The Duke of Dark Corners 
The Allegory of God and the Fallen Angels

Measure for Measure


Mather Walker


"I shall give you Measure for Measure"--Tobie Matthew in a letter to Bacon after reviewing some writing that Bacon originally sent him 

What distinguishes Measure for Measure from the other Plays is the subject. In Measure for Measure Bacon takes on the question of God Himself. He stays on course with his announced plan for his Tabulae Inveniendi (Tables of Discovery). He crafts an entertaining story on the surface. He allegorizes an aspect of Ancient Knowledge underneath. He allegorizes the operation of his discovery device in determining the "form" of some related aspect of future knowledge. But the aspect of Ancient Knowledge he allegorizes, deals with the ancient legend of the Fallen Angels.

The related aspect of future knowledge he investigates is God. And the "form" his discovery device determines is the essential nature of God! In his preface to the Instauration, Bacon described both his plan and the Tabulae Inveniendi:

"...the first is to set forth examples of inquiry and invention according to my method, exhibited by anticipation in some particular subjects; choosing such subjects as are at once the most noble in themselves among these under inquiry, and most different one from another; that there may be an example in every kind. I do not speak of those examples which are joined to the several precepts and rules by way of illustration (for of these I have given plenty in the second part of the work); but I mean actual types and models, by which the entire process of the mind and the whole fabric and order of invention from the beginning to the end, in certain subjects, and those various and remarkable, should be set as it were before the eyes. For I remember that in the mathematics it is easy to follow the demonstration when you have a machine beside you; whereas without that help all appears involved and more subtle than it really is. To examples of this kind,- being in fact nothing more than an application of the second part in detail and at large,- the fourth part of the work is devoted."

And it must be conceded that God is indeed a noble subject.

Before we get into the really deep waters of bringing God to bar, and making HIM give up HIS secret HE has concealed since before the foundations of the earth were laid, lets look at the aspect of ancient knowledge which is allegorized in the Play.  


The book of Genesis in the Bible has a really weird passage. We are told that:

"... it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.  There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." 

This is just a fragment of the ancient record. The Book of Enoch (which was not included in The Bible) has a much fuller account: 

"It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children. 
Then their leader Samlyaza said to them; I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise; and that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime. But they answered him and said; we all swear; and bind ourselves by by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. They who were numbered two hundred, who descended upon Ardis, which is the top of mount Armon. That mountain therefore they called Armon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations.These are the names of their chiefs: Samyaza, who was their leader, Urakabarameel, Akibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Saraknyal, asael, Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertael, Turel, Yomyael, Arazyal. These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them. Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees. And the women conceiving brought forth giants."

The Book of Enoch goes on at some length about this. The angels were intended to be Watchers, and were supposed to remain above it all. But through their lust for the daughters of men, they fell. This is the important point in in considering the ancient knowledge aspect of Measure for Measure. The basic idea of the ancient legend concerns the angels who fell because they looked upon the daughers of men and saw that they were fair. 


Measure for Measure tells the story of a duke named VINCENTIO who turns the administration of his kingdom over to a deputy named ANGELO with the lord ESCALUS as his assistant, and then withdraws himself so that, while invisible behind the scenes, he can follow, and control everything that goes on. The deputy begins a strict administration of the laws, and when a man named Claudio impregnates a woman to whom he is not married, Angelo dredges up an obsolete law which has not been observed for many years, and sentences him to death. Claudio's sister ISABELLA is at a nunnery where she is ready to take her vows, but when she realizes her brother is to be executed, she goes to Angelo to plead for mercy. Angelo falls from his high place as impartial dispenser of justice because He becomes obsessed with lust for Isabella and tries to forces her to became a victim of his lust, telling her that if she does not give herself to him he will not only execute her brother, but will subject him to a prolonged torture before he has him killed. 

It is apparent that every detail in the play points to The Duke, Vincentio as God. His very name means, "Conquering", and he operates invisibly behind the scenes, just as God does.He says:

" I love the people ,But do not like to stage me to their eyes;"

and again:

"...I have ever loved the life removed."

He assumes the role of Providence, combining omniscience and omnipotence. One passage suggests specifically that he is God. The exposed Angelo cries:

"O my dread lord,"

and adds:

"When I perceive your Grace, like power divine,
Hath look'd upon my passes."

Wilson Knight says,

"he is lit at moments with divine suggestion comparable with his almost divine power of fore-knowledge, and control, and wisdom. There is an enigmatic, other-worldly, mystery suffusinghis figure and the meaning of his acts." 

He adds,

"...there is a distinct note of supernatural authority."

And he goes on to show that there are continual suggestions of the Gospels in the Play. The Sermon on the Mount says: 

"Ye are as the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the home." 

And the Duke says: 

"Heaven doth with us as we with torches do; Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues Did not go forth of us, 'Twas all alike As if we had them not." 

In Matthew, Christ says:

"For the Kingdom of Heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straight way took his journey." 

And the Duke says: 

" Nor Nature never lends The smallest scruple of her excellence, But, like a thrifty goddess, she determine Herself the glory of a creditor, Both thanks and use." 

Henri Fluchere says of the play: 

There are numerous Biblical images in the play: star of the morning, shepherd, sinner, random. Not to mention the parable themes, notably those of the miraculous Draught of Fishes, of the Bridegroom, of the Temptation, of Sin; the justification of the lie and of disguising for the ends of salvation; the incidents of the plot (Isabella the saint interceding for the sinner, receiving the proposal of her spiritual death, rejecting the temptation to do a wicked deed for a good cause, then agreeing to save her honour and her brother, on the Duke's advice, by a maneuver which can be symbolically interpreted as a ruse of the Divine Spirit fighting the Devil with his own weapons, so as at last to reap her reward with the symbolic Bridegroom)."  

In the Bible is the idea that at the Last Judgement a trumpet will sound. In the play the last act at the end of the play is heralded by trumpet calls:

" Twice have the trumpet sounded; The generous and gravest citizens Have hent the gates, and very near upon The Duke is entering."

So that we have symbolized the Last Judgement.   And the name of Isabella, who is pledged to Vincentio at the end of the play, actually means "pledged to God."

The symbolism of the name of Mariana (Mariana=Mary+Anne; the Virgin + her Mother) is significant also. In the play Mariana has intercourse with Angelo the Angel. In the Koran Sura 19, there is the implication that Mary has intercourse with the angel Gabriel in order give birth to Jesus:

"And make mention in the Book, of Mary, when she went apart from her family Eastward. And took a veil to shroud herself from them and we sent our spirit out to her and he took before her the form of a perfect man.
She said,'I fly for refuge from thee to the God of Mercy. If thou fearest Him, begone from me.'
He said: 'I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a holy son.
' She said: 'How shall I have a son, when man hath never touched me? and I am not unchaste?'
'So shall it be. Thy Lord hath said, 'He said: Easy is this with me; and we will make him a sign to mankind, and a mercy from us. For it is a thing decreed.' And she conceived him, and retired with him to a far-off place." 

Since it is The Duke who finally administers justice in the play, or more specifically administers Measure for Measure, it may be noted that the name of the play itself suggests that he is God. In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ said,

"Judge not, that ye be not judged, For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

And the one, of course, who will give Measure for Measure is God.  It is to be noted that the only one who is finally to be punished is Lucio. The crime he committed was Blasphemy. 

The name Escalus is a form of "scalus" which means "a ladder" in latin, and apparently refers to the hierarchy of powers which assist God in the administration of his kingdom. 

Whenever Bacon wants to symbolize God, he always represents him as a Duke. Bacon realizes the God of our popular notions corresponds to the highest independent ruler of a duchy, while the highest Deity, as recognized by the Gnositics, is Unknown, and Alien, and has nothing to do with the Creation. Bacon symbolizes God as a duke in The Tempest, and again in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, not to mention various other plays. So it is no suprise that we find God symbolized as a duke in Measure for Measure. In one of those wonderful phrases Bacon is so adept at creating, Lucio refer to Vincentio as,"that Old Fantastical Duke of Dark Corners."

Truly, mystification is his ruling passion. He sends "letters of strange tenour" to Angelo, hinting at his own death or retreat into a monastery. He gives Angelo a sense of false security at the beginning of act v, announcing: 

We have made inquiry of you; and we hear Such goodness of your justice, that our soul Cannot but yield you forth to public thanks, Forerunning more requital.   Then he orders Isabella to prison, calls Mariana "thou pernicious woman," and then, in his Friars disguise, tells them both that their cause is lost. Later he laments with Isabella that he was not able to hinder Claudio's death:

" O most kind maid!
It was the swift celerity of his death,
Which I did think with slower foot came on,
That brain'd my purpose." 

The "old fantastical duke of dark corners," is one of those marvelous phrases Bacon can toss off at will, and it turns out to be absolutely true of Vincentio/God. He is a Duke of Dark Corners.

He does not hesitate to lie. He tells Claudio,"Angelo had never the purpose to corrupt her; only he hath made an assay of her virtue to practise his judgment with the disposition of natures...

I am confessor to Angelo, and I know this to be true;" 

He loves to pull his puppet strings behind the scene, to create his dramas, and has absolutely no concerns for human feelings, even for Isabel who is pledged to him at the end of the Play. After he has unveiled himself he continues to let Isabel think Claudio was executed. Why does the Duke conceal from Isabel in her grief the knowledge that her brother yet lives? The duke is concerned with his drama. He wants to keep the crisis to the end.

He has no concern for human feelings. And is this not the way of God in real life? There are people for whom it seems to be decreed by Providence that no trial, however agonizing, no pain, however atrocious, is to be spared them.

He again and again rejects Mariana's plea for mercy for Angelo even though he knows he does not intend to execute him. He is entirely indifferent to the suffering he causes both her and Isabel.

This supreme indifference to human feeling in the play is as persistence a note as any. And it is surely a hallmark of Deity. In Act II, Scene III, Vicentio catechizes Juliet, and in bidding her farewell, casually breaks the news of her lover, Claudio's, imminent execution:

Your partner, as I hear, must die to-morrow
And I am going with instruction to him.
Grace go with you! Benedicite!

and he goes blithely off. It is evident the prison in the play is earth, or phenomenal existence. The Duke says:

"I have come to visit the afflicted spirits Here in prison." 

In "The Meaning of Shakespeare" Harold C. Goddard says:

"A prison is presumably a place where justice is done. Pompey, Mistreee Overdone's tapster, is struck rather by its resemblance to his employer's establishment. 

'I am as well acquainted here as I was in our house of profession: one would think it were Mistress Overdone's own house, for here be many of her old customers, First, here's young Master Rash....' and foregoing acquaintance with the rest of the inmates whom Pompey goes on to introduce, we are sent back in astonished recognition, by that name 'Master Rash,' to Hamlet (and his 'prais'd be rashness') who first made known to us the idea that the world is a prison. This play carries Hamlet's analogy a step further, and continually suggests the resemblance of the main world, not so much to a prison-though it is that too-as to a house of ill fame, where men and women sell their honors in a dozen senses. 


Angelo, whose name obviously implies that he symbolizes an Angel, is specifically referred to as:

"...angel on the outward side"

The plot of Measure for Measure came from an Italian collection of novels-Geraldi Clinthio's "Hecatommithi." The leading character, who is by Bacon christened Angelo, was known by another name to Clinthio in his story. It should be noted that George Whetstone had two versions of the story. The earlier was a play in two parts called "Promos and Cassandra" published in 1578, the later a short narrative called the "Rare History of Promus and Cassandra" and included in his story collection called the "Heptameron of Civil Discourses" published in 1582. It is informative to compare the story and names in the original with Bacon's finished product in Measure for Measure since this gives some idea of the direction he was going with his allegory.

There is no evidence of the invisible duke behind the scenes in the original. There is a lot about Justice in Whetstones play, but more about the wickedness of of bribery in the government and the need for magistrates to be a pattern of virtue. In the original: Angelo was Promus.

Isabel was Cassandra. Claudio was Andrugio. Juliet was Polina, and so on. As an angel Angelo would not have been born as humans are, and significantly Lucio says,

"They say this Angelo was not made by man and woman after this downright way of creation.It it true, think you?" 

And he also says of Angelo: 

" One who never feels
The wanton stings and motions of the sense," 

The allegory obviously refers to the ancient legend of the fallen angels. Angelo falls because of lust for Isabella. In addition, in the Book of Enoch after the angels had fallen they began to cause harm to mankind and God had to take special measures to control them. The devil was a fallen angel, and in the play, there are some intimations in this context to Angelo. 

It is significant that in the play we only begin to see the operations of The Duke in the second half, just as in the legend of the Fallen Angels, God does not take action until the second half of the legend after the angels have fallen and have began to cause harm to mankind. Here again, the allegory goes into some considerable detail, but the basic allegory has been established so I will not follow it further. 


The other side of the allegory, the face which looks to the future, and the allegory which deals with future knowledge and the operation of the discovery device is easy to establish also. The first set of 32 speeches, which is the table of presence, deals with Vincentio. In the second set Vincentio is absent. In order to see what the form of Vincentio, or God, is, it is necessary to go into some background on in modern physics on the idea of symmetry. 


Physics was known in Francis Bacon's day as natural philosophy. It later became more generally known as natural science continuing under this name until finally Physics became the generally accepted term. It deals with the properties, changes, interactions, etc., of matter and energy. Physics includes electricity, heat, optics, mechanics, chemistry, materials science, and the whole array of other fields, all the way from cosmology to quantum physics.

Physicists today can accurately predict the outcome of every fundamental process in the known universe.

In the beginning these studies involved a great deal of blind gropings with no broad principle to provide guidance. However, as the quantity of scientific knowledge accrued scientists began to realize there was a universal principle which should guide their searches. The wise hunters, that is, those who are the adherents of what Bacon called "literate experience" or "The Hunt of Pan" came to realize they should stalk their quarry by searching for signs of SYMMETRY. 

At its most basic level symmetry is a way of classifying how certain aspects of the appearance of objects persevere when the objects are rotated or otherwise moved. A sphere, for example, casts a circular shadow. The shadow stays circular regardless of how we rotate the sphere. The sphere is therefore said to be rotationally symmetrical about any axis. There are many spatial symmetries. If I write a number of Xs on this line: XXXXXX, they are symmetrical along the dimension of the printed line for translations approximately equal to their width. They also have mirror symmetry, since they are indistinguishable from their reflections. Symmetry was found to be a part of geometry, biology, and even algebra. The connection of symmetry to art, music, and science was much more apparent when the only symmetry notion was line symmetry, or level one symmetry. These connections became even deeper and more meaningful as advances were made to higher-level interpretations of symmetry. The entire theory of Einstein's relativity was merely another aspect of symmetry. 

In quantum physics, researchers often employ abstract symmetries to solve particular problems. The electron has an antimatter partner, the positron, which has the same mass and spin as the electron, but an opposite electrical charge. So physicists make an abstract, three-dimensional "space: the axes of which represent charge, mass, and spin. As the electron is transformed into a positron it is said to be symmetrical along the axes of mass and spin,-since these remain the same. This example demonstrates that symmetry does not have to have to do with geometrical shapes in ordinary space. So we move from the particular of an object in space, to the higher generalization of A QUANTITY THAT REMAINS UNCHANGED THROUGH A TRANSFORMATION.

The word symmetry derives from a Greek word which means,"the same measure." That is, a symmetry gives "Measure for Measure." Physicists use the word "invariance" as shorthand for "a quantity that remains unchanged."

The observed properties of the quantum particles can be precisely described in the language of mathematics, and within that language the idea of symmetry has come to play an increasing important role. C. N. Yang said:

"Nature seems to take advantage of the simple mathematical representations of the symmetry laws. When one pauses to consider the elegance and the beautiful perfection of the mathematical reasoning involved and contrast it with the complex and far-reaching physical consequences, a deep sense of respect for the power of the symmetry laws never fails to develop."  

According to Dietrick E. Thomsen:

"Symmetry is a basic principle of physics. There are deep philosophical, mathematical, physical and psychological reasons for this, and physicists will persist in looking for some phenomenon predicted by a theory based on symmetry even when it begins to seem a little absurd to continue." 

Nature's rules are not arbitrary; they are dictated by the same general principle of symmetry, and linked together in an organic whole. Physicists are deciphering the underlying design of Nature by postulating various symmetries that Nature may have used in the design. 

Symmetry is a universal law in nature. IN THE ABSENCE OF FORCES TO PREVENT SYMMETRY FROM DEVELOPING, IT SIMPLY HAPPENS. Some universal, invisible, THING in all of nature causes symmetry. In Quantum mechanics Symmetry rescued physics from a crisis of proliferating particles that drove many physicists to the point of distraction.


What we must examine most carefully in order to understand the "form" of God which is symbolized in the play, is what is the justice that The Duke finally administers at the end of the play? What is HIS law that he applies? His very peculiar justice that he administers is SYMMETRY. He says it himself: 

"An Angelo for Claudio, death for death! Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure; Like doth quit like, and Measure still for Measure." 

He balances everything out. He produces symmetry. This is why there is that odd insistence on marriage. His odd sentence to Angelo and Marian is: 

"Go, take her hence and marry her instantly.
Do you the office, friar; which consummate." 

This takes places immediately before he orders Angelo to the block.  He then unveils Claudio as still being alive. So he sets Angelo free, having effected symmetry by balancing

Angelo being sentenced and freed with Claudio being sentenced and freed. Then he sentences Lucio to death, but weirdly enough he first orders a search to be found for any woman whom Lucio may have made pregnant and to have him married before he is executed. Symmetry again, man and women united produce symmetry. 

The picture given of God in Measure for Measure is very weird, but, no doubt, a reflection of reality as opposed to the maudlin ideas of the Christians. God is the "old fantastical Duke of Dark Corners" who delights in his invisible puppet manipulations, and drama creations, behind the scenes, and is not bound by any human feelings, or moral considerations. He lies, and deceives. He causes anguish with absolutely no consideration for human feelings. And, if he dispenses mercy, it is not because it is an act of humanity, but because it pleases Him to do so as part of the drama he has created. The only justice that He dispenses is the Justice of Symmetry. This is the law of adamantine necessity. This is best expressed in the Kabbalah. The Zohar implies that everything in the universe must be equally balanced by its opposite, or the whole thing will self destruct.

There is a story, given there, that the original creation which the Creator created was minutely out of balance, and the whole thing self destructed and had to be created again. Every good human in this world has his or her opposing and exactly equal evil human. Everything is counter-balanced. All of this is consistent with the concept of Maya of the Vedanta. Measure for Measure is an expression of a deeper reality that only Bacon saw and understood.






 - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning