"The Academy"


Love's Labour's Lost


Mather Walker




Handshake emblem from title page to Bacon's Progrez et Advancement aux Sciences (1624)


There was a time not so long ago when Love's Labour's Lost was regarded as the earliest of the plays. It was noted that the early plays had a great many rhyming lines, but that the later plays tended to have less and less rhyming lines. Love's Labour's Lost had the most rhyming lines of any of the plays. The play also had various other characteristics of the dramatist's earliest style. It was assigned various dates, with the earliest being 1588 and the latest 1592. But a problem gradually surfaced.

It became embarrassingly evident that Love's Labours's Lost bristled with topical allusions showing great familiarity, not only with the aristocratic Essex circle, but with related aristocratic circles. William Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon could not have picked up this information in the provinces, and it was apparent, from the tone of the 1592 dedication of Venus and Adonis to Southampton, that this represented Shakespeare's first acquaintance with Southampton, and no one doubted that Southampton represented Shakespeare's entree to the Essex circle, and to any other aristocratic circles. 

Obviously a period of time was required for his acquaintance with Southampton to ripen, and a subsequent additional period of time was required for him to acquire a detailed familiarity with the Essex Circle, and any other aristocratic circles. Now the storm is over. The crisis has passed. If one looks at the "official" chronology of the Plays, in the prestigious Folger Guide to Shakespeare, one can see nine plays dated before Love's Labour's Lost, which now has a date of 1594/1595. How did this change come about?
If one scans the literature closely one can see disparagingly
references to "the mechanical analysis" of earlier scholars, and complacent notations, that with the superior, more modern scholarship, the problem has now been corrected. But is this actually the case? Or it is another of the deceptions of Stratfordian Orthodoxy?

In any case, the new date allows sufficient time, following the 1592 dedication of Venus and Adonis, for Shakespeare's acquaintance with Southampton to ripen, and for him to garner a subsequent knowledge of the Essex Circle. Never mind that the end result is to sweep under the rug another clutter of facts that point to Francis Bacon as author of the plays.

 It was well for the Stratfordians that they plastered over their problem. Not only was Francis Bacon in the Essex Circle in 1592 with the required detailed knowledge of the individuals in the circle. He was acquainted with the people from other aristocratic circles to whom there were topical allusions in the play, and he also possessed the other very unique qualifications required for authorship. Furthermore, as far as the papers of Anthony Bacon were concerned, which were published in Birch's Memoirs, and gave detailed information about the "comings and goings" of various individuals in the Essex Circle, William Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon may as well not have existed at all. Moreover, The Academy at the court of Navarre, depicted in Love's Labour's Lost, reflected an actual academy which existed when Francis Bacon was in France, and there is evidence that Bacon was associated with it.

 In her study of "THE FRENCH ACADEMIES OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY" Frances Yates gave details showing the relation of Primaudaye's French Academy to the Palace Academy at Navarre. In his book "The Mystery of Francis Bacon" William Smedley provided evidence to support his claim that Francis Bacon was actually the author of the French Academy. Moreover, there are a number of reflections in Love's Labour's Lost of the French Academy. It has four principals, just as in the French Academy, one of whom was Bacon (Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost, and Architob [by anagram, Bacohit] in The French Academy). The location of the Academy in Love's Labour's Lost is at Navarre, just as the French Academy apparently was according to Yates analysis. More evidence comes from Alfred Dodd's "Francis Bacon's Personal Life-Story" in which he points out the work "Argenis" which Bacon wrote under the mask of John Barclay and supplied a key, in later additions of the work, which identified Marguerite of Navarre, and tells us of the author's feelings for her.

 Henry of Navarre was the popular figure of the day. The names Biron(Berowne) and Longaville belonged to two of his followers; Dumain seems also to have been a French nobleman of Henry's time. The episode in Love's Labour's Lost of the visit to the court of the Princess of Frances and her ladies, and the settlement of of the payments of one hundred thousand crown represents an actual event. Catharine de Medici and her daughter Marguerite made an expedition to the court of Navarre at Nerac in 1578 in order to effect a settlement of the question of sovereignty of Aquitaine and the matter of the payment of one hundred thousand crowns to Navarre by the king of France. The diplomatic matters being quickly turned over to specialists, the king and his court devoted themselves to festivities for the entertainment of their royal guests. Bacon was at the court at the time. This is where he first saw Marguerite. Henry was in his early twenties at this time. In the play the father of the Princess of France died, and she had to return home. As the play said, Jack did not get his Jill. In real life the father of Bacon died, and he had to return home, and Jack did not get his Jill. As a matter of fact Marguerite subsequently became the wife of Henry of Navarre. It is to be noted that later when Anthony Bacon visited Henry at his court he was immediately accepted as a friend. This, no doubt, because Henry was already acquainted with Francis.

 1592 (the most likely year for Love's Labour's Lost to have been revised to slant it for Southampton, if you exclude concerns related to sweeping unwanted facts under the rug) was a significant year. This was the year of Bacon's letter to Burleigh in which he made his famous statement, "I have taken all knowledge to be my province." Bacon was very much involved with learning at this time. He was completing his astonishing effort (which could only be described as superhuman) to assimulate all knowledge. Love's Labour's Lost had learning for it's subject just as did The Tempest which Bacon later designed to be the introductory piece for the First Folio.

 1592 was also the year in which young Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton, only 19 at the time but fast approaching his maturity, began to enter into a relationship with Essex, and the Essex circle. 1592 was the year in which Bacon dedicated his poem Venus and Adonis to Southampton, and many scholars, noting that Love's Labour's Lost bears all the marks of having been written for a special audience such as would be found in the household of some noblemen, have concluded it was written for, and first played in the household of Southampton.

With Love's Labour's Lost we are in a better position than with most of the other plays to know just what Bacon was "up to" as he created a play. He was providing a veiled history of actual events which had taken place in his life, just as he had stated in "Argenis" that he would, but he had also said in "Argenis", "For this liberty shall be mine, who am not religiously tyed to the truth of a History." So it is not a literal history, because he makes changes to actual history at will. On the other hand there are many recognizable allusions to both the events and people in the French court and to the events and people in the Essex circle.

He also wanted to make a splash with Southampton. Southampton was a theater addict, therefore, the play was the thing by which he'd catch the short attention span of the young nobleman. He designed the play specifically for consumption by Southampton, but also for his friends in the Essex Circle. Southampton was fresh out of the university. An academic setting would resonate with him. The young noblemen were accustomed to making the members of the lower classes around them the butt of their humour. The play was designed so the audience could recognize many they knew, both in and outside of their own circle, and made those people whom they would recognize from the lower classes the target of their humour.

A certain Antonio Perez, an eccentric, bombastic, Spaniard, one- time Secretary of State to the King of Spain, had fallen into disgrace with his royal master and had defected, travelling to various locations before winding up in England and the Essex Circle. He amused Essex and his friends very much (Boyet says of Armado in the Play, "This Armado is a Spaniard, that keeps here in court; A phantasime, a Monarcho, and one that makes sport to the Prince and his book-mates") Perez appears in Love's Labour's Lost painted to the life:

"Our Court, you know, is haunted
With a refined travailler of Spaine,
A man in all the worlds new fashion planted,
That hath a mint ofphrases in his braine:
One who the musicke of his owne vaine tongue
Doth ravish, like inchanting harmonie:
A man of complements whom right and wrong
Have chose as umpire of their mutinie."

Bacon achieved a very deft touch by giving him the name Armado. The debacle of the Spanish Armada was fresh in the mind of these patriotic young Elizabethans, and they could not have failed to notice the connection and have been moved to laughter every time this reflection of the Spanish Armada (in whom they recognized Perez) appeared on the stage.

The model on which another of the characters in the play was based was John Florio. When Holofernes delivers the Italian proverb in the play: 

"Ah, good old Mantuan! I amy speak of thee as

the traveller doth of Venice:

Venetia, Ventia

Chi non ti vede, non ti pretia.

Old Mantuan! old Mantuan! Who understandeth thee not,

Loves thee not."

He is reciting a proverb from Florio's conversation manual "Second Fruits" which was designed to teach Italian to Englishmen. Attention has also been drawn to the phrase in "First Fruits":


"We neede not speak so much of loue, al books are ful
of loue, with so many authours, that it were labour lost
to speake of Loue." 

which seems to have been the source for the title of the play. Southampton's father died when his son and heir was only eight years old. The young earl was thus a minor during the earlier part of his tenure of the title and did not come of age until 1594. Minors in noble families automatically became royal wards. William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, was Master of the Queen's Wards, and appointed himself Southampton's guardian. Cecil had become enormously wealthy over the years by his practice of appointing the wealthiest wards to his immediate guardianship and robbing them blind in the interim before their majority. Essex, himself, had been one of Burleigh's wards. Young Bedford was another subsequent to Southampton. They all graduated from their wardship inverterate enemies of Burliegh, united against him in the Essex circle.

 As guardian Burleigh also supervised Southampton's education and choose his tutors. He appointed Florio as his language tutor, but Florio had a double role, of which Southampton was, no doubt, aware. Florio was also a spy for Burliegh. He was thoroughly detested by Southampton. It was only natural that Southampton welcomed the chance to laugh at him under his depiction as the comical Holofernes. 

Bacon also built into the play echoes of the famous controversy between Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe, a controversy which the viewers from the Essex Circle would have been well familiar with. Bacon had Armado call Moth his "tender Juvenal", which was Nashe's nickname among his contemporaries. There were many other topical allusions which Southampton and the members of the Essex Circle would have recognized, but Bacon had still another, more ulterior motive in the design of the play. Bacon had concluded :

"...after long considering the subject and weighing it
carefully, first of all to prepare Tabulae Inveniendi
or regular forms of inquiry; in other words, a mass
of particulars arranged for the understanding, and to
serve, as it were, for an example and almost visible
representation of the matter...

But when these Tabulae Inveniendi have been put forth
and seen, he does not doubt that the more timid wits
will shrink almost in despair from imitating them with
productions with other materials or on other subjects;
and they will take so much delight in the specimen given
that they will miss the precepts in it. Still, many will
be led to inquire into the real meaning and highest
use of these writings, and to find the key to their
interpretation, and thus more ardently desire, in some
degree at least, to acquire the new aspect of nature
which such a key will reveal."

He had also decided he would set forth his works containing his tables in a twofold aspect, one dealing with knowledge from the past, and one with his discovery device which was knowledge from the future: 

"Nevertheless it is important to understand how the present
is like a seer with two faces, one looking toward the future,
|and the other towards the past. Accordingly I have decided
to prepare for your instruction tables of both ages,
containing not only the past course and progress of science,
but also anticipations of things to come."

So, in addition to designing his play to reflect actual events, both in the actual academy at Navarre in France, and in the Essex circle, and to titillate young Wriothesley, Bacon also designed it to have two faces, one looking toward the past and dealing with some aspect of ancient knowledge, and the other looking toward the future and demonstrating the operation of his discovery device in enquiring into the form of some related aspect of knowedge. For this early play the subject he chose for the face looking toward the past was the Academy, origin and model for all later institutions of higher learning. And he not only gave a model of the original Academy, but he also modeled the history of the academy all the way down to his own day. Bacon was like a super juggler, who instead of four balls, keeps 100 in the air at one time, with the pattern continuously changing.




Plato founded the Academy in 387 B.C. It became famous throughout the civilized world. It was finally closed by the emperor Justinian in 526 A.D., having been in operation for over 900 years, and was the origin and model for countless later institutions of learning, especially during the renaissance.

The Academy (Academia) was originally a public garden or grove in the suburbs of Athens, about six stadia from the city, named from the hero Academus who left it to the citizens for gymnastics. It was surrounded with a wall by Hipparchus, adorned with statues, temples, and sepulchres of illustrious men; planted with olive and plane trees, and watered by the Cephisus.

Individuals soon came from all over Greece to pursue philosophy in the Academy, but Plato accepted only those "intoxicated to learn what was in their souls." A student listened as Plato walked about the gymnasium lecturing, and they all enjoyed moderate but pleasant banquets. The meals were conducted according to an elaborate set of rules, chiefly so the students might refresh themselves with learning.

There is no detailed information regarding the rules and regulations by which Plato governed his Academy. However, the Academy was established following his return from Sicily and the Seventh Letter of Plato gives us some information of how Plato felt about the philosophical life. Plato says of his visit to Sicily :

"I found myself utterly at odds with the sort of life
that is there termed a happy one, a life taken up with
Italian and Syracusan banquets, and existence that consists
in filling oneself up twice a day, never sleeping alone at
night, and indulging in all the practices attendant on that
way of living. In such an environment no man under heaven,
brought up in self-indulgence, could ever grow to be wise."

So it may be assumed that Plato proscribed an ascetic life for his pupils. Evidence for this is heightened when one investigates what Plato taught at his Academy. Certainly Plato did not read, reread, and talk about nothing but his dialogues for 40 years. There must have been "unwritten doctrines" which he disseminated. Here again the Seventh Letter of Plato gives us a clue as to what philosophy really meant to Plato. Plato was there to teach Dionysius, and he says :


When I had arrived, I thought I ought first to put it to
the proof whether Dionysius was really all on fire with
philosophy or whether the frequent reports that had come
to Athens to that effect amounted to nothing. Now there
is an experimental method ofor determining the truth in
such cases that, far from being vulgar, is truly appropriate
to despots, especially those stuffed with secondhand opinions,
which I perceived, as soon as I arrived, was very much the
case with Dionysius. One must point out to such men that
the whole plan is possible and explain what preliminary
steps and how much hard work it will require, for the
earer, if he is genuinely devoted to philosophy and is
a man of God with a natural affinity and fitness for the
work, sees in the course marked out a path of enchantment,
which he must at once strain every nerve to follow, or die
in the attempt. Thereupon he braces himself and his
guide to the task and does not relax his efforts until he
either crowns them with final accomplishment or acquires
the faculty of tracing his own way no longer accompanied
by the pathfinder....

The instruction I gave to Dionysius was accordingly given
with this object in view. I certainly did not set forth
to him all my doctrines, nor did Dionysius ask me to, for
he pretended to know many of the most important points
already and to be adequately grounded in them by means
of the secondhand interpretations he had got from the


I hear too that he has since written on the subjects in
which I instructed him at that time, as if he was composing
a handbook of his own which differed entirely from the
instruction he received. Of this I know nothing. I do
know, however, that some others have written on these same
subjects, but who they are they know not themselves. One
statement at any rate I can make in regard to all who have
written or who may write with a claim to knowledge of the
subjects to which I devote myself-no matter how they
pretend to have acquired it, whether from my instruction
or from others or by their own discovery. Such writers
can in my opinion have no real acquaintance with the
subject. I certainly have composed no work in regard to
it, nor shall I ever do so in future, for there is no way
of putting it in words like other studies. Acquaintance
with it must come rather after a long period of attendance
on instruction in the subject itself and of close
companionship, when, suddenly, like a blaze kindled by
a leaping spark, it is generated in the soul and at once
becomes self-sustaining."


It is evident that what Plato is referring to here is what was often called, "The Great Work", that same subject to which the Hermetic Alchemists devoted their labours (see my article on King Lear). This strongly supports the contention that ascetism was a part of the regime at the Academy.

With the revival of learning following the Dark Ages, a whole galaxy of academies were revived, modeled after the ancient Academy of Plato. In her book, "THE FRENCH ACADEMIES OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY", Frances Yates says, "The earliest, most famous, and most important of these was the Platonic Academy founded in the mid- fifteenth century at Florence under the auspices of the Medici family, and with which the names of Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Poliziano, and Pico della Mirandola are so closely associated. This is the root of the whole academic movement which later assumed such large proportions that the sixteenth century in Italy has been called 'the century of academies.'" 

All of the evidence would indicate that, just as with the initial repudiation of all sensual things by the Academy of the King in the Play, so Plato's Academy repudiated all sensual things. The Platonic Academy in Florence, however, took a divergent turn. On November 7, 1474 a banquet was held by the Academy in commemoration of the birthday of Plato. Marsilio Ficino delivered a commentary on the Symposium. 

Ficino's commentary inspired an entire genre of writings known as trattati d'amore (Treatises of Love). These works carried the tradition into a highly conventionalized and specialized form which took its inspiration from those two famous dialogues of Plato. Special emphasis was given to the role of the eyes in the drama of love. Love enters through the eyes they said. Quiller-Couch remarked, "The reader who takes the trouble to go through Love's Labour's Lost marking every allusion to women's eyes will be positively confounded by their number..." References to the "darkness" of love in the convention of the trattati d'amore might involve elaborate similes in which the beloved was compared to the sun; the image of the beloved to the sun's rays; love to light; and deprivation of love to obscurity.

The play begins with the King of Navarre saying his court shall be, "a little Academe." This is exactly the same sense Bacon uses in The Advancement of Learning when he says he has made a "small globe" of the Intellectual World. The "little Academe" is a model in miniature of the Academy of Plato. They are to spend three years in monastic devotion to learning. During that time they will have one meal a day and fast altogether one day a week. They will sleep only three hours each night and not doze in between, and they will see not ladies. All of this reflects the spirt of the original Academy of Plato. But the change when the four fall in love with the French ladies reflects the change in the Academy which came about with Ficino's Platonic Academy of Florence, and with the conventions of the trattati d'amore.

Bacon is serving three purposes here. First, he is building his allegory of the face looking toward the past. Second, he is catering to the tastes of the young noblemen, Essex, Southampton, and their cronies who were womanizers, playing dangerous games with Elizabeth's maids of honour, and making regular visits the stews on Southwark to sample the wares of Lucy Negro and her colleagues. Third, he is allegorizing his own ideas about learning.

In Bacon's system of science the primary force was love. This was the force that drew all things together in the beginning and produced order from chaos. In Bacon's symbolism he drew heavily on the traditional ideas of love. Plato had written two great dialogues dealing with love (The Symposium and The Phaedrus). In the Symposium a number of ideas were developed. First there was the idea of the two Venuses-the heavenly Venus, and the earthly Venus. The earthly Venus ruled over the love and desires of the body, while the realm of the heavenly Venus was the intellectual. Love was also that unbegotten force which arose from chaos in the beginning to create order in unformed matter.

Above all love was that cosmic power of attraction evoked by the hierarchy of beauty which successively rose fallen souls through higher and higher stages until they once again attained union with The One. Several centuries later in Alexandria a rebirth of these ideas occurred. This was known as Neo-Platonism. Plotinus systematized the Platonic universe into four levels; The One, The Universal Mind, The world Soul, and the reflected shadow.

At a later point in the tradition, wandering troubadours in the region of Provence, in Southern France, developed the tradition of Courtly Love, whose deity was The Lady. The Lady was won only through service and sacrifice. Dante brought a new connotation to this tradition. In Dante's writings the lady became identified with Philosophy. The fact that the ladies represent philosophy in the play is shown by their requirement of service and sacrifice for the king and his three companions to win their hands. It is significant also that there are four just as Plotinus had systematized the Platonic universe into four levels. 

Ficino's commentary delivered at the banquet held at his Platonic Academy in Florence had described the earthly and the heavenly Venuses in the very terms used in Love's Labour Lost. In the Anatomy of Melancholy, the discussion of love, following the trattati d'amore, says:


Love may be reduced to a twofold division, according to
the principal parts which are affected, the brain and the
liver; love and friendship, which Scaliger, Valesius and
Melancthos, warrant out of Plato, from the speech of
Pausanias, belike, that makes two Venuses and two loves;
One Venus is ancient, without a mother, and descended from
heaven, whom we call celestial: the younger begotten of
Jupiter and Dione, whom commonly we call Venus.


Ficinus in his comment upon this place, following Plato,
calls these two loves two Devils, or good and bad Angels
according to us, which are still hovering about our souls:
the one rears to heaven, the other depresseth us to hell;
the one good, which stirs us up to the contemplation of
that divine beauty, for whose sake we perform Justice,
and all godly offices, study philosophy & c., the other
base, and, though bad, yet to be respected; for indeed
both are good in their own natures..."

Armado love is the earthly Venus, and he expresses this idea in the play when he says:

"Love is a familiar; Love is a devil; there is no evil angel but Love."

In the sonnets, in which Bacon summarizes all aspects of love, in Sonnet CXLIV the same idea is described:


"Two loves I have of comfort and despair
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride."


Everyone has heard of the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. She symbolizes the terrestrial Venus. In developing this symbolism Bacon followed his usual practice of appropriating some existing idea and refashioning it to suit his purpose. In this case the existing idea was the sonnets of Philip Sidney. In the early years of the 1580's Sidney wrote a number of sonnet to Essex's sister, Penelope Devereau. Every proper courtier wrote thus to his mistress. So Petrach had written to Laura, and Sidney was determined to be the courtier's courtier. One of the theme he harped on was Penelope's black eyes:


"When Nature made her chief work, Stella's eyes,
In color black why wrapp'd she beams so bright?
Would she in beamy black, like painter wise,
Frame daintiest luster mix'd of shades and light?
Or did she else that sober hue devise
In object best knit and strength our sight,
Lest, if no veil these brave gleams did disguise,
They, sunlike, should more dazzle then delight?
Or would she her miraculous power show,
That, whereas black seems beauty's contrary,
She even in black doth make all beauties flow?"


Penelope scarely heeding Sidney's veneration, went on, with her black eyes, plump face, and little bow mouth, to very sensibly marry a very rich Lord (his name was Rich and he was referred to as the rich lord Rich) and breed him a brood of plump offspring. But Bacon fresh from the Sidney Circle carried on the idea in Love's Labour's Lost, and in his Sonnets.


The King says to Berowne: 

"By heaven thy love is black as ebony." 

and Berowne says: 

"Where is a book?

That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,

If that she learn not of her eye to look.

No face is fair that is not full so black."

and again: 

"O, if in black my lady's brows be deckt."


The members of Essex's Circle would, of course, have immediately recognized the allusion to Sidney and Penelope. On the other hand they probably did not recognize the allusion to the terrestrial Venus and to Diana Dictynna. Bacon continued this symbolism in the Sonnets:


In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or, if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:"


Richard David says of Love's Labour's Lost that, "beneath the shimmering surface the waters are deep". A close analysis of the play supports his statement. If one follows closely the progress of the romance of the young king and his three lords in the play, with the Princess of Frances and her three ladies, one sees that they are ascending the ladder of love which Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola had set out in six stages and to which Bacon had conformed in the stages of his Great Instauration. A particular beautiful body is presented to the eye. They go astray first through the error of words. Then, when the ladies are masked and they mistake one for another, they go astray through the error of surface appearances. The men send jewels to their ladies, but this is only good for laughter. They are deceived by surface values. The ladies are only to be won through service and sacrifice.

Another idea which had become connected to the "love tradition" during its transmission was The Rose, and the idea that the presence of The Rose was identified with Summer, and its absence with Winter. The play ends with two contrasting songs. One, composed of bleak imagery is dedicated to Winter, and the other composed of diametrically opposite imagery is dedicated to Summer.




The initial table (the initial 32 speeches in the play) presents the dichotomy between Learning and Loving. In the subsequent 32 speeches the fact is unveiled that they must meet the Princess of France and her ladies, and that their oath is overthrown. The demonstration of the operation of the discovery device in the play is an inquiry into the "form" of the dichotomy between Loving and Learning. The two songs at the end of the play present the "form." They are complementary. Two parts of a single whole, just as Winter and Summer are two parts of a single whole. In his doctrine in this play Bacon could as well have been expatiating the doctrine of Gurdjieff who insists that thinking must be united with feeling in order to have understanding. Gurdjief also said, "Sacrifice is necessary. If nothing is sacrificed nothing is obtained."

Mystical systems have described the earth as a place of learning where the incarnating soul must pass through the school of love. I think Bacon would have supported this idea.


The Mystery of Francis Bacon by William Smedley 










SirBacon.org - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning