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Quixote parallels: Bacon, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Discours politiques et militaires

Guest Ryan Murtha

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Guest Ryan Murtha

Hi all,

I haven't been through all of the Baconiana articles on Quixote yet, but I have seen most of them and I think there is still a lot to be found here. If Barry could be persuaded to run his stylometry tool on the parallels, it might turn up interesting results. Below is what I put together, apologies if any credit is due to previous writers, Francis Carr's Who Wrote Don Quixote? was the source for many of the parallels listed. -R


In the prologue to his masterpiece, Cervantes says he is “in show a father, yet in truth but a step-father to Don Quixote”; over the course of the novel’s two parts, he repeats more than forty times that the true author is Arabian historian Cid Hamet Ben Engeli. No such writer exists, and some have interpreted this as “Lord Hamlet son of England.” In 1613, between the two parts of Quixote, Cervantes published his Novelas emplejares (Exemplary Novels), and again in the preface he plays with the idea of authorship, calling himself

the author of Galatea, Don Quixote de la Mancha, The Journey to Parnassus, which he wrote in imitation of Cesare Caporali Perusino, and other works which are current among the public, and perhaps without the author’s name.

Cervantes is not credited with any anonymous or pseudonymous publications, and it is strange that, being poor (as he died), after the first part of Quixote, an international success, he should have spent time on this much inferior work Novelas emplajares. Indeed, Quixote stands in sharp contrast to the other works of Cervantes, which are seldom read and generally acknowledged as failures—some have not even been translated into English. In Attributing Authorship, Harold Love summarizes the principles of Saint Jerome (as outlined by Michel Foucault) in determining scriptural canonicity, one of which is “if among several books attributed to an author one is inferior to the others, it must be withdrawn from the list of the author’s works.”[1] The case of Quixote represents the inverse of this rule.

   The 1605 first edition of Quixote, widely regarded as the most influential novel ever written, went into press immediately following the first (1603) and second (1604) editions of Hamlet, widely seen as the world’s greatest play (Bacon’s Advancement of Learning went out in late 1605). By another remarkable coincidence, Shakespeare and Cervantes died just days apart, traditionally on St. George’s Day, April 24th, 1616 (England and Spain were on different calendars). Nothing was published in either country to mark their loss—no eulogy, no comment from contemporary writers, not a word is found even in private correspondence. By contrast, Lope de Vega was given a lavish state funeral that lasted several days in 1635.

   The case for Bacon’s involvement in DQ was first made by a barrister and MP, Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, whose substantial library (now housed at the University of London) included a 1612 English DQI with corrections in what is alleged to be Bacon’s handwriting. Durning-Lawrence believed that the English version is really the original, and the Spanish edition published seven years earlier is a translation. Anomalies in translation suggest that this may be the case; for example the title, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of the Mancha), is bombastically inflated to The History of the Valorous and Wittie Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha. Several English playwrights, including Ben Jonson and two of Shakespeare’s acknowledged collaborators, alluded to or borrowed from Quixote long before the 1612 English translation; Francis Beaumont’s Knight of the Burning Pestle was first performed in 1607. Edward Blount, who published the Shakespeare First Folio, also published the 1612 English edition. Fourteen out of twenty-six Spanish proverbs in Francis Bacon’s Promus notebook are translated or alluded to in the Shakespeare works. The meaningless proverb “many think there is bacon, and there is only stakes” is repeated five times in Quixote.

A number of parallels between Quixote and the works of Francis Bacon have not been remarked previously, so far as I can determine. Cervantes wrote

la Epica tambien puede escrebirse en prosa, como en verso (epics can also be written in prose, as in verse)

Bacon’s Advancement of Learning:

feigned history... may be styled as well in prose as in verse



art goes not beyond nature, but only perfects it; so that nature and art mixed together, and art with nature, make an excellent poet

De Augmentis Scientiarum:

[Poetry] is not art, but abuse of art, when instead of perfecting nature it perverts her



It is one thing to write like a poet, and another like an historian: the poet may say or sing things not as they were, but as they ought to have been; and the historian must write things, not as they ought to be, but as they have been, without adding or taking away aught from the truth

De Augmentis:

[Narrative poetry] raises the mind and carries it aloft, accommodating the shows of things to the desires of the mind, not (like reason and history) buckling and bowing down the mind to the nature of things


Bacon’s Wisdom of the Ancients (1609), discussing Icarus, Scylla and Charybdis, alludes to Bacon’s heraldic motto mediocria firma, “the middle way is firm”:

the path of virtue lies straight between excess on the one side, and defect on the other. And no wonder that excess should prove the bane of Icarus, exulting in juvenile strength and vigour; for excess is the natural vice of youth, as defect is that of old age; and if a man must perish by either, Icarus chose the better of the two; for all defects are justly esteemed more depraved than excesses. There is some magnanimity in excess, that, like a bird, claims kindred with the heavens; but defect is a reptile, that basely crawls upon the earth


valour is a virtue betwixt two vicious extremes, as cowardice and rashness; but it is less dangerous for him that is valiant to rise to a point of rashness than to fall or touch upon the coward. For, as it is more easy for a prodigal man to be liberal than a covetous, so it is easier for a rash man to be truly valiant than a coward to come to true valour . . . for it sounds better in the hearer’s ears, “Such a knight is rash and hardy,” than “Such a knight is fearful and cowardly.” “I say, signior,” answered Don Diego . . . if the statutes and ordinances of knight-errantry were lost, they might be found again in your breast, as in their own storehouse and register.”

(This has another parallel in The Advancement of Learning: “certain critics are used to say hyperbolically, that if all sciences were lost, they might be found in Virgil.”) The Anatomie of the Minde

Aristotle said [virtue] is a choosing habit of the mind consisting in a mean between two extremes, of which one exceeds, the other wants much; as fortitude when exceeds falls into rashness, when it faints, into childish fearfulness; and liberality, when it lavishes out of reason, is called prodigality, when it is not extended any whit, purchases the name of covetousness. 

The French Academy:

We, therefore, holding the mean between these two contrary opinions (as the perfection and goodness of all things consists in mediocrity)

as illiberality and greed is damnable and no way beseeming a prince, so also is profusion and prodigality; but most praiseworthy it is that he hold a course between both, and that he be liberal . . . But to show how liberality ought to be exercised in a prince, we will first speak of illiberality and prodigality, its two extremes.

Another overlooked anticipation of Quixote is found in Ben Jonson’s Poetaster (1601):

Ovid Sr. Are these the fruits of all my travail and expenses? Is this the scope and aim of thy studies? Are these the hopeful courses wherewith I have so long flattered my expectation from thee? Verses? Poetry? Ovid, whom I thought to see the pleader [lawyer], become Ovid the play-maker?

Ovid Jr. No, sir.

Ovid Sr. Yes, sir; I hear of a tragedy of yours coming forth for the common players there, call’d Medea . . . What? shall I have my son a stager now?

Likewise, DQ portrays a father who is upset because his son, instead of studying law, spends all his time studying poetry:

‘I, Sir Don Quixote,’ answered the gentleman, ‘have a son, whom if I had not, perhaps you would judge me more happy than I am—not that he is so bad, but because not so good as I would have him. He is about eighteen years of age, six of which he hath spent in Salamanca, learning the tongues, Greek and Latin: and, when I had a purpose that he should fall to other sciences, I found him so besotted with poesy, and that science, if so it may be called, that it is not possible to make him look upon the law, which I would have him study, nor divinity, the queen of all sciences . . . All the day long he spends in his criticisms, whether Homer said well or ill in such a verse of his Iliads, whether Martial were bawdy or no in such an epigram, whether such or such a verse in Virgil ought to be understood this way or that way. Indeed, all his delight is in these aforesaid poets, and in Horace, Persius, Juvenal, and Tibullus

 Don Quixote and Discours politiques et militaires

Don Quixote’s prologue:

Being one day walking in the exchange of Toledo, a certain boy by chance would have sold divers old quires and scrolls of books to a squire that walked up and down in that place, and I, being addicted to read such scrolls, though I found them torn in the streets, borne away by this my natural inclination, took one of the quires in my hand, and perceived it to be written in Arabical characters, and seeing that although I knew the letters, yet could I not read the substance, I looked about to view whether I could perceive any Moor turned Spaniard thereabouts that could read them; nor was it very difficult to find there such an interpreter . . . He demanded fifty pounds of raisins and three bushels of wheat, and promised to translate them speedily, well, and faithfully. But I, to hasten the matter more, lest I should lose such an unexpected and welcome treasure, brought him to my house, where he translated all the work in less than a month and a half, even in the manner that it is here recounted.

Similarly, Thomas Shelton’s 1612 English edition claims to have been translated in a remarkably short time:

Having translated some five or six years ago, the History of Don Quixote, out of the Spanish tongue into English, in the space of forty days—being thereunto more than half enforced through the importunity of a very dear friend that was desirous to understand the subject—after I had given him once a view thereof, I cast it aside, where it lay long time neglected in a corner, and so little regarded by me, as I never once set hand to review or correct the same. Since when, at the entreaty of others my friends, I was content to let it come to light, conditionally that someone or other would peruse and amend the errors escaped, my many affairs hindering me from undergoing that labour…

François de la Noue’s Discours politiques et militaires (1587, English edition also 1587) has some strong parallels with Quixote, and its dedication sounds remarkably similar to Shelton’s: 

I chanced to lay my hand upon a heap of papers thrown aside in a corner, as things not regarded, and finding that they deserved to be more diligently gathered together, I began very gladly to read them over; but he would not suffer me, saying they were but scribblings whereon he had employed the most tedious hours of his leisure during his long and straight imprisonment; likewise that among them there was nothing worth the sight, because his continual exercise in warfare wherein he had employed himself had denied him all opportunity to endite well, as also that in these discourses especially (as never meaning other than to pass away the time) he had taken no pains with the polishing or filing of them, and that he was determined never to take them in hand again: so as at that instant I could not obtain anything of him. But the taste that I had then gotten did so set me on edge that all his denial and despising of them did the more confirm me in my desire, neither did I ever ease until by sundry means I had gotten sometime one and sometime another, so long till at length I had gathered all this book.

   Afterward having more carefully considered of the value of my bootie, accounting it more precious and profitable than to be kept in the bottom of a hutch, I did what I might to persuade the author thereof to publish it; but in the end seeing that he made so small account of the same, that there was no means to obtain his consent, I adventured unawares to him to go through with my enterprise . . . Howbeit, in as much as it may so fall out that the author, considering what small account he made of his writings, in lieu of rejoicing in the commendations that hereby shall redound unto him, may find fault that I have thus published them of mine own head, and withal that I have thereunto set his name.

   The Discours politiques et militaires was purportedly written while François de la Noue was in prison at Limburg (Cervantes says Quixote was engendered in prison); the sixth discourse consists of a lengthy attack on “the books of Amadis de Gaul and such like,” anticipating DQ. DQ prologue:

thy labor doth aim at no more than to diminish the authority and acceptance that books of chivalry have in the world. . . let thy project be to overthrow the ill-compiled machina and bulk of those knightly books, abhorred by many, but applauded by more; for, if thou bring this to pass, thou hast not achieved a small matter.

In chapter 47 the canon expands on this:

those books which are instituted of chivalry or knighthood are very prejudicial to well-governed commonwealths; and although, borne away by an idle and curious desire, I have read the beginning of almost as many as are imprinted of that subject, yet could I never endure myself to finish and read any one of them through; for methinks that somewhat, more or less, they all import one thing, and this hath no more than that, nor the other more than his fellow. And in mine opinion, this kind of writing and invention falls within the compass of the fables called Milesiae, which are wandering and idle tales, whose only scope is delight, and not instruction; quite contrary to the project of those called Fabulae Apologae, which delight and instruct together.

The sixth discourse of de Noue, treating books of chivalry, also alludes to Anti-Machiavel (“the author whereof I know not”):

That the reading of the books of Amadis de Gaul, & such like is no less hurtful to youth, than the works of Machiavel to age.

I have heretofore greatly delighted in reading Machiavel’s Discourses & his Prince, because in that same he intreats of high & goodly politic & martial affairs, which many Gentlemen are desirous to learn, as matters meet for their professions. And I must needs confess that so long as I was content slightly to run them over, I was blinded with the gloss of his reasons. But after I did with more ripe judgement thoroughly examine them, I found under that fair show many hidden errors, leading those that walk in them into paths of dishonour and damage. But if any man doubt of my sayings, I would wish him to read a book entitled Antimachiavellus, the author whereof I know not, and there shall he see that I am not altogether deceived. Neither do I think greatly to deceive myself, though I also affirm the books of Amadis to be very fit instruments for the corruption of manners, which I am determined to prove in few words, to the end to dissuade innocent youth from entangling themselves in these invisible snares which are so subtly laid for them.



Note: Many of these are taken from Francis Carr’s Who Wrote Don Quixote? (2005) (reproduced with permission of Philip Carr).

Midsummer Night’s Dream (title page, 1619 “False Folio,” falsely dated 1600): Post tenebras lux: “After darkness, light” (from Job 17:12)

DQ (title page, first edition Spanish 1605): Post tenebras spero lucem: “After darkness I hope for light”


Merchant of Venice: All that glisters is not gold

DQ: All is not gold that glisters

Bacon, Promus: All is not gold that glisters


DQ: He that gives quickly, gives twice

Bacon, Promus: He who gives quickly, gives twice


DQ: Look not a given horse in the mouth      

Bacon, Promus: To look a given horse in the mouth


DQ: Might overcomes right

Bacon, Promus: Might overcomes right

Henry IV Part II: O God, that right should overcome this might


DQ: The nearer the Church, the further from God

Bacon, Promus: The nearer the church, the further from God

Richard III: And thus I clothe my naked villainy, and seem a saint when most I play the devil


DQ: One swallow makes not a summer

Bacon, Promus: One swallow maketh no summer

Timon of Athens: The swallow follows not the summer


DQ:   Everyone is the son of his own works

          Every man is the Artificer of his own fortune

Bacon, “Of Fortune”:

    But chiefly the mould of a man’s fortune is in his own hands

King Lear:

    When we are sick in Fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior


DQ: Statutes not kept are the same as if they were not made

Bacon, Note to Queen Elizabeth: The cessation and abstinence to execute these unnecessary laws do mortify the execution of such as are wholesome

Measure for Measure: In time the rod becomes more mocked than feared


DQ: He who does not rise with the sun does not enjoy the day

Bacon, Promus: To rise early is very healthy Diliculo surgere saluberrimum est.

Twelfth Night: Diliculo surgere, thou knowest


DQ: God’s help is better than early rising

Bacon, Promus: It is better to have God’s help than to keep getting up early (in Spanish)


DQ: He that is warned is half armed

Bacon, Promus: Warned and half armed (Also occurs in Spanish)


DQ: I know where my shoe wrings me

Bacon, Promus: Myself can tell best where my shoe wrings me


Merry Wives of Windsor: As good luck would have it (first occurrence)

DQ: As Sancho’s ill luck would have it


DQ: Without a wink of sleep

Cymbeline: I have not slept one wink (first occurrence)


DQ: What put you in this pickle?            

The Tempest: How cam’st thou in this pickle?


Twelfth Night: If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourself into stitches, follow me. (first occurrence, “in stitches”)

DQ: Ready to split his sides with laughing


DQ: Ill luck seldom comes alone

Hamlet: When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions


DQ: You are as like the Knight I conquered, as one egg is to another

The Devil take me (thought Sancho to himself at this instant) if this Master of mine be not a Divine; or if not, as like one as one egg is to another

Winter’s Tale: We are almost as like as eggs


DQ: Sweet meat must have sour sauce

Shakespeare, Sonnet 118:   Being full of your nere cloying sweetness

                                           To bitter sauces did I frame my feeding


DQ: Time out of mind       

Romeo and Juliet: Time out of mind


DQ: I was so free with him as not to mince the matter

Othello: Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter


DQ: Walls have ears

Midsummer Night’s Dream: No remedy when walls hear without warning


DQ: The weakest go to the walls

Romeo and Juliet: The weakest goes to the wall


DQ: Murder will out                     

Hamlet: Murder will speak


1 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI: God and Saint George!

DQ: God and Saint George!


DQ: comparisons are odious

Much Ado About Nothing: Comparisons are odorous: palabras, neighbor Verges. (palabras = Spanish, words)


DQ: A good name is better than riches

Othello: He that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed


DQ: It is such, as is able to make marble relent.

Venus and Adonis: For stone at rain relenteth.


DQ: They can expect nothing but their labour for their pains

Troilus and Cressida: I had my labour for my travail


Hamlet: anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature

DQ: Seeing the comedy, as Tully affirms, ought to be a mirror of man’s life, a pattern of manners, and an image of truth


DQ: Dulcinea of Tobosa, the subject on which the extremitie of all commendations my rightly be conferred, how hyperbolicall soever it may be

Bacon, “Of Love”: The speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but in love


DQ: An untruth is so much the more pleasing, by how much nearer it resembles the truth

Bacon, “Of Truth”: A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure


DQ: He’s a muddled fool, full of lucid intervals

Bacon, History of Henry VII: Lucid intervals and happy pauses


DQ: Here my exploits suffer’d a total Eclipse

Bacon, History of Henry VII: She hath indeed endured strange eclipse

Shakespeare, Sonnet 107:  The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured

                                          And the sad augurs mock their own presage



To speak wittily and write conceits belongs only to good wits:  the cunningest part in a play is the fool’s, because he must not be a fool that would well counterfeit to seem so.

Twelfth Night:

       Fool. Are you not mad indeed? Or do you but counterfeit?



Hunger is the best sauce in the world

Two Noble Kinsmen:

Your hunger needs no sauce


my more-having would be as a sauce

To make me hunger more

Julius Caesar:

Rudeness is a sauce to his good wit,

Which gives men stomach to digest his words

With greater appetite



‘I’ll hold a wager,’ quoth Sancho, ‘the dog-bolt hath made a galli-maufry’

Merry Wives of Windsor:

He wooes both high and low, both rich and poor,

Both young and old, one with another, Ford;

He loves the gallimaufry

Winter's Tale:

Master, there is three carters, three shepherds,

three neat-herds, three swine-herds, that have made

themselves all men of hair, they call themselves

Saltiers, and they have a dance which the wenches

say is a gallimaufry of gambols



the rich man not liberal is but a covetous beggar; for he that possesseth riches is not happy in them, but in the spending them; not only in spending, but in well spending them.

Bacon, Apophthegms New and Old: 

Mr. Bettenham used to say, that riches were like muck: when it lay upon an heap, it gave a stench, and ill odour; but when it was spread upon the ground, then it was the cause of much fruit.

Bacon, “Of Riches”: 

Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit.



if the statues and ordinances of knight errantry were lost, they might be found again in your breast.


Advancement of Learning: certain critics are used to say hyperbolically, that if all sciences were lost, they might be found in Virgil



I’ll tell you, Sancho, this desire of honour is an itching thing. What dost thou think cast Horatius from the bridge all armed into deep Tiber? What egged Curtius to launch himself into the lake? What made Mutius burn his hand? What forced Caesar against all the soothsayers to pass the Rubicon? And, to give you more modern examples, what was it bored those ships, and left those valorous Spaniards on ground, guided by the most courteous Cortez in the New World? All these and other great and several exploits are, have been, and shall be the works of fame, which mortals desire as a reward and part of the immortality which their famous acts deserve

Bacon, “Of Fame”:

Fame is of that force, as there is scarcely any great action, wherein it hath not a great part


[1] Love, Harold. Attributing Authorship p. 18. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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Guest Ryan Murtha

I was just alerted to this, 

We find this motif repeated in the preface to Micro-cosmographie, or, A peece of the world discovered in essayes and characters (1628), written (and printed) by Edward Blount, publisher of the Shakespeare First Folio (he also did the 1602 Anti-Machiavel I edited):

I have (for once) adventured to play the Mid-wife’s part, helping to bring forth these Infants into the World, which the Father would have smothered: who having left them lapped up in loose sheets, as soon as his Fancy was delivered of them; written especially for his private recreation, to pass away the time in the country, and by the forcible request of friends drawn from him; yet passing severally from hand to hand in written copies, grew at length to be a pretty number in a little volume: and among so many sundry dispersed transcripts, some very imperfect and surreptitious had like to have past the press, if the author had not used speedy means of prevention: When, perceiving the hazard he ran to be wronged, was unwillingly willing to let them pass as now they appear to the world. If any faults have escaped the Press, (as few Books can be printed without) impose them not on the Author I intreat Thee; but rather impute them to mine and the Printer’s oversight, who seriously promise on the re-impression hereof by greater care and diligence, for this our former default, to make Thee ample satisfaction. In the meanwhile,

I remain

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I have long thought that #Cervantes could have been #Shakespeare - both could have been #SirFrancisBacon "......he ponders the problem, how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all...." #DonQuixote

(the most purchased book of all time - 500 million copies world wide)



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  1. Bacon Shakespeare and Cervantes by Alfred Von Weber-Ebenhof

The Shakespeare and Cervantes celebrations of the year 1916 have furnished the proof that with regard to the true significance of both of these world-famous names, doubt and fog exist in public opinion, to clear away which is the important task of the present time.

When it is considered that the world-renowned works as­sociated with both names are compositions of first rank

which possess the highest value for the spiritual uplift of mankind, it can be with confidence asserted that here without doubt we have the greatest literary-historical question of to-day, which must lay claim to the liveliest Interest of every cultured person.

To a desire to make the result of studies to that end useful to widest circles, to spur to broader inquiry those who are of similar mind and to break a path for the formation of a group aiming at this, the foregoing sug­gestions owe their origin.

In this sense, without prejudice, critically and bene­volently, may they be received.


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The  Full English translation of Bacon Shakespeare and Cervantes  by Alfred Von Weber Ebenhof, 1917  translated by Arthur B. Cornwall , 1935

was the first book published (in German) that challenged the authorship of Don Quioxte,

The book will be made available for the readers of sirbacon.org sometime this year.

Francis Carr  is the author of the second book that challenged Cervantes' authorship , Who Wrote Don Quixote?




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