Further Explorations in The Tempest :

Finding Bacon's Discovery Device


Mather Walker



In his Novum Organum Bacon said:

"One method of delivery alone remains to us; which is simply this: we must lead men to the particulars them-selves, and their series and order; while men on their side must force themselves for awhile to lay their notions by and begin to familiarize themselves with facts." 

This is certainly true in regards to The Tempest. Furthermore, in order to present "the particulars" we need a map of The Tempest. Actually we need two maps. We need a high level map, and a low level map. However, there is a slight problem. We need a clear overview of the play, but due to the dramatic exigencies of the play events are often presented out of their time sequence. Certainly we can better understand what takes place in the play if we follow the time flow of events, but to understand the operation of the Discovery Device we must follow exactly the order of the play. Therefore, before presenting a high level map of The Tempest that follows the order of the play, we need a preliminary overview that is, as far as possible, time sequential.



The play covers a time period of both THREE and FOUR hours at the same time. It begins with the tempest and the wreck of the King's ship. We are specifically told it is two o'clock. We are told the time between two and six must be spent most preciously. So we know, or think we know, that the play covers a four hour period since it begins at two o'clock and ends at six o'clock.

But when the end of the play comes at six o'clock both Alonso and the Boatswain tell us that the ship was wrecked three hours before. This three or four dichotomy is present in other plays and I have touched on its possible significance before. 

The events that take place, or seem to take place, during the three (or four) hour period, of the play actually began 24 years before. At that time the foul witch Sycorax, a creature of darkness possessing great powers in the black arts, had, because of her sorceries, been banished from Argier and taken to the isle by sailors and marooned there. The delicate spirit Ariel was already on the isle when she arrived, but because he would not obey her commands she imprisoned him in a pine tree where he remained imprisoned for 12 years until Prospero came to the isle. After imprisoning Ariel, Sycorax, already pregnant when she was banished to the isle, gave birth to her son Caliban, also a thing of darkness, a deformed monster part fish and part human. Sycorax ruled the isle. But, as time passed Sycorax grew into a hoop from age and envy and ultimately died leaving the monster Caliban alone with strange illusionary qualities of the isle: the sounds of music and voices causing sleep that evoked strange dreams. 

At the end of the 12 years Prospero, who was the rightful Duke of Milan, arrived at the isle with his three year old daughter Miranda. He had been cast out from his dukedom by the machinations of his perfidious brother Antonio who had confederated with Alonso the King of Naples so he could usurp Prospero's Dukedom. Antonio was only able to carry out his plans to cast out Prospero because Prospero's attention was elsewhere, "rapt in secret studies". Prospero possessed even greater magical powers than Sycorax, but he was a creature of light, practicing white magic whereas Sycorax had practiced black magic. He released Ariel from the pine tree making him his servant, and Caliban his slave. As the play begins a 24 year period, comprised of the 12 year rule of darkness (Sycorax and Caliban) and the 12 year rule of light (Prospero) on the isle has just ended. 

A fleet of ships, including the King's ship, are on their way back to Naples from Africa where they have gone to attend the marriage of the King's fair daughter Claribel to the King of Tunis. The King of Tunis was an African - i.e. a black man.

Despite her loathing for him Claribel had entered the marriage in obedience to her father's command. As the fleet of ships passed near the isle Prospero used his servant Ariel to cause the illusion of a great tempest which dispersed the entire fleet, and seemed to wreck the King's ship. 

The play begins with a vivid depiction of the King's ship caught in this terrible tempest. The tempest roars; balls of St. Elmo's fire roll through the masts of the ship, burning in the topmast, the yards, and the boresprit. The THREE places are significant.

In his "History of the Winds" Bacon noted that if there are three balls of St. Elmo's fire the storm will become more fearful. Therefore the three balls of St. Elmo fire simulated by Ariel were specifically designed to cause terror in the superstitious mariners. The mariners work desperately to save the ship. It cannot run free before the wind because the storm forces it toward a nearby island. It is in danger of striking the rocks, splitting, and sinking. 

The mariners attempt to prevent the ship from drifting leeward by lowering the topmast, thus removing some of the weight aloft. But the tempest continues to drive the ship toward the island and in the midst of their desperate labors the Boatswain must contend with the meddling of the nobility aboard the ship.Finally all is given up for lost. The Boatswain takes to drink. The King, his son, and his counselor to prayers, and the brother of the King, and Antonio (the false Duke of Milan) to cursing.The ship strikes, splits, and all aboard are lost. All except the mariners abandon ship, leaping wildly into the tempest tossed waves. 

The scene abruptly changes from the wild chaos of the tempest, to the calm of Prospero's cell. Prospero and Miranda are watching the wild roaring tempest, the sea that seems to mount to the sky, and the sky that seems to pour down fire on the sea. Miranda has seen the ship dashed all to pieces. She believes all aboard are lost and implores her father to allay the tempest. Prospero assures her no harm has been done. He relates the tale of how they came to the island, then uses hismagical powers to put Miranda to sleep, and summons Ariel, significantly only awakening Miranda again after he has talked to Ariel. In describing the tempest he has performed Ariel describes it as an illusion. All of the effects of the tempest were only seeming: 

"Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune SEEM to besiege and make his bold wave tremble; Yea, his dread trident shake." 

Ariel assures Prospero everyone is safe. He has placed the King's ship safely in a harbor, stowed the mariners belowhatches in a charmed sleep, ensured that the rest of the fleet have all met again and are upon the Mediterranean bound sadly home for Naples thinking all aboard the King's ship drowned, and he has dispersed the passengers in three separate divisions about the isle. These three divisions of the ship's passengers are the basis for three streams of action in The Tempest each leading to an illusionary vision. 

Ferdinand is placed upon the island so he meets with Miranda and then Prospero. Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love, but before they can celebrate their nuptial vows Prospero subjects Ferdinand to a test. He must stack up some thousands of logs. 

The stream of action dealing with Ferdinand leads to the masque shown him by Prospero in celebration of Ferdinand and Miranda's marriage (which as Prospero said when it ended, was only an illusionary vision produced by his art). The vision is of figures from classical mythology. Iris, who is the personification of the rainbow and represents the promise of calm after a story, appears first and calls Ceres the harvest goddess to join her in attending on Juno, queen of the gods. Ceres, harvest goddess appears as symbol of fertility and regeneration. Juno, who appears as the moon and is associated with the protection of women, invites Ceres to join her in blessing Ferdinand and Miranda and bringing health and joy to their marriage. Ceres agrees and announces that spring will follow harvest (winter will be passed over). 

The King's party wander round and round isle as if wandering in a maze. Their stream of action leads to the illusionary vision of the banquet (also produced at Prospero's behest). Several strange shapes enter bringing in a banquet; and dance about with gentle actions of salutations inviting the King and his part to eat. But when, hungry and thirsty from wandering around the island as through a maze, they attempt to eat, the figure of a harpy appears, claps its wings upon the table, and the banquet vanishes. 

The stream of action dealing with Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo leads to the rich garments that are left out to tempt them and then the illusionary vision of the hounds which hunt them (this vision was also produced at the behest of Prospero). 

Then we come to the culminating scene where Ariel brings the court party to Prospero and Prospero discovers to them Ferdinand and Miranda playing at chess, i.e. he reveals Ferdinand and Miranda by pulling aside the curtain of the inner stage. All of the groups separated by Ariel through the opening tempest are reunited in the final moments of the play and at the end of the play the whole cast with the exceptionof Ariel, Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo enter Prospero's cell. 


The play may appear opaque. However, if the material presented in previous parts of Bacon-101 is brought to mind it should be transparent, crystalline in fact. Bacon's metaphoric system centers around a crystalline globe, an "intellectual globe" reflecting in itself the great globe - the earth. This indicates two parallel levels of meaning in the play: 

1. At the level of the macrocosm: i.e. of universal nature, of the great globe, the earth.

2. At the level of the microcosm: i.e. of the individual, of the mind in which the great globe is reflected. 

At the level of the macrocosm the isle represents the earth itself. Bacon has allusions in the play to indicate this. For the macrocosm he uses two 12 year periods of the rule of dark and light to allude to the periods of night and day on the earth. For the correspondence in the microcosm he had the play end at 6 P.M, nominally the point where the 24 hour period comprising 12 hours of night and 12 hours of day end. On the equinox this would be precisely that point. Therefore allusions are crafted into the play to indicate the equinox. One is the tempest itself. Among the ancients the equinoxes were associated with tempests. The second is the Mystery Religion symbolism in the play. The celebration of The Mysteries took place on the equinoxes. Another allusion in the play that indicates the isle as the great globe itself, and indicates a presentation of universal nature, is a particular point about Ariel and Caliban. Ariel is a creature of fire and air. Caliban is a creature of earth and water. In other words between the two they comprise the four elements considered by ancient cosmological doctrines to be the basic elements from which everything was derived in universal nature, and this doctrine still had a strong following in Bacon's day. 

The marriage of Claribel to the black man is also a cosmological allegory. Black symbolizes matter as almost anyone in Bacon's day would have known. Claribel means "clear, bright beauty". This can be paralleled with the accounts of creation in the book of Genesis in the Bible. At the beginning was the tohu-bohu, the chaos, the formless black void. Then God said, "Let their be light", so resulted the union of clear, bright beauty with black matter. Johann Reuchlin in his "On the Art of the Kabbalah" equates this with the light "A", and the dark "A", i.e., in one of its significance the light "A", dark "A" device in the First Folio is a cosmological emblem. This is further shown by the presence of the two cupids, one seated on each of the A's. Inhis cosmological expositions Bacon said the force behind all creation was love, i.e. cupid, and further said that there are two cupids. 

The most detailed account of a cosmology that agrees in every feature with the cosmology presented in The Tempest is the cosmology presented in Fludd's "Mosaical Philosophy" which is derived from Genesis. In Bacon's works the account given in his "Wisdom of the Ancient" in "Coelum, or Beginnings" has a detailed agreement with the cosmology in The Tempest.

The marriage of Caribel to the king of Tunis represents the union of clear, bright beauty with matter after the expulsion of Sycorax (chaos or hyle) from Algier the capital of Algeria which is adjacent to Tunesia of which Tunis was the capital. A better understanding of the cosmological allegory can be gained by reading my essay on the cosmological basis of a Midsummer Night's Dream at 

The idea is expressed quite plainly by Ben Jonson. In his Masque of Beautie he says:

When love, at first, did move From out of Chaos,
brightened So was the world,
and lightened As now!
Echo. As now! Echo. As now!
Yield night, then, to the light
As Blackness hath to Beautie.  

And in Love's Triumph through Callipolis he says: 

So love emergent out of chaos brough
The world to Light!
And gently moving on the waters, wrought
All form to sight!
Love's appetite
Did beauty first excite:
And left imprinted in the air
Those signatures of good and fair,
Which since have flowed, flowed forth
upon the sense,
To wonder first, and then to excellence,
By virtue of divine intelligence! 

The Tempest deals with TWO marriages. The marriage of Claribel took place immediately before the tempest. Just as in a Midsummer Night's Dream it was THREE OR FOUR days before the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, in The Tempest it was THREE or FOUR hours before the marriage rites of Ferdinand and Miranda. As the last part of the cosmological cycle is reached the tempest of the elements occurs. Then things begin to settle down and the power of concord begins to draw them all toward the center. The men and women have already been met in the cycle. The next stage is their union represented by the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. At the end all of the characters of the play are drawn to the center of the island and will be united even closer since they enter Prospero's cell, but before they enter Prospero's cell the curtain is drawn aside disclosing Ferdinand and Miranda playing at chess. This discloses the "form" behind all the variety of what is "out there", i.e., all the variety of universal nature. The logic behind the inclusion of the cosmology in The Tempest is that Bacon wants us to know that this is not only the "form" of all the variety of universal nature, it is also the "form" of all of the created universe. 

With the isle representing the earth, Prospero obviously represents God. As early as 1876 Edward R. Russell suggested that Prospero represented God. Since that time a number of commentators have rallied behind his suggestion. Norman Holland remarked: 

"The Tempest seems to be saying that Prospero the dramatist is a play version of God" 

If Prospero personified God we should expect his enemies to personify the Infernal Trinity, and, in fact, there is considerable evidence for this. Early morality plays dramatized the soul of Everyman as beset by this Infernal Trinity: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. These were represented as comprising among them the compendium of the Seven Deadly Sins. The deadly sin attributed to The World was Avarice. The sins of The Flesh were always Sloth, Lust and Gluttony. And the sins of The Devil were Envy, Pride, and Wrath (sometimes represented as murder).

It is obvious Alonso who represents temporal power represented The World. He was the king, the personification of worldly pomp and power. His sin was Avarice for he was enticed to take part in the plot against Prospero by the desire for tribute in the form of annual payments. Caliban was the Flesh. He was shown as afflicted with Sloth which led Prospero to call him a tortoise. He was also afflicted with Lust which prompted his attempted attack on Miranda. And lastly he was afflicted with Gluttony. He is eating when he first appears in the play, and afterwards indulges in excessive quantities of liquor. Antonio represented The Devil. He fell from his desire for power as did Satan. Envy of Prospero prompted his action. His Pride was evident everywhere in the play. Antonio exhibits wrath in their reactions to the Boatswain at the beginning of the play, and plots murder during the play.

The scene in the play where Prospero puts Ferdinand to the task of gathering and stacking up some thousands of logs is a necessary part of the operation of Bacon's logic machine. We remember that he called his work where he gathered material for his logic machine, "Syla Sylvarum", i.e. "Forest of Material", and this is what Ferdinand's gathering and stacking of the logs represents. This is the collection of histories which was a prerequisite to the operation of Bacon's logic machine. 

The three streams of action in the play leading to the three delusive vision have to do with Bacon's doctrine of Idols. Idols, according to Bacon, were delusive appearances or delusive images. Bacon retained the original significance of the word. Idolon in Greek meant a form, or "thought form". In the sense Bacon used the idea, an Idol was an illusionary image; something seen which was not real, a hallucination peculiar to the particular nature of the mind in which it was resident.

In Bacon's system of though this was all tied in with the idea of his "Intellectual Globe" the crystalline globe. The Fall had caused something to go wrong with the glass of this globe. It had became warped, and, in turn, it warped the images it received of the great world. In accordance with this idea Bacon had given his early work THE MASCULINE BIRTH OF TIME the subtitle: 

or Three Books on The Interpretation of Nature 
Book I. Polishing and Direction of the Mind
Book II. The Light of Nature or Formula of Interpretation
Book III. Nature Illuminated, or the Truth of Things 

As the "polishing of the mind" implied, Bacon saw the first work to be that of restoring the globe of crystal to its original state. From that point it could attain a reflection of what actually existed in the great world: 

".the true rule of a perfect inquiry is that nothing
can be found in the material globe which has not its
correspondent in the crystalline globe-the understanding."

The nature state of this globe, according to Bacon, was to be a true microcosm, or replica in miniature of the great globe - the earth, and he took pains to point out that the great globe was also viewed as a globe of crystal by God: 

"For so it is expressed in the Scriptures touching the government of God, that this globe, which seemeth to us a dark and shady body, is in the view of God as crystal: 

Et in conspectu sedis tanquam mare vitreum
simile crystalla (and before the Throne there
was a sea of glass, like unto crystal) 

This idea was related to Bacon's concept of Idols. Bacon said: 

"The reflexion also from glasses so usually resembled to the imagery of the mind, every man knoweth to receive error and variety both in colour, magnitude, and shape, according to the quality of the glass. But yet no use hath been made of these and many like observations, to move men to search out and upon search to give true cautions of the native and inherent errors in the mind of man which have coloured and corrupted all his notions and impressions. I do therefore in this enchanted glass find four idols or false.."

Although Bacon mentioned four types of Idols in his Novum Organum, he considered only three in the De Augmentis, for he said that Idols of the Theatre, which were superinduced by false theories, or philosophies, and perverted laws of demonstration, did not seize the mind as strongly as the others, and could be rejected and laid aside. 

The three types considered in the De Augmentis were:

1. Idola Tribus (Idols of the Tribe) Those idols imposed upon the mind by the general nature of mankind. 

2. Idola Speous (Idols of the Den) Those idols imposed upon the mind by the nature of each individual.

3. Idola Fori (Idols of the Market) Those idols imposed upon the mind by words, or communicative nature. 

The presentation of these three in The Tempest is set out to conform to Bacon's idea of the polishing and correction of the mind, or crystalline globe. The three idols are not only represented in the three streams of actions, there is also a representation of the correction of the mind beset by these idols. In all three cases the individuals involved have their minds altered and corrected. The logic of the play requires that these corrections be made before the "Truth of Things" can be seen at the unveiling when the curtain is drawn back disclosing Ferdinand and Miranda playing at chess. 


3312.322.41 IDOLA TRIBUS 

Ferdinand had none of the personal defects which are normally the lot of each particular man. His only defect was that which was inherent from his being a member of mankind. For this Idol Bacon said that the human mind presupposes a greater unanimity and uniformity in the nature of things than there really is; that the mind through its desire for order imposes order upon nature where it does not exist. 

This was exactly the nature of the vision seen by Ferdinand. The masque was a vision of harmony and order. In fact, the imposition of harmony and order upon nature by the vision was so great that winter was omitted from the cycle of the seasons: 

"Spring come to you at the farthest
In the very end of harvest!"

The correction of the mind of Ferdinand is seen in the task imposed on him by Prospero where symbolically we are shown that he must collect the histories of the particulars in nature and put them in order, and then follow the discipline imposed by the "Formula of Interpretation".


3312.322.42 IDOLA SPECUS 

The false images seen by Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo were of a nature peculiar to each. This was shown in the names of the hounds. Fury was the particular defect of Caliban, who raved that, after Prospero was asleep, Stephano should: 

"Having first seized his books, or with a log
Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake,
Or cut his wesand with thy knife." 

Silver represented the particular defect of Trinculo, who upon first sighting Caliban, thought of the silver he could obtain from exhibiting him if he was in England:

"A strange fish! Were I in England now, as once I was, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver." 

Tyrant represented the defect of Stephano, whose first action upon meeting with Caliban was to have him swear alliance to him. And Caliban later said: 

"A plague upon the tyrant that I serve!
I'll bear him no more sticks, but follow thee," 

which, added to the action that followed, pointed to the tyrant like nature of Stephano. The defects in Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano are defects of the lower self of the passions and appetites and these are corrected by the disciplines symbolized by having them "hunted about" by the hounds of Prospero.


3312,322.43 IDOLA FORI


The false vision seen by the kings party was shown by a number of commentators on The Tempest to represent a communion banquet. The action leading up to the vision had shown them at odds through words, experiencing a failure to communicate. In fact the use of the name Antonio seemed to be based on the Greek roots,antonomazein: to call by another name, or anti: instead of onomazein: to name. The Devil seduces with words. So when their false vision came it had the semblanceof a communion, a communion of mind and spirit which, due to delusive words, was only an illusion. The defects in the kings party are particularly shown in Antonia, Sebastian, and Gonzalo. Antonio the Devil, like "the spirit who always denies" in Goethe's portrayal of the devil, is the perpetual skeptic always denying everything. Gonzalo, on the other hand, is the perpetual optimistic always believing everything. Through the experiences that Prospero cause them to pass through they are both changed as is shown at the end of the play, immediately before thecurtain is drawn back disclosing Ferdinand and Miranda playing at chess, where Antonio and Sebastian now can believe and Gonzalo can disbelieve.

I have shown in my book, "The Secret of the Shakespeare Plays" that allegories exist in The Tempest depicting all of the divisions of knowledge found in Bacon's De Augmentis. The logic behind this is that in depicting the great globe - the earth in The Tempest, and the inquiry into the "form" of all knowledge, as we ascend the Pyramid of Nature in our quest for the "form" of all knowledge, we pass through all the divisions of universal nature. Although I did not go into the fine detail of the allegories of the "simple motions" and the "schemes of matter" when demonstrating the allegories in The Tempest in "The Secret of the Shakespeare Plays" they are, nevertheless there. 

Furthermore it should be realized that the "simple motions" that are the next higher step up the pyramid of nature from the "Schemes of Matter" are actually the causes of the respective polarities of the "Schemes of Matter". Their correlation is as follows:




1. Resistance 1. Density-Rarity

2. Connection 2. Gravity-Levity

3. Liberty 3. Heat-Cold

4. Motion of Matter 4. Tangibility-Intangibility

5. Continuity 5. Volatile-Fixed

6. Motion of Need 6. Determinate-Fluid

7. Greater Congregation 7. Humid-Dry

8. Lesser Congregation 8. Unctuous-Crude

9. Magnetic Motion 9. Hard-Soft

10. Avoidance 10. Fragile-Tensile

11. Assimilation 11. Porous-United

12. Excitement 12. Spirituous-Jejune

13. Impression 13. Simple-Compound

14. Configuration 14. Absolute-Imperfectly Mixed

15. Transmission 15. Fibrous/Veiny-Simple Position

16. Regal 16. Similar-Dissimilar

17. Rotation 17. Specificate-Unspecificate

18. Trepidation 18. Organical-Inorganical

19. Repose 19. Animate-Inanimate

In Bacon's example where he shows an inquiry into the "form" of heat in his Novum Organum a careful reading shows that the "simple motion" at the root of heat and cold was the motion of Liberty. If the play is examined attentively all of the "simple motions" can be found symbolized throughout the play. I don't want to break the flow of thought in this commentary by including this at this point, but I have thought it important enough to include the allegory of the "Simple Motions" as set out in the play in a footnote at the end of this commentary. 

This is important because it allows us to see the relevancy of the "Alphabet of Nature" to the play. With the combination of the footnote at the end of this commentary and the detailed description of the allegory in The Tempest that I have set out in my book, "The Secret of the Shakespeare Plays" the reader should be able to see that the entire "Alphabet of Nature" is included in The Tempest. 

In De Principiis Atque Originibus Bacon said,

"But seeing there are such armies of contraries in the world as dense and rare, hot and cold."

indicated that these should be set up as polarities, and whether something was dense or rare, for example, depended on the strength or weakness of its originating motion of resistance. A comparison of the tabulation in the footnote, plus the exposition in "The Secret of the Shakespeare Plays" with the tabulation in the "Alphabet of Nature" should enable the reader to see the relevancy of the "Alphabet of Nature" to The Tempest. 

After carrying us in allegory through the panorama of Universal Nature Bacon presents the scene where Prospero draws the curtain aside and discloses Ferdinand and Miranda playing at chess. In his Valerius Terminus Bacon said: 

"And although the highest generality of motion or summary law of nature God should still reserve within his own curtain, yet many and noble are the inferior and secondary operations which are within man's sounding." 

And speaking of the "Summary Law of Nature" Bacon makes a direct analogy between it and the game of chess: 

"It is otherwise in religion, where the first propositions are self-existent, and subsist of themselves, uncontrolled by that reason which deduces the subsequent propositions. Nor is this the case in religion alone, but likewise in other sciences, as well the serious as the light, where the primary propositions are postulated: as things wherein the use of reason cannot be absolute. Thus in chess, or other games of the like nature, the first rules and laws of the play are merely positive postulates, which ought to be entirely received, not disputed: but the skillful playing of the game is a matter of art and reason." 

Here in the allegory of The Tempest Bacon gives us a glimpse behind that curtain of God. And what do we see there? In his De Principiis Atque Originibus Bacon said:

"For the summary law of being and nature, which penetrates and runs through the vicissitudes of things (the same which is described in the phrase, 'the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end', that is, the force implanted by God in these first particles, from the multiplication whereof all the variety of things proceeds and is made up, is a thing which the thoughts of man may offer at but can hardly take in." 

We see that Prospero who personifies God in the play utilizes two forces to accomplish his ends. The first is represented by Ariel. The second force, that which he utilizes to accomplish the union of human knowledge and human power is Love. In the Wisdom of the Ancients in the essay on Cupid Bacon says: 

"Thus the summary or collective law of nature, or the principle of love, impressed by God upon the original particles of all things, so as to make them attack each other and come together, by the repetition and multiplication whereof all the variety in the universe is produced, can scarce possibly find full admittance into the thoughts of men, though some faint notion may be had thereof." 

And again he says: 

"Love seems to be the appetite, or incentive, of the primitive matter; or, to speak more distinctly, the natural motion, of moving principle, of the original corpuscles, or atoms; this being the most ancient and only power that made and wrought all things out of matter." 

And he says this is, next to God, "the cause of causes."

We also see in "De Principiis Atque Originibus" the reason why there should be two compasses, the light and the dark in the ultimate disclosure scene. Bacon says:

"Now that point concerning the egg of Nox bears a most apt reference to the demonstration by which this Cupid is brought to light. For things concluded by affirmatives may be considered as the offspring of light; whereas those concluded by negatives and exclusions are extorted and deduced as it were out of darkness and night. Now this Cupid is truly an egg hatched by Nox; for all the knowledge of him which is to be had proceeds by exclusions and negatives:"

Although the allegory of the three idols applies to the allegory at the level of the microcosm, i.e. at the individual mind, this level differs as regards the significance of the characters. Here the allegory is obvious. Bacon had stressed the dire straits of the existing state of the Advancement of Learning. Human Power and Human Knowledge must be united to be effective, but Human Power has developed an enmity for Human Knowledge, and has banished it. The beginning of the play allegorizes the result. The Ship of Discovery is in danger of shipwreck.

The crew struggles desperately to save it, but are powerless (they represent mechanical arts which can maintain but not increase knowledge). The King (Human Power) rules the ship of discovery, but without Human Knowledge he is powerless. The words of the boatswain emphasize this: 

"What cares these roarers for the name of king?"

In Bacon's system the scientist is the magician who works his art upon the particular in nature which is to be analyzed. To represent this analysis the symbolism has the scientist and the particular in nature coming together through the will or magic of the magician. In the allegory of The Tempest this is accomplished by having the ship of discovery drawn to Prospero through his magical power. 

Bacon said,

"toward the effecting of works all that men can do is put together, or put asunder natural bodies."

and added,

"a separation and solution of bodies, therefore, is to be effected not by fire indeed, but rather by reasoning and true induction..."

The allegory depicts the particular in nature (the sailing ship of discovery) as composed of a number of natures (symbolized by the characters aboard ship, which personify these natures). Just as the natures which compose a particular in nature, form one whole until they are separated through the scientific analysis of the scientist (who, in Bacon's scheme, is the magician), so the characters aboard the ship are combined in one group until Prospero draws them to him through his magical power. Then they are separated. Not, as Bacon says, through the fire of the furnace, but through the intellectual fire. They leap overboard and swim away in their separate directions from the ship. The intellectual fire is depicted by Ariel's simulation of St. Elmo's fire throughout the masts of the ship. In order to follow the allegory we must know what natures the characters represent. Bacon provides a key in the De Augmentis. He says,

"The justest division of human learning is that derived from the three different faculties of the soul, the seat of learning, History being relative to the memory, poetry to the imagination, and philosophy to the reason."

A little later in the same work he says,

"The faculties of the soul are well known; viz., the understanding, reason, imagination, memory, appetite, will and all those wherein logic and ethics are concerned." 

Bacon follows the general ideas in Renaissance writings on the divisions of the tripartite soul set forth in such works as The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621)*, Batman uppon Bartholome (1582), Sir John Davies' Nosce Teipsum (1599), Philippe de Mornay's The True Knowledge of a Mans Owne Selfe (1602), and Pierre de la Primaudaye's The French Academy. Therefore, it is not very difficult to reconstruct an anatomy of the soul of man as Bacon applies it in The Tempest, and this anatomy supplies the requisite key for The Tempest: 



Anatomy of The Soul of Man as Used in The Tempest with

The Corresponding Cast of Characters




Willing (Understanding) 

Adrian & Francisco










Nilling (Understanding) 


Rational Soul



Nilling (will)





Prospero Ariel



Soul Caliban






Moving Faculty 

Ariel Stephano

(Sensitive Soul) (Intellective)



Appetite (Sensitive)




(Vegetative Soul)

This Anatomy applies to a degree both to the microcosm of the individual, and, by correspondence to the macrocosm also. For instance, Human Power obviously corresponds to the will, while Human Knowledge corresponds to the understanding, and Human Industry to the moving faculty of the Sensitive Soul. The office of the understanding is to take data received from the outside by the senses, evaluate the data, and, based on this evaluation, guide the will so it directs the Sensitive Soul, and thence the moving faculty, in taking the appropriate action based on the rational analysis of the data received. Unfortunately man's tripartite soul does not always function as it was designed. Due to The Fall, there is a persistent tendency in the soul to short-circuit. Either the will by passes the Understanding faculty, impelling the moving faculty directly, or the Sensitive Soul collects and processes the data as it should, but then by passes the rational soul altogether and sends the data directly to the moving faculty of the Sensitive Soul. Thus the passions (with no control by the judgmentof reason, or the moral choice of will) are aroused by what is pleasurable or what is painful, not by what is true or false, good or bad, and direct action accordingly. 

It is appropriate that Bacon makes the moving faculty the son of the will since will produces motion. Likewise the nilling faculty of the understanding is brother to the will. Also certain characters appear more than once in the anatomy because there is a correspondence of qualities which runs through parts of the divisions. 

Alonso who represents human power is obviously the Will while Gonzalo who affirms everything is Willing, and Antonio who denies everything is Nilling. These are both important features in human learning because any quest of discovery into the essential natures which compose some particular proceeds by this twofold process:

1. The process of affirmation or inclusion of thenatures which pertain to the subject under analysis utilizing the faculty of willing. 

2. The process of denying or exclusion of natures which do not pertain to the particular under analysis using the faculty of nilling. 

Sebastian on the other hand (who wants to take Alonso's crown) seems to represent Human Ambition without whose motive force no Advancement of Learning would ever be made. 

Prospero (famed for liberal arts) is obviously Human Knowledge, and equates with Understanding. Under him we see Memory (Caliban); Imagination (Ariel), and Reason or Science, which is Miranda. After the natures comprising the particular have been separated they must be shown in the allegory as being subjected to some influence from the magician which operates upon them to change their basic nature since Bacon's science operates by separating the particular into the simple natures or forms which constitute it, then superinducing the desired changes upon these forms, and recombining them to make the particular which has the desired changes incorporated into it. 

We see this in the play. Gonzalo, who affirms everything is operated upon so he becomes more critical in his affirmation. Antonio is operated upon so he becomes more critical in his denial. Alonso is reconciled and bound to Prospero, and the ambition of Sebastian is instructed to seek better ends through the device of the illusory feast. The characters or natures which were together at the beginning of the play and were separated and operated upon to have basic natures changed are brought together again at the end of the play to form the changed particular in nature. 

Footnote: the Simple Motions in The Tempest



Quality by which matter refuses to be annihilated, universally inherent in all bodies, thus the individuality of each characters answers to this.



The force which makes the primary particles of matter come together, impressed on matter by God. So Prospero (in his role as God) causes the various characters scattered about the isle to come together.



The quality of this motion is personified by Ariel whocontinually, throughout the play, exhibits the desire for liberty, and seeks to be free from the control imposed by God (Prospero).



Whereby bodies desire a new sphere or dimension and thereto aspire readily and quickly to it. Caliban, who represent matter in the play, immediately and eagerly aspires (without any prior acquaintance with Stephano) to the new sphere of being under Stephano's control.



This quality was exhibited by Ferdinand in undergoing the task imposed upon him by Prospero.



The motion by which bodies, when placed among quite heterogeneous and hostile bodies, if they find an opportunity of escaping from these and uniting themselves to others more cognate (though these others be such as have no close union with them) do nevertheless embrace the latter and chose them as preferable. 

Represented by the scene in the tempest where Ariel causes balls of fire to run all over the masts and the passengers in the ship. The passengers finding themselves among these hostile bodies chose to leap overboard into the wild tumult of the waves even though these seemed scarcely preferable.



The motion by which bodies are carried toward masses of a like nature with themselves. This is represented by the different groups of passengers after leaving the ship. In their various places of dispersion about the island it comes out that all the characters of a like nature come together: 

1. Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban, the characters of the lowest degree, seemingly all by accident come together. 

2. Alonzo, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and the other noblemen of the court party come together although the tumult of the waves and the dashing to and fro would indicate otherwise. 

3. Ferdinand joins Miranda and Prospero.



The motion by which the homogeneous parts in a body separate themselves from the heterogeneous and combine together, and also, "entire bodies from similarity of substance embrace and cherish each other". Bacon, describing reasons for believing ancient myths contained hidden meanings, said: 

"But there is yet another sign, and one of no small value, that these fables contain a hidden and involved meaning; which is, that some are them are so absurd and stupid upon the face of the narrative taken by itself, that they may be said to give notice from afar and cry out there is a parable below." 

This is well exemplified by that curious episode in the play where Trinculo crawls under the gabardine of Caliban who way lying unmoving on the ground in an attempt to avoid attracting attention, and after the arrival of Stephano came forth from under his gabardine. This allegory agrees point for point with the motion of The Lesser Congregation: 

"the binding of this motion takes place generally in three ways: by the torpor of external motion..for the torpor of bodies, it is certain that there resides in tangible substances a certain sluggishness,..and an aversion from change of place."

So in the scene Caliban lays in one place as if dead due to the check of the dominant body (Trinculo), and they come together by the external motion of Trinculo. 


The motion by which union from a distance is effected. Symbolized by the force which first drew the ship of the voyagers to the isle.



  Exemplified in the flight of Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban when pursued by the spirits in the shape of hounds.



This is the motion by which bodies convert others well related, or well disposed to their own substnace and nature. It operates by authority and command, and is well exemplified by Juno, Ceres and the reapers in the bridal masque.




Proceeds by art and by insinuation, and stealthily, inviting the excited body to the nature of the exciting.This is symbolized by the stealth and art which Prospero used to ensure that Miranda the exciting body worked on Ferdinand. They were, as Prospero said, well disposed on first sight, but Prospero worked by artifice to bring about the betrothal.



This motion, Bacon explained, was such that if the cause was taken away the effect immediately ceased. Some indication of this is seen in the effect Ariel produced on the party.



Described by Bacon as the motion by which "bodies seem to desire not union or separation with respect to others, but position, collocation and configuration." In the play when the King's party were brought before Prospero although they were all in a distracted state yet they still maintained a definite configuration. The stage direction read: 

"Here enters Ariel before; then Alonso, with a frantic gesture, attended by Gonzalo; Sebastian and Antonio in like manner, attended by Adrian and Francisco. They all enter the circle which Prospero had made, and stand there charmed."


The motion by which the virtues of bodies are changed by the medium in which they find themselves. Exhibited by Ariel who for different tasks took on the form of fire, became a nymph of the sea, descended into the depth of the earth, and so on.



Expressed by both Alonzo and Prospero



The motion by which bodies delighting in motion and favorably placed for it, enjoy their own nature. This seems to have been expressed by Ariel in his anticipation of his freedom. He would delight in his own nature: 

"where the bee sucks there suck I"
"on a bat's back following summer
merrily, merrily."



Expressed by Caliban when he lay trembling on the ground frightened by Trinculo who he thought was a spirit sent by Prospero to torment him.


 comments for Mather Walker

see : Bacon 101-6. The Tempest as a Chess Game








 - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning