to what the immensity of Shakespeare's learning indicates. It indicates an immense amount of hard work and study of a very large range of books over a very extended period of time, including first hand study of arts and trades. And this, of necessity, (for the man from Stratford) would have had to take place in the impossible conditions of a bookless home and a bookless neighborhood. Even if the case had been otherwise all of the available evidence indicates the man from Stratford never acquired the habit of intense application of his intellectual energies (if indeed he had any). We see him chasing all the neighborhood women and ending up in what was obvious a forced marriage. Or we see him stealing and poaching deer. There is no getting around the contradictions of these contradictory sets of facts. Given the family background of the man from Stratford, and the circumstances of the Stratford background, there is simply no way he could have been the author of the Shakespeare plays. In accordance with the data science has developed in regards to the critical learning period, and to the profile of the ultimate achievers, the only possible conclusion from the foregoing evidence is that William Shakpere of Stratford on Avon is excluded as a candidate for authorship of the Shakespeare plays.


Of course, the fact that Francis Bacon possessed a supreme mastery of the English language, and that his vocabulary was right up there at the top of all the writers who have ever used the English language, is a given.. Nevertheless it is interesting to note how closely the case of Bacon fits all of the elements required for the high-end achiever, as if they were all tailor made for him alone. And since it is well known that Bacon stands near, or at the top, of the list of high-end achievers it further emphasizes the failure of the case of the man from Stratford to exhibit any of these elements.

The household in which Francis Bacon spent the years of his critical learning period is indicated by the character of Sir Anthony Cooke, father of Anne Bacon. Cooke was such a renowned educator that he was selected as one of the tutors of King Edward the sixth when he was a prince. Cooke enjoyed teaching and applied his principles to his daughers: Mildren, Anne, Katherine, Elizabeth, and Margaret who were considered among the most educated women in England. And Anne assisted Cooke in his duties as tutor to Edward. So Francis Bacon's home environment during his critical learning period would have been among the best. Furthermore, there is evidence that Sir Anthony himself took part in the training of Francis when he was a young child. In 1665 "The Statesmen and Favourites of England Since the Reformation" was compiled by David Lloyd. The biographies of the Elizabethan statesmen were written by someone who was closely associated with them, and who appear to have had exceptional opportunities of obtaining information about them. Of Sir Anthony we are told:

"He said first, and his Grandchilde my Lord Bacon after him, That the Joys ofParents are Secrets, and so are their Griefs and Fears…Very Providently didhe secure his eternity, by leaving the image of his nature in his children, and of his mind in his Pupil."

This indicates that Sir Anthony taught Francis, and that during his Critical Learning Period young Francis was the recipient of a systematic plan of education by one of the top educators in England. There is further evidence that when he was six or seven young Francis went to live in the Cecil household on the Strand.

Catherine Drinker Bowen, "The Lion and the Throne" says,

"Young aristocrats were tutored at home or taken into some great household such as Lord Burghley's, where Francis Bacon was reared…"

We know also that the school for young aristocrats established by Burghley in his household provided some of the best educational opportunities in all of England. He would have been much in the company of adult in the household. Furthermore, the mansion had one of the great libraries, and in the environment of such a large household young Francis would have been afforded a great deal of autonomy during the times when the actual classes were not in sessions. Also we have evidence that he developed a rich fantasy life. We know that Francis acquired a sustaining intellectual interest (his Great Instauration) at a very early age that remained with him for the rest of his life. We also know that he acquired the habit of very intense and sustained mental labor. As far as the details of Bacon's life are known they fit the profile of the high-end achiever perfectly. This data does not prove Bacon authored the Shakespeare plays (other data addresses that question) but it does demonstrate he was an excellent candidate.


Comments for Mather Walker


Chomsky, Noam - Review of B.F. Skinner, Verbal Behavior in Language - 1959
Chomsky, Noam - Language and Mind - 1963
Chomsky, Noam - Aspects of the Theory of Syntax - 1964
Chomsky, Noam - Language and the Problems of Knowledge - 1988
Lenneberg, E. H. - Biological foundations of language - 1967.
McNeil, D. - Developmental psycholinguistics - 1966
Pinker, S. - Formal models of language acquisition. Cognition - 1979
Radford, John - Child Prodigies and Exceptional Early Achievers - 1990
Skinner, B.F. - Verbal Behavior - 1957
Watson, J.B.- Behaviorism - 1923

 See the Shakespeare-Bacon Essays of Mather Walker