Part II

Parallelisms and the Promus


The next selection of parallels is of a different kind; there is no complete identity of diction, though the same keywords often appear in a different sequence. But since in these we are not dealing with platitudes but with individual thought of a very subtle nature, the identity of purpose and expression is even more striking.


In the Essex Device (1595) Bacon tells us that--

There is no prison to the prison of the thoughts.

Hamlet, in speaking of Denmark as a "prison", and on Rosencrantz replying "We think not so, my Lord", exclaims:--

Why then 'Tis none to you; for there is nothing either
good or bad but thinking makes it so; to me it is a prison.

And again, Octavius Caesar, in counselling Cleopatra to be of good cheer, exclaims:

Make not your thoughts your prisons; no dear Queen.....
is as much a prison to Bacon as to Hamlet and so, in a darker mood, is the world......

"Denmark's a prison" cries Hamlet. "Then is the world one" answers Rosencrantz.
"The world is a prison....." writes Bacon in a letter to Buckingham at the time of his fall.

It will of course be said that Bacon was quoting Rosencrantz, but why not?



Bacon tells us that "soft singing" and the sound of falling waters, and the hum of bees, are conducive to sleep; and the cause is :

for that they move in the spirits a gentle attention


In the Merchant of Venice, when Jessica remarks, "I am never merry when I hear sweet music", Lorenzo replies, somewhat inconsequently:

The reason is, your spirits are attentive.

In Bright's Treatise of Melancholy (1586) and in Burton's Anatomy (1621) there are references to the power of music in influencing the spirits. But the use of the words "attention" and "attentive" in reference to the "spirits" is peculiar to Bacon and Shake-speare.

In the Sylva Sylvarum, in his Experiments in Consort Touching Venus (S. 693.) Bacon attributes the ill-effects of excess in "the use of Venus" to the "expense of Spirits" by which it is attended.

In The Sonnets (129) Shakespeare declares.....
The expense of Spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action.........

The expression "expense of Spirit" is not claimed to be peculiar to Bacon and Shake-speare,but its use in connection with "Venus" is, and constitutes a remarkable parallel.

Bacon tells us tht the outward manifestations of the passions are:

the effects of the dilation and coming forth of the spirits into the outward parts.

In Troilus and Cressida (4/5) when Ulysses beholds the heroine for the first time,he remarks

Her wanton spirits look out at every joint and motive of her body.



Bacon, in the Sylva Sylvarum (S.441) tells us that:

Shade to some plants conduceth to make them large
and prosperous more than the Sun.
Accordingly, if you sow borage among strawberries:
You shall find the strawberries under those leaves
far more than their fellows.

In Henry V (1/1) the Bishop of Ely, using this strange analogy, expounds on the large and luxuriant development of the Prince's nature on his emerging from the shade of low company:--

The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality
And so the Prince.........



In 1603 Bacon sent the King a discourse on Persian Magic, giving specimens of certain laws of nature which are equally laws of mind and thought. He also sent the King a discourse on the "Happy Union of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland"-- in which the following aphorism occurs:--

The second condition is that the greater draw the less. So we see when two lights do meet, the greater doth darken and drown the less. And when a smaller river runs into a greater, it lesseth both the name and the stream.

In the Merchant of Venice Portia repeats both Bacon's similes and in the same order.

So doth the greater glory dim the less ,
A substitute shines brightly as a king
Until a king be by, as doth an inland brook ,Into the Main of waters.....

This is a triple parallel. Here, in totally different context, we have identical chains of thought expressed independently, but using the same symbols of light and water, and both referring to the "greater" and the "less."



In The Promus Bacon makes this note:--

Our sorrows are our schoolmasters

The same sentiment seems to have appealed to the author of Shake-speare, who mentions it more than once...... wilful men,
The injuries that they themselves procure
Must be their schoolmasters.....(King Lear 2/4)

Give sorrow leave awhile to tutor me(Richard II. 4/1)



Bacon's theory that "flame doth not mingle with flame" (Sylva Sylvarum S.31) and that "When two heats differ much in degree, one destroys the other" (De Principiis atque Originbus.) is repeatedly echoed in Shakespeare as follows.....

As fire drives out fire, so pity pity(Julius Caesar 3/1)

One fire drives out one fire: one nail one nail
Rights by rights alter; strengths by strengths do fail(Coriolanus 4/7)

Even as one heat another heat expels
Or as one nail by strength drives out another
(TheTwo Gentlemen of Verona 2/4)

In two of these parallels Shakes-peare couples the simile of a "nail", whereas Chapman only uses that of "heat" (M. D'Olive 5/1). However Bacon, like Shake-speare, is interested in both similes as appears from his note in The Promus.....
Clavum clavo pellere
(To drive out a nail with a nail) (Promus 889)


As an example of the fascination which one man may exert over another, Bacon relates the following story:--

There was an Egyptian soothsayer, that made Antonius believe that his genius(which otherwise was brave and confident) was, in the presence of Octavianus Caesar, poor and cowardly: and therefore he advised him to remove far from him. (Sylva S. 940)
 In Antony and Cleopatra, Bacon's Egyptian Soothsayer is brought upon the stage in Shakespeare's lines:--

Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side!
Thy demon, that's thy spirit that keeps thee, is
Noble, courageous, high, unmatchable,
Where Caesar's is not, but near him thy Angel
Becomes a Fear as being overpower'd; therefore
Make space enough between you!
........I say again, thy spirit
Is all afraid to govern thee near him,
But he away , 'tis noble. (A. & C. 2/3/19).

In the Comedy of Errors, there is another variation of this theme:--

One of these men is genius to the other
And so of these. Which is the natural man
And which the spirit? Who deciphers them?
(Comedy of Errors 5/1/334)

In the Sylva Sylvarum Bacon goes on to say:--

Howsoever the conceit of a predominant or mastering spirit
of one man over another is ancient, and received still. (Sylva S. 940)

In the same vein Antony confesses to Cleopatra:
.....O'er my spirit,
Thy full supremacy thou knew'st...... (A. & C. 3/9/58)

......and in Julius Caesar Brutus confides to Cassius.....
........I do lack some part
Of that quick spirit that is in Antony. (Julius Caesar 1/2)

Bacon goes on to elaborate this idea as follows:--

The affections do make the spirits more powerful and active, and especially those affections which draw the spirits into the eyes : which are two; love and envy....
......But yet if there be any such infection from spirit to spirit, there is no doubt that if worketh by presence, and not by the eye alone; yet most forcibly by the eye. (Sylva S. 949)

This drawing of the spirits into the eyes finds an echo in the
Shake-speare lines :--

But love, first learned in a lady's eyes
Lives not alone immured in the brain....
But to every power a double power....
It adds a previous seeing to the eye. (Loves Labour's Lost 4/3/327)

....... for we are gentlemen
That neither in our hearts nor outward eyes
envy the great....... (Pericles 2/3/26)

Lastly, we find that these speculative ideas on the nature of spirits(or what we should now call soul-contact) are rationalised by Bacon with his usual charm.......

Certainly it is agreeable to reason, that there are at least some light effluxions from spirit to spirit, when men are in pesence one with another, as well as from body to body. (Sylva. 941)

Bacon and "Shake-speare" were both interested in the story of the Egyptian Soothsayer. They both used this story to illustrate the same pyschological theory of propinquity, and of the actions of spirits at a distance. They both believed in the theory of a predominant spirit when two people are close together. They both entertained the belief that the emotions of love and envy draw the spirits into the eyes. All these points, when taken together, constitute a very strong parallel.


One of the most charming parallels between Bacon and "Shake-speare" is their love of exactly the same flowers, as chiefly expressed in Bacon's essay Of Gardens and in The Winter'sTale. In this single essay Bacon lists the names of 54 flowers, trees and shrubs, all of which are named in the Plays. If there was any plagiarism here, it would not have been by Bacon. For, as the unimaginative, but most truthful Spedding admits "it is not probable that Bacon would have anything to learn of William Shake-speare (i.e. Shaksper of Stratford) concerning the science of gardening." Spedding continues : "The scene in Winter's Tale where Perdita presents the guests with flowers.... has some expressions which, if the essay had been printed somewhat earlier, would have made me suspect that Shakespeare had been reading it."

Apart from the long list of identical flowers there is a small parallelism of diction and thought which perhaps should be noted, as the words in each case have that peculiar ring to them, and may have those which had impressed Spedding. Perdita, the country maid--- after making a series of classical allusions of which any scholar might be proud---comes, in a memorable passage, to the following words:--

.....lilies of all kinds.
The flower-de-luce being one.

Bacon's words in his essay are as follows:--

........flower-de-luces and lilies of all natures.

Somehow the rhythm persists. "Lilies of all kinds" writes Shake-speare; "Lilies of all natures" writes Bacon;and each mentions "the flower-de-luce" as being one of them.


Bacon's identification of Art as an attribute of Nature is well known. Shake-speare insists firmly on the same philosophy and chooses a country lass to expound it (with full supporting classical allusions to Proserpina, Dis's waggon, Cytherea's breath and Phoebus!) to the King of Bohemia. In a very beautiful setting the following lines occur.......

There is an art which in their piedness shares
with great creating nature....
.....Say there be;
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean: so, o'er that art,
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes....
.......this is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature. (The Winter's Tale)

Bacon devotes many pages to this particular theory. In 1605 he writes: "It is the duty of Art to perfect and exault Nature." In 1609, when interpreting the myth of Atalanta he writes:

For Art, which is meant by Atalanta is in itself far swifter than Nature.....and it comes sooner to the goal.... But then this perogative of Art is retarded by those golden apples.... And therefore it is no wonder if Art cannot outstrip Nature, but on the contrary, Art remains subject to Nature. (Wisdom of the Ancients)

In 1612 Bacon complained that it was "the fashion to talk as if Art was something different from Nature." In 1620 he writes: "Nature to be commanded must be obeyed," and in 1623 he writes:

Still therefore it is Nature which governs everything: but under Nature are included these three; the course of Nature, the wanderings of Nature, and Art--- which is Nature with man to help.(De Augmentis 2/2)

Clearly the point is much laboured by Bacon and , to a Baconian it is not suprising to find it thrust (at some dramatic risk) into a lovely pastoral scene by Shake-speare. For it is surely a recondite and unusual philosophy on which this country lass chooses to lecture King Polixenes at a sheep shearing!


In a letter to his friend Launcelot Andrews, Bishop of Winchester Bacon writes as follows:---

Great matters have many times small beginnings.

This idea is reversed in the Shake-speare line:

Most poor matters point to rich ends. (The Tempest 3/1)

In The Promus Bacon makes the following note:

The nature of everything is best considered in the seed.(Promus 1451)

This propostion is worked into the Shake-speare Plays in several places as an element of prophecy:

I will tell you the beginning : and if it
please your ladyships, you may see the end.(As You Like It 1/1/119)

If you can look into seeds of time.....
Speak then to me.......(Macbeth 1/3)

The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time. (2 Henry IV 3/1)


The strange theory that all bodies (animate and inanimate) are inhabited by "spirits" pervades the universe of Bacon and Shake-speare. The conclusion that these two were one in their creative thinking as in their choice of classical allusions will, I fear, be intolerable to most orthodox critics. But the cumulative evidence of parallelisms must count in the end.

Dr. Gibson's analysis of The Promus---which, to be just, he candidly admits to be a special case of parallelism-- does not seem to recognise the deadly significance of personal notes. He claims, that the sources from which Bacon derived The Promus notes were equally available to Will Shakespere. But availability is not evidence of use. Where, may we ask, is William's note book? And where was the library which provided that rich storehous of sources?

In the case of Francis Bacon there is much external evidence of a kind which would normally be admitted in a court of law, for example the production of an authentic notebook in the handwriting of theculprit. It is difficult to see why this should not be given equal consideration in the field of literary critcism. We have to face the fact that the emotional appeal of a popular idol can still unsurp the seat of judgement.

Without one scrap of external evidence on which to base the legend of William's scholarship, with no record of schooling, tutorship or University residence, and with no authentic documents or personal correspondence, the unsupported internal evidence of the Plays falls to the ground. All it can do is prove-- like most of the allusions in the famous Shakespeare Allusion Book--that the author Shakespeare was known as the author of Shakespeare! For by abolishing any distinction of name between the actor and the author-- a distinction which existed in fact-- the problem of identity can be indefinitely shelved, and with it the entire controversy. While this is so, all we can do is to open people's eyes to the fact that Bacon and "Shakespeare" thought alike, planned alike and imagined alike so often that coincidence is out of the question.


The discerning reader will be awaiting some explanation of the caption at the head of this article......

"Carrying a waking and a waiting eye"

It is bad manners to wink , but this whimsical reference to a conspirator named Walpole, which occurs in a letter written by Bacon to "A Gentleman at Padua" in 1599, is quite in the manner of King Claudius in the Hamlet of 1604.....

With an auspicious and a dropping eye

or, as finally corrected in the Hamlet of 1623.....

With one Auspicious and one Dropping eye

No parallel of meaning exists here, but only one of manner-- a quaint conceit which became more vividly expressed by "someone" as the years went by; perhaps too, a good way of closing this article. For it may be with some such waiting eye, quizzical, derisive....

With mirth in Funeral, and with dirge in Marriage
In equal scale weighing Delight and Dole....
......that the real author of Hamlet is regarding our controversy over the span of four centuries.


More on the PROMUS










 - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning