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Francis Bacon's Hidden Hand in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice': A Study of Law, Rhetoric, and Authorship

Christie Waldman

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My book, Francis Bacon's Hidden Hand (foreword by Simon M. Miles) was published by Algora Publishing in New York City in 2018. In 1935, Mark Edwin Andrews, a law student taking a summer Shakespeare course (who later went on to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy to President Truman), researched and wrote a paper about the law in Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice.  Thirty years later, his manuscript was rediscovered and published as Law versus Equity in the Merchant of Venice: A Legalization of Act IV Scene 1 (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 1965).

Although professing himself to be a Stratfordian, Andrews drew some interesting connections to Francis Bacon. For example, he wrote that it was as if the seeds planted in the mind of one seer (Francis Bacon), took root in the mind of another (Shakespeare) (p. 45). I saw Andrews' book when I was a college student around 1980 and never forgot it.

In my book, I set out to explore the role of Bellario, the old Italian jurist of civilian law (based on Roman law which was practiced on "the Continent," as opposed to the common law prevalent in England during Shakespeare's time). The mysterious Bellario guided the play's action from behind the scenes--never appearing on stage--by providing notes and garments to Portia which enabled her to advise the Duke in the trial scene and save Antonio's life.

Thus, the mystery as to who wrote this play deepens, for there is nothing in the record to support a finding that William Shaxpere of Stratford was legally trained in the common law, let alone in the civil law. The extent of the influence of the civil law on Francis Bacon has been documented, however, by Prof. Daniel R. Coquillette in his book, Francis Bacon (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992) and his various articles on the English civilians.

In my opinion, it is uncannily apt that the merchant depicted on my book's cover is from an illuminated medieval manuscript, an early encyclopedia known as the Hortus deliciarum ("Garden of Delights") authored by Herrad, Abbess of Hohenbourg (d. 1195) (Landsberg, now called Mount Sainte-Odile, in Alsace). I think a careful reading of the play supports a conclusion that Portia was meant to portray a learned woman--not a fraud, as is sometimes suggested. Herrad, too, was a learned woman. She compiled this encyclopedia, filled with the top theological writings of her day, for the edification of her convent's nuns so that they could receive an education as good as any man's. See Fiona J. Griffiths, The Garden of Delights: Reform and Renaissance for Women in the Twelfth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2007), 1-16.

In appendix 4 of my book, "Handwriting on the Wall" (pp. 247-274) is printed for the first time esteemed British forensic handwriting expert Maureen Ward-Gandy's 1992 report (reviewed for Lawrence Gerald in 1994), "Elizabethan Era Writing Comparison for Identification of Common Authorship" in which she concluded to a high degree of probability that the handwriting in a play fragment analog to a Shakespeare play, The First Part of Henry the Fourth, found in binder's waste in a 1586 copy of Homer's Odyssey in 1988, matched the handwriting of Francis Bacon.

In Bacon's words, should we not "give credit where credit is due"?

Suggested citation formats:

--Christina G. Waldman, Francis Bacon's Hidden Hand in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice: A Study of Law Rhetoric, and Authorship (New York: Algora Publishing, 2018). A previous version (81 pp.) was published online as "Bacon is Bellario with Just Desserts for All!" (pdf) at "What's New," SirBacon.org, July 28, 2016. 

--For Simon M. Miles' foreword: Simon M. Miles, foreword to Christina G. Waldman, Francis Bacon's Hidden Hand in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice: A Study of Law Rhetoric, and Authorship (New York: Algora Publishing, 2018), pp. 5-10.

--For Maureen Ward-Gandy's report: Maureen Ward-Gandy, "Elizabethan Era Writing Comparison For Identification of 'Common Authorship'" (originally examined July 24, 1992, reviewed for Lawrence Gerald July 2, 1994), first published in Christina G. Waldman, Francis Bacon's Hidden Hand in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice: A Study of Law, Rhetoric, and Authorship (New York: Algora Publishing, 2018); new pdf of original report at "What's New," SirBacon.org, Oct. 11, 2022 (with additional documents), https://sirbacon.org/whats-new-on-sirbacon-org/.


Edited by Christie Waldman
suggested citation formats (Chicago style)
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