Did Francis Bacon

Write “Shakespeare”?


32 Reasons For Believing That He Did.






Constance Pott



“Read not to contradict and to confute,
Nor to believe and take for granted,
Nor to find talk and discourse,
But to weigh and consider.”

--Bacon’s Essay of Study.


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(1) That no facts have yet been discovered concerning the lives of either Bacon or Shakespeare which render it impossible that Bacon should have written the Plays. 

(2) That many particulars in the circumstances under which the plays are known to have been produced or acted, as well as the chronological order and dates attributed to the several Plays and Poems by Dr. Delius (see “Leopold” Shakespeare) coincide with facts in the life of Bacon.

EXAMPLES.--The first play, according to this chronology (excepting Titus Andronicus), is 1 Hen. VI., in which the scene is laid in the very provinces of France through which Francis Bacon travelled on his first leaving home, his only travels “to see the wonders of the world abroad.” “The business of the mission took him in the wake of the Court, from Paris to Blois, from Blois to Tours, from Tours to Poictiers, where in the Autumn of 1577 he resided for three months” (Spedding’s Life and Letters, i. 6, 7; compare 1 Hen. VI. i. 1, 60, 65; iv. 3-45, &c.). The scene of the next Play, 2 Henry VI., carries us to Bacon’s home at St. Alban’s, whither he retired when suddenly recalled from France by the death of his father. The play is full of allusions to events and personages of which the visitor to St. Alban’s must constantly be reminded. The great battle of St. Alban’s (2 Hen. VI. v. 2) took place within a


mile-and-a-half of Bacon’s home. In the Abbey Church are the tombs of Earl Warwick’s family (3 Hen. VI.), surmounted by the “Nevil’s Crest,” “the rampant bear chained to the ragged staff” (2 Hen. VI. v. 1, 201-2). The inscription upon the tomb of the Greys (Bacon’s kindred by marriage) alludes to the marriage of the widow of Sir John Grey (3 Hen. VI. iii. 2) to Edward IV. (3 Hen. VI. iv. 1). Near the tomb of Queen Margaret invida sed nulier (3 Hen. VI. iii. 3, 78, &c.), is that of good Duke Humphrey, of Gloucester, whose epitaph (author uncertain) was inscribed in 1625 (after Bacon’s fall and return to St. Alban’s) and records that the duke was the discoverer of the imposture of the man who pretended to have been born blind (2 Hen. VI. ii. 1).

Leaving St. Alban’s, Bacon was driven to Gray’s Inn to earn his livelihood as a working lawyer. His only own brother, Anthony, went to Italy. In the early comedies we see the influence of Anthony’s correspondence, of Francis’s studies of law and science, and of his dislike to the philosophy of Aristotle as “barren of fruits.” Francis, briefless and poor, gets into debt, is besieged by Jews and duns, complains bitterly of the behaviour of one “hard” Jew. Anthony returns from Italy, 1593; mortgages his own property, and taxes his own and his friends’ credit, in order to pay his brother’s debts. The Merchant of Venice appears soon afterwards. The “hard Jew” is immortalised in Shylock, and the generous brother Anthony in Antonio, whose conduct is represented to have been precisely the same as that of his prototype (compare Spedding’s Life and Letters, i. 322, and Mer. Ven. i. 1, 122, 185).

The Plays continue gay and joyous in tone until about 1601, when the critics unanimously declare that a “dark period” began with the Poet (Shakespeare was now particularly rich and flourishing, and contemplating retirement from London business). In this year the trial and execution of Essex took place. Anthony Bacon, Francis’s “comforte,” died. Lady Anne Bacon’s mind gave way. She seems to have gone through various stages of melancholia and lunacy until she became “frantic,” and died ten years later. From 1601 the plays describe symptoms of madness. Hamlet shows Bacon suffering under his symptom of “clouds, strangeness, superstition, and sense of peril.” In Macbeth we see him soothe James I., ruffled at the way in which actors had recently been making fun of the Scots, and of his own book on “Demonologie.” In Measure for Measure we see him enforcing his own efforts to improve the moral condition of London, and to obtain the abolition of obsolete laws. In the speeches on Mercy, put into the mouth of Isabella (ii. 2, &c.), we hear him pleading with the king for the lives of Sir Walter Raleigh and his friends. This Play was first acted at the house of Bacon’s friend, the Earl of Pembroke, before the King and Court, during the time when Raleigh and his associates were being tried for their lives at Winchester.


In 1610 a fleet was dispatched to the West Indies to trade, and to assist in founding a colony in Virginia. Bacon, Pembroke, and other young lords were engaged in the enterprise. Their ship, “Admiral,” encountered severe storms, and was wrecked on the Bermudas, “still vexed Bermoothes.” In the following year The Tempest appeared. In Henry VIII.-apparently a play sketched in his youth and finished after his disgrace-Bacon puts into the mouth of Wolsey, the Chancellor, a description of his own sad fall, introducing a saying which he had written in the rough draft of a letter to the King (in 1621), but which he omitted in the fair copy. “Cardinal Wolsey said, that if he had pleased God as he pleased the King, he had not been ruined. My conscience saith no such thing. But it may be if I had pleased men as I have pleased you, it would have been the better with me.”

In Timon of Athens, never heard of before 1623, the ungrateful behaviour of parasite friends towards a fallen benefactor is exhibited, and Bacon seems to satirise his own over-generous use of wealth (when he had it), a prodigality described by his biographers as the counterpart of Timon’s. 

(3) That the hints which the Plays and Sonnets contain of their author’s experiences, mental and physical, are infinite in number when applied to the life and experiences of Francis Bacon, but can with difficulty be strained so as to show any connection with, or self-illustration of Shakespeare. 

EXAMPLES.-He was “a parlous boy, bold, quick, ingenious, forward, capable. He’s all the mother’s, from the top to toe” (R. III. iii. 1, 154-6). He was at the “studious university,” then sent with the ambassador to the French Court “to see the wonders of the world abroad” (see Tw. G. Ver., i. 1-10, and i. 3, 1-43). He was “young in limbs, in judgment old” (Mer. Ven. ii. 7, 71); “a patriot born,” bent on doing his sovereign service (R. III. ii. 1, &c.), yet often in disgrace with Elizabeth, and “flying from the eyes of men” (comp. Sonnet xxix. and Letters to Sir R. Cecil, to the Earl of Essex, and to the High Treasurer (Spedding L. L. i. 350-357). At Twickenham the Queen visits him (Sonn. lvii., &c.). He is slighted by his eldest brother (As Y. L. i. 1). He was a lawyer, a student of medicine, “’Tis known I ever have studied physic.” (Per. iii. 2, 31). A natural philosopher-“In nature’s infinite book of secrecy, a little I can read” (Ant. Cl. i. 2); he experienced the depths of poverty, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, the whips and scorns of time, the


oppressor’s wrong, the proud mans contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes” (Ham. iii. 2). He knew “the arts of the Court, as hard to leave as keep, whose top to climb is certain falling” (Cymb. iii. 2). He had tasted the Bishop of Ely’s strawberries (R. III., iii. 4), sat in the audiences of monarchs and statesmen; was as much at home in the palace called “Whitehall” (Hen. VIII., iv. 1) as in the Temple (1 Hen. IV., iii., 3, &c.), or in Gray’s Inn and the Inns of Court, (2 Hen. IV., iii. 2, &c.).

(4) That Bacon was a poet. He is known to have written sonnets, not only that he might himself present them to the Queen, but he wrote also for Essex. It is highly improbable that he wrote nothing excepting for the Queen, and other poems are ascribed to him (see Spedding’s Works, vii. 269). He also, when on a sick bed, rendered into verse the Psalms of David-of which, says Mr. Spedding, “it has been usual to speak as a ridiculous failure: a censure in which I cannot concur. . . . I should myself infer from this sample that Bacon had all the natural faculties which a poet wants: a fine ear for metre, a fine feeling for imaginative effect in words, and a vein of poetic passion. . . . The thought could not well be fitted with imagery, words, and rhythm more apt and imaginative; and there is a tenderness of expression which comes manifestly out of a heart in sensitive sympathy with nature. . . . The heroic couplet could hardly do its work better in the hands of Dryden. The truth is that Bacon was not without the fine phrenzy of the poet; but the world into which it transported him was one which, while it promised visions more glorious than any poet can imagine, promised them upon the express condition that fiction should be utterly prohibited and excluded. Had it taken the ordinary direction, I have little doubt that it would have carried him to a place among the great poets.”

Supporters of the “Baconian theory” of Shakespeare believe that Bacon’s poetic phrenzy was not “refrained” by his scientific studies, but that, on the contrary, his studies increased the “sensitive sympathy with nature” which his sick-bed


verses reveal, and that his philosophic researches into natural physics helped his poetic invention, enabling him to “glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, giving to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.”

Besides the Sonnets and Psalms already mentioned, Bacon, late in life, wrote a short poem which Mr. Spedding calls “a remarkable performance.” It is a kind of paraphrase of a Greek epigram, and begins,-

“The world’s a bubble, and the life of man
Less than a span.”-82-131. 

Compare “a breath, a bubble,” and the tone of the poem with R. III., iv. 4, 90, 101-120, and a “life’s but a span” (Oth. ii. 3, song, and Timon of. Athens. v. 4-3).

There are several poems amongst those of the courtly poets (temp Eliz. and James I.) signed “Ignoto,” or “Anonymous,” or unsigned, of which there are strong philological reasons for believing Bacon to be the author. “The Retired Courtier,” printed in the Promus, page 528, is one of these anonymous pieces.* 

(5) That Bacon was strongly addicted to the theatre, and that he took an active part in getting up theatrical performances at Gray’s-inn, and at Court, that his brother Anthony (a gentleman, says Dr. Rawley, of as great wit as his brother, but not so learned), shared these tastes, and that her son’s love for such things was a cause of anxiety to the Puritan Lady Anne, and the subject of reproof and remonstrance from her. To her distress, Anthony in 1594 actually left his brother’s lodgings in Gray’s-inn and went to live in Bishopsgate-street, close to the Bull Theatre, where ten or twelve of the “Shakespeare” Plays were produced.

That three devices are extant which are known to be of Bacon’s composition:-

(a) “The Conference of Pleasure,” a device written for Essex to present before Elizabeth on the “Queen’s Day,” Nov. 17th, 1592. Mr. Spedding found this amongst the Northumberland MSS. It formed part of a paper book which contained other works of Bacon’s, and was printed in 1867.


* See below No. 28, “Promus.”



(b) The “Gesta Grayorum,” written Dec., 1594, “to assist in recovering the lost honour of Gray’s-inn, which had suffered from the miscarriage of a Christmas Revel.”

(c) The “Masque of the Indian Prince,” or “the darling piece of Love and Self-love,” written also for Essex to present on the “Queen’s Day,” Nov. 17th, 1595 (See Spedding’s L. and L. i. 119, 343, 386-391). 

There is also a Play in which Francis Bacon is acknowledged to have had a hand, and which affords strong internal evidence of being written or revised by him. “The Misfortunes of Arthur,” a fore-runner of “King John.” Beaumont and Fletcher dedicated to Bacon the Masque which was designed to celebrate the marriage of the Count Palatine with the Princess Elizabeth, Feb. 14th, 1612-3. The dedication of this Masque began with an acknowledgement that Bacon, with the gentlemen of Gray’s-inn and the Inner Temple, had “spared no pain nor travail in the setting forth, ordering, and furnishing of this Masque . . . and you, Sir Francis Bacon, especially, as you did then by your countenance and loving affections advance it, so let your good word grace it, which is able to add value to the greatest and least matters.” “On Tuesday,” says Chamberlain, writing on the 18th of February, 1612-3, “it came to Gray’s-inn and the Inner Temple 146;s turn to come with their Masque, whereof Sir Francis Bacon was the chief contriver” (Court and Times of James I. i. 227, and see Spedding’s L. L. iv. 344).

(6) That the Earls of Southampton and Pembroke, “Shakespeare’s friends” and patrons, are not shown to have had any intimacy with Shakespeare, although the poems of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece are dedicated in Shakespeare’s name (but not spelt as he usually spelt it) to Southampton, and the sonnets to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.

With regard to the poems it is observable, that at the time of their dedication, Bacon was on intimate terms with Southampton, but that when in later years, Southampton was suspiciously allied with Essex and his treacherous designs against the Queen and the State, the friendship ceased, and in the next edition of the poems the dedication to Southampton was omitted. 


 William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was the life-long intimate friend of Francis Bacon. Some critics believe that many of the sonnets allude directly to him. To his younger brother Phillip Herbert, Bacon dedicated the “Certaine Psalms” which he wrote in his sickness (see Ante 4).

(7) That Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Sir John Davis, Fulke Greville, the Earls of Surrey and Essex, and many others of the wits and poets of the day, were also amongst Bacon’s personal friends and acquaintance, and that they acknowledged him to be supreme amongst them. In a curious book, of which the author is uncertain (printed 1645), a description is given of “The Great Assises holden in Parnassus by Apollo and his Assessours.” Apollo sits on the top of Parnassus, “The Lord Verulam, Chancellor of Parnassus,” next below him, then the names of twenty-five writers and poets; then, 26th, and only as a juror, “William Shakespeare,” the last but one on the whole list.


(For a reprint of this documentary evidence of the supreme position which Bacon occupied in the estimation of the poets of his time, see Appendix A).

(8) That Ben Jonson, who was at one time Bacon’s amanuensis and Latin translator, eulogised his great master after his death in the very same words which he had used in praise of his “Master” Shakespeare and “what he hath left us,” the eulogy in the latter case applying rather to the works than to the man. That Ben Jonson in enumerating sixteen of the greatest wits of his day, does not name Shakespeare, but says of Bacon that

“it is he who hath filled up all numbers, and performed that in our tongue which may be compared or preferred either to insolent Greece or haughty Rome. . . . . So that he may be named the mark and acme of our language.” (Discoveries, Dominus Verulamius and Scriptorum Catalogus).

Of “Shakespeare” he says (Underwoods xii.):-

“Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece and haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes show.” 

That Sir Henry Wotton, in his voluminous literary correspondence and extensive allusions to the wits and writers of the period, does not allude to Shakespeare. That Bacon himself, when upholding the theatre, and its beneficial influence (when properly used), as a means of improving manners and words, and of conveying instruction in History and Politics, and whilst deploring the degradation of the stage in his own times, does not allude to Shakespeare, or to the Shakespeare plays, wherein he must have recognised the realisation of his ideal-

“Dramatic poesy is history made visible . . . typical history . . . narrative or heroical poesy . . . truly noble, and has a special relation to the dignity of human nature; dramatic poesy, which has the theatre for its world, would be of excellent use if well directed,” &c. (See translation of De Augmentis ii. 13, and vi. 4. Spedding’s works iv. 316, 496-497). 

(9) That in 1623, when Bacon had fallen into extreme poverty, Ben Jonson exerted himself beyond measure to procure the sale of the plays (Shakespeare had died rich in 1616). 

(10) That Bacon clearly had a connection of some kind with Shakespeare, although that connection was not openly acknowledged. The name Shakespeare (spelt, not as he spelt it himself, Shakespere, but as it is printed on the title-pages of the printed plays) is scribbled many times on the fly-leaf of the paper book before mentioned (No. 5). This book, as we learn from an index on the fly-leaf, formerly contained (besides the device, speeches for devices and tilts, letters, essays, &c., by Bacon, which are still remaining as they were left in the MS.) the Plays of “Richard II.” and “Richard III.,” an unknown piece called “Asmund and Cornelia,” and a “fragment” of the “Isle of Dogs.” This last was a play, now lost, by Thomas Nashe, who complained that before it was performed the players had foisted in four scenes which were not his (Bacon or his amanuensis add to the title of this piece a note, “Thos. Nashe, inferior plaie,” or “plaier”).


(11) That in a correspondence with Sir Tobie Matthew* Bacon alluded mysteriously to a class of works which he does not specify, calling them “Works of my Recreation,” “other works,” and sometimes “the Alphabet,” a term which is believed to be explained by a note in the Promus,† No. 516. “Tragedy and Comedy are made of the same Alphabet.”

That besides these pass-words and allusions, Bacon and Sir Tobie exchange remarks and double-ententes, which seem plainly to refer to the Plays of Julius Cæsar and Measure for Measure, and that the correspondence which includes these allusions has the dates erased or altered, with blanks for names, and other mystifications, so as to hinder the subjects alluded to from being clearly identified.


* Sir Tobie Matthew (the son of the Bishop of Durham, afterwards Archbishop of York) was a private and early friend of Francis Bacon, a man for whom he retained a great personal affection through much variety of fortune on both sides, to the end of his life. Bacon calls Sir Tobie his “kind inquisitor,” and to him even when living abroad, Bacon seems to have been in the habit of submitting his works, and as is believed, the “works of his recreation” especially, for criticism and advice. It was to this dear and constant friend that Bacon dedicated his beautiful Essay on Friendship. Archbishop Matthew, with the whole bench of Bishops, joined Buckingham, Pembroke, and Montgomery, with many lay peers, in defending Bacon, and in averting the force of the sentence which his enemies passed against him. Sir Tobie never left him in his fall, but sitting by his chair as he lay at Gray’s Inn, sick in body, but active in mind, he wrote down his words as he dictated, and touched up his essays, and dictated the Apothegms. Properly, so Baconians take leave to think, Sir Tobie may thus have transcribed Timon. of Athens., which seems to have been written after Bacon’s fall.

The “Promus of Formularies and Elegancies,” Bacon’s private common-place book. See below, No. 27. 


(12) That Sir Tobie adds to one business letter, written from abroad, this remarkable postscript:-

“P.S. The most prodigious wit that ever I knew of my nation, of this side of the sea, is of your Lordship’s name, though he be known by another.”

That in a letter to Sir Tobie (1604) he alludes to some calamity which is likely to “fall on and seize him.” He says that he cannot call to mind what has passed in this important matter, “my head being then wholly employed upon invention,” a word which he uses for works of the imagination (see Letters and Life, iii., 216). 

(13) That in writing to Sir John Davis in 1603, to request him to say a good word for him to the new Sovereign, he alluded to himself as “a concealed poet.”

(14) That, with regard to the internal evidence of the Plays, it has been found that the knowledge which is displayed in them concerns subjects which Bacon particularly studied. That the Law, Horticulture, Natural History, Medicine, and all things connected with the “Doctrine of the Human Body;” the observations on Sound, Light, Heat, and Cold; on Germination, Maturation, Putrefaction; on Dense and Rare; on the History of Winds, on Astronomy, Meteorology, and Witchcraft, on the Imagination, and the “Doctrine of the Sensitive Soul,” with many other things which are explained or noted in the prose works of Bacon, are to be found repeated, or alluded to, or forming the basis of beautiful metaphors and similes in the Plays. That the Plays may therefore be elucidated by a study of Bacon’s scientific works.

EXAMPLES.-Law.-(a) In Bacon’s few legal works the student may enlighten himself on all “the obscure, intricate, and recondite heads of jurisprudence,” which, Lord Campbell says, are correctly referred to in the Plays. In the “Tracts of Law” he may learn what it is to hold land intail or in fee simple (A. W., iv. 3, 311-14) by feoffment (1 Hen. IV., iii., 369); by descent in law (R. II., ii., 3, 135), by purchase (Antony &. Cleopatra., i., 4);


by deed of gift (Merchant of. Venice., v., i., 292); by grant (R. II., iii., 344); or by livery of seisin (Hamlet. i., 1, 88). He may inform himself on “the most abstruse proceedings in English jurisprudence.” Fine and Recovery (M. Wiv., iv., 2, 225; Com. Er., ii., 2, 75), of what it is to sue out livery (R. II., ii., 1, 203), or Prœmunise (Hen. VIII. iii., 2, 338-44), of the process of writs of extent and of capius ad satisfaciendum (As Y. L. iii., 1, 5-17); of Action of Battery and Slander (K. J., iv. 1, 34-5); of Benefit of Clergy (2 Hen. VI., iv., 7, 76-81); and of the royal prerogative of tenure in free soccage and in capite, a knowledge implied in Cade’s proclamation (2 Hen. VI., iv., 7, 130) of military tenure, and of the Landship of Minors (A. W. ii., 1 and 3). Amongst the law tracts and speeches of Bacon we may find dissertations upon what is meant by “comforting a traitor” (Lear iii. 3, 6-20), upon the law regarding Felonia de se (Ham. v. 1), of misprision, of treason (M. A., iv., 1, &c.) of the King’s prerogative (1 Henry. VI. v. 4, 142), and upon every other matter connected with Law and Legislation which is touched upon in “Shakespeare”-Duelling, Excommunication, Freedom of Conscience, Good Delivery, the Leet, the Mint, Monopolies, Obsolete Laws, Oyer and Terminer, Paying of Fees, Perjury, Piracy, Weights and Measures, &c., showing “that he was acquainted with all the Courts, high and low.”

(b) Horticulture. Of the thirty-three flowers of Shakespeare, Bacon enumerates thirty in his “Essay of Gardens,” or in his scanty notes on Flowers in the Sylva Sylvarum. His scientific observations accord closely with those on flowers in the Plays. The colours of flowers, the peculiarities of their smell, the figuring or streaking of their petals, the seasons of their blooming, the mode of “meliorating” them, are the points chiefly considered in both groups of works.

“The flowers that come early are the primroses, violets, and daffodillies” (Nat. Hist. Cent. iii., and see Essay of Gardens).

“When daffodils begin to peer,

Then comes in the sweet of the year” (W. T. iv. 3, and see ib. iv. 3, 113).

“In March there come violets, especially the single blue, which are earliest, the yellow daffodil, the daisy” (Essay).

“When daisies pied and violets blue,” &c. (L. L. L., v. 2).

“Daffodils that come before the swallow dares,

And take the March winds with beauty” (W. T., iv. 3; and see Ham. i. 3. 7; Cymb. i. 6, 221).

“In April follow . . . flower de luces and lilies of all natures . . . the double peony” (Essay).

“The Crown Imperial; lilies of all kinds,

“The flower de luce being one” (W. T., iv. 4, 126-7).

“Thy banks with pionied and lilied brims,

Which spongy April at thy hest betrims” (Temp. iv. 1, 645, and see W. T. iv. 3, 3, 4).

“In May and June . . . roses” (Essay).

“O rose of May, dear maid” (Ham. iv. 5, 157; T. N. iii. 1, 154).

“Damask roses, fast flowers of their smells . . . though it be in a morning’s dew” (Essay).

“Clear as morning’s roses newly washed in dew” (T. Sh. ii. 1).

“The sweetest smells in the air is the violet . . . the musk rose . . . then sweet briar . . . then honeysuckle.

Oh, it came o’er my ear like the sweet South

That breathes upon a bank of violets” (T. N. i. 1).

“Sweet musk-roses and eglantine” (M. N. D. ii. 2).

“The leaf of eglantine outsweetened not thy breath” (Cymb. iv. 2).

“The sweet honeysuckle” (M. N. D. iv. 1).

“Those that perfume the air most delightfully being trodden upon and crushed are three-that is, burnet, wild thyme, water mints. Therefore you are to set whole alleys of them,” &c.

“I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,” &c. (M. N. D. ii. 2).

“Flowers open and close when the sun shineth or is overcast” (N. Hist. 5; Cymb. ii. 3, song; W. T., iv. 4-105).

“Figuring or streaking of flowers, their sockets or chalices” (W. T. iv. 3, 82; Cymb. ii. 3; song).

“Leaves are velvet” (N. Hist. 560; L. L. L. iv. 3, 105; Hen. V. i. 2, 194).

N.B.-Simple as these observations seem, they were new in the days of Bacon. Similar instances may be produced from the study of every branch of horticulture in the two groups of works.

(c) Medicine, &c.-Bacon, like Cerimon, “ever studied physic.” The best medical men of the day were his friends, and a close comparison of the works has shown that there is scarcely anything pointed out by Dr. Bucknill in his “Medical Knowledge of Shakespeare” which is not seen to have been the subject of Bacon’s notes and lucubrations.

(d) General Science.-Not only Bacon’s theories, but his scientific errors, are in the Plays. In his early works he spoke of heat as a kind of matter, of which one mass could displace another, and of which two masses could not mix (Nat. Hist. i. 31, Novum Organum xiii. 34). So in the Plays, “One heat another heat expels” (Tw. G. Ver. ii. 4). “One fire burns out another’s burning” (K. J. i. 2, 44). “As fire drives out fire” (Jul. Cæs. iii. 1, 171, and Cor. iv. 7, 54; John v. 1, 48).

Of Light he says that “Blackness and darkness are privatives, sometimes they do contristale.” “Your light grows dark by losing” (L. L. L. i. 1). “Your piety does make my deeds the blacker” by contrast (Winters. Tale. iii. 2).

“For cold we must stay till it cometh” (N. Hist. iii. 29). “None of you will bid the Winter come” (John v. 7).

“All dense bodies are colder than most bodies” (N. H. i. 72). So cold is described as leaden as well as icy (R. III. i. 176).

Of sounds, “One of the strangest secrets is that the whole sound is in every part of the air.” In the Tempest, music is “in the air” (i. 2, 389; iii. 2, 145, and Ant. Cl. iv. 3, 13).

“Sounds are carried up and down in the wind” (N. H. 274).

“Upon the sightless couriers of the air” (Macb. i. 7, 23).

For Bacon’s study “of articulate sounds of the voice of man through chinks and crannies . . . and if you speak at the farther side of a close wall” (N. H. 314, 321, see M. N. D. iii. 1, 65; v. 1, 130-211, apropos to Pyramus and Thisbe).

Sound in empty vessels greater than in full ones (N. H. 186; Hen. V. iv. 4, 72).

Sounds in frost (N. H. 231; 1 Hen. IV. iv. 1, 128).

Of squeaking of a door or of a cart wheel (N. H. 328; 1 Hen. IV. iii. 1, 131).

Of sweet bells out of tune (N. H. 324; Ham. iii. 1, 166).

Of echoes upon walls, upon hills, in a church, in caves, from clamour (N. H. 329; M. N. D. iv. 1, 116; T. Sh. iii. 2, 181; John v. 4, 168; R. Jul. ii. 2, 162; Tam. Sh. ind. 47).

Putrefaction is “reciprocal to generation”; “the means to induce putrefaction are by adding moisture; as in wetting of any flesh with water . . . or by a weak degree of heat. We see that vivification, whereof putrefaction is the bastard brother, is effected by such soft heats” (condensed from N. H. 329, 337). “It were good to lay a piece of raw flesh or fish in the open air . . . fish or flesh will sooner putrify abroad” (N. H. 805). “Aristotle dogmatically assigned the cause of generation to the sun” (Nov. Org. ii.; De Princip. Works v. 483-4).

“Pol.-Do you know me, my lord?

“Ham.-Excellent well, you are a fishmonger . . . if the sun breed maggots out of a dead dog. Have you a daughter? . . . Let her not walk in the sun. Conception is a blessing, but not as your daughter may conceive” (Ham. ii. 2, 174-185).

Putrefaction induced by moisture (N. H. 358; Ham. v. 1, 83, 191; Cymb. ii. 3, 136; Tim. Ath. iv. 3). 

Putrefaction induced by proximity to other decaying bodies (Tim. Ath. iv. 3, 63-4; Tam. Sh. i. 1-138).

Putrefactions notably in churchyards (N. H. 358; Ham. v. 1, 178; Hen. V. iv. 3, 95-102).

Instances of this kind may be produced by hundreds of the reflection of Bacon’s science in the Plays. Each subject requires a treatise.

(15) That what has been said of the knowledge displayed in the Plays holds good as to the opinions which are there expressed, even with regard to opinions which were personal to Bacon, and in advance of his time. 

EXAMPLES.-Bacon held (a) the philosophy of Aristotle, as taught in the schools, to be “barren” and a hindrance to the advancement of true learning. He wished for a reform in the academic system; (b) for the abolition of obsolete laws; for legislation upon weights and measures; (c) for punishment of the fashionable custom of duelling; (d) he remonstrated against and satirised the absurd affectations of foreign manners in vogue, the aping of the French in dress, in the use of the toothpick, in speech and gesture; (e) he condemned the common fashion of using cosmetics, of painting the face, &c. Jezabel, he says, did so Compare (a) Rawley’s Life of Bacon; Spedding’s Works i. 4, and iii. 226, 227, &c.; Love’s L. L. i. 1, 13, 55-94; Tam. Sh. i. 1, 1-40; Ham. ii. 2, 95; (b) L. and L. iii. 17-19, &c.; M. M. ii. 1, &c.; (c) L. and L. iv. 399; Rom. Jul. i. 1; A. Y. L. v. 4, 46-103; (d) see Gesta Grayorum and the tone of the Plays generally; (e) Works iv. 394; Ham. iii. 1, 51, 150.

(16) That the subjects which most engrossed the mind of Bacon, the opinions which he most strongly expressed, the ideas which he desired especially to inculcate, are those which are found chiefly pervading the Plays, most strongly enforced, and most frequently instilled. 

(17) That the observations of character and of human nature, shown in the conduct and speeches of the “Shakespeare” personages, agree, even in minute particulars, with Bacon’s observations on the “Art of Discerning Character.”

(18) That scientific errors based upon peculiar theories of Bacon and one or two blunders or alterations in the use of words, or in the quotation of passages, which are to be found in the prose works of Bacon, are also in the Plays. 


EXAMPLES.-Bacon held that the sun and the stars are true fires (Works v. 533-8; Cor. i. 4, 39; v. 4, 46; Ham. ii. 2, 116; Jul. Cæs. iii. 1, 64, &c.) that the earth has fixed poles (Works i. 343, and foot-note); Oth. iii. 1, “The ever-fixed pole,” that heat is a kind of matter (Ante. 14). That the version of air into water is the cause of springs (“Speculation” Hist. Dense., and rare; Works v. 388; 2 Hen. IV. iv. 4, 34-5).

Bacon writes (Advt. of Learning vii. 3) that Aristotle held that “young men are not fit hearers of moral philosophy,” he should have said “political philosophy.” The same blunder occurs in Troi. and Cress. ii. 3, 166-7.

(19) That the studies of Bacon at certain known periods of his life are found to be introduced in the Plays assigned by the best authorities to about the same periods.

(20) That where there are several editions of the same play, Bacon’s increased knowledge and new interests will be seen reflected in the latter edition, though they are absent from the earliest edition; so much so that it is possible to form a tolerably accurate judgment as to which plays will, or will not, contain allusions to certain legal or scientific facts, or to certain abstract theories or opinions. 

EXAMPLES.-In 1614 Bacon was instructed by the Council “to enquire into a case of fence-breaking and poaching in the forest of Windsor,” and if he thought fit, to proceed against the offenders in the Star Chamber. This appears to have been the only case of the kind which came before him (Letters and Life v. 87). In the edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor pub. 1602 there is this passage:- 

“Shal.-Sir John, Sir John, you have hurt my keeper, killed my dogs, stolen my deer.
“Fal.-But not kissed your keeper’s daughter (see “1st sketch” published by Mr. Halliwell for Shakespeare Society, 1842.” 

But after Bacon had had to try the case of deer-stealing with the aggravated offence of fence-breaking, the fact appears in edition later than 1604.

“Shal.-Knight, you have beaten my men, killed my deer, and broke open my lodge.
“Fal.-But not kissed your keeper’s daughter.” (Folio 1623).

The study of “The Winds” does not appear in the earlier editions of Hamlet; the poet had not made up his mind to make use of them until he prepared the edition of 1605.

“My necessaries are embarkt, I must abroad,

But ere I part,” &c. (i. 3, 1603).

“My necessaries are embarkt, farewell,

And sister, as the winds give benefit

And convoy is assistant, do not sleepe,” &c. (1605 and 1611).

“Ham.-By my troth, methinks ’tis very colde.

“Gent.-It is indeed very rawish colde.

“Ham.- ’Tis not methinks.

“Gent.-Very swoltery hot. (v. 2, 1603).

“Osr.-I thank your lordship, ’tis very hot.

“Ham.-No, believe me, ’tis very cold; the wind is Northerly.” (1605, &c.). 

The gradual introduction of the Promus notes (see forward, No. 26) is very remarkable, and is well illustrated in “The Parallel Texts of the first two quartos of Romeo and Juliet,” edited by Mr. P. A. Dainels for the New Shakespeare Society, 1874. For instance, of death. In the 1st edition of Romeo and Juliet, 1597, death is said to produce paleness, wanness, dullness, shrinking; but in the second edition, of 1599, when, apparently, the poet had assimilated to himself the thought in folio 111 of the Promus, “death is the cold and icy image of sleep;” the early passages are altered, and fresh ones introduced, and Death is in six or seven passages compared to sleep, cold and icy. See R. J. iii. 5, 160, 164, iv. 1, 96-109, iv. 3, 15-46, iv. 5, 27-31, v. 3, 160, 252-254. 

(21) That the vocabulary of Bacon and Shakespeare is to a surprising degree the same. Excluding from the prose works absolute technicalities of law and science (not likely to be used by any author in dramatic or poetical works), and excluding from the poetical works absolute colloquialisms, oaths, &c. (not likely to be used by any author in legal, scientific or philosophical works) it is found that the average, in the prose works, of words which are also in the Plays, is about 98.5 per cent., counting repetitions of the same word; or about 97 per cent., not counting repetitions. This similarity is the more striking when compared with the disparity between the words used by Bacon and those used by any previous or contemporary author. 


(22) That Bacon’s most familiar expressions and turns of speech are common in Shakespeare, although not common to the language of the period, and that many Shakespearian expressions are to be found in Bacon’s prose. 

EXAMPLES.-Take note, Let it be noted, Note that, &c., very frequent throughout Bacon’s scientific and professional works, and to be found upwards of 150 times in the Plays.

“What is the cause?” “The cause is,” &c. This habit of inquiring into the cause of everything is reflected nearly 350 times in the Plays.

“In brief, briefly,” &c., may be found nearly 100 times. “To conclude, in conclusion,” &c., 80 times. “Set it down,” “Out of question,” “I conceive,” “It is strange,” “Let it be considered, inquired, examined,” &c., “Certainly,” “It is certain,” and a quantity of such expressions, not commonly used by other writers, are common in both groups of works.

Also about two hundred words and short turns of speech, and forms of morning and evening salutation, such as “Say that,” “as if,” “the rather,” “is it possible?” “Incident to,” “believe him not,” “not unlike,” “to the purpose,” “You put me in mind,” &c., which Bacon has entered in his private notes (see forward 26), are reproduced in hundreds of passages in the Plays; but not (excepting in very rare cases) in the works of previous or contemporary authors. Also peculiar uses of words may be observed in the Plays, which are to be found, it is believed, only in Bacon’s works. For example: the word, “twenty,” is in both groups of works used for an indefinite number. “Form” is in five cases out of fifteen made to express, not shape, but “attribute,” “law of nature,” &c., as in the Nov. Organum.

(23) That often in one sentence, or passage, in the Plays, there appears not only a combination of two or three Baconian ideas, but frequently a similar linking, or combination of words. 

EXAMPLES.-In the two passages which follow, Bacon’s erroneous idea that one heat can push out or expel another is combined with a Latin proverb which he quotes in the Promus from Erasmus’s “Adagia,” Clavum clavo pellere, “To expel a nail with a nail” (Promus, No. 889). 


“Even as one heat another heat expels.

Or as one nail by strength drives out another” (Tw. G. Ver. ii. 4).

“One fire drives out one fire; one nail, one nail” (Cor. iv. 7).

“Of all substances which nature has produced, man’s body is the most extremely compounded” (Adt. ii., Sped. Works, iii. 370).

“This foolish compounded clay, man” (2 Hen. IV. i. 2).

“This notion is but a catch of the wit” (Nat. Hist. 124).

“Your wit is as the greyhound’s mouth, it catches” (M. A. v. 2).

“Good active and good passive, not unlike to that which amongst the Romans was expressed in the familiar or household terms of ‘Promus’ and ‘Condus’ (De Aug. vii. 2, and Advt. ii.).

“Familiar in their mouths as household words” (Hen. V. iv. 3).

“To avoid the condign punishment of their crimes” (Report of the Union).

“Never gave them condign punishment” (2 Hen. VI. iii. 1).

“Ireland . . . blessed with all the doweries of nature” (Speech for Naturalisation).

“Britain is endowed with so many doweries of nature” (On Plantation of Ireland).

“Nature this dowery gave” (Per. i. 1).

“Supplying with her virtue everywhere weakness of friends” (Masque. L. and L. i. 388).

“That every eye which on this forest looks

Shall see thy virtue witness’d everywhere” (A. Y. L. iii. 2).

“Dull thing” (Nat. Hist. Cent. ix. Intro. and Cent. i. 33, in Rawley’s translation. Essay of Dis. Temp. i. 2, 285). “Fair and Foul” (Charge to the Verge, Macb. i. 1 and 3). “A fearful dream” (Hist. of Gt. Brit. R. III. v. 3). “Fountain and spring-head” (Let. to the King, Macb. ii. 1). “To heave at” uses or individuals (Statute of Uses, Hen. VIII. ii. 2). “To command nature” (Praise of Knowledge, Hen. VIII. ii. 4, 188). “Flattery a varnish” (Anti. Flat., Ham. iv. 7, 131), “Folly patched” (Aph. xxx., M. N. D., iv. 1). “Lineaments and branches” (Touching the Union, M. A. v. 1-14). “Ripeness of occasion” (Ess. of Delays, Mer. Ven. ii. 8, 40). “Ripe cause” (Pacification of the Church, Jul. Cæs. iv. 3, 215). “Rubbing the sore” (Clause in Camden’s Annals, Temp. ii. 1, 137). “A world of affairs,” &c. (Dis. on Ireland, L. L. L. v. 2, 353). “Worlds of company” (Let to the King, M. N. D. ii. 2, 164). 

(24) That ninety-five points of style which have been selected by Mrs. Cowden Clarke in “The Shakespeare Key,” as being “specialities” and “characteristics” of Shakespeare’s style, have all been found in the prose works of Bacon.


(25) That the “Shakespeare Grammar” of Dr. Abbott is announced in the preface by that distinguished philologist to be intended for students of Shakespeare and Bacon, and that the rules which it contains do indeed serve for both groups of works, although Bacon, in his “Advancement of Learning,” informs us that, not being satisfied with the restraints put upon language, he had made a kind of grammar of his own.

(26) That a large collection having been made of similes, metaphors, and figurative forms of speech from the prose works and the plays, these figures are found to be to a surprising extent the same.

EXAMPLES.-“Anatomizing the mind,” &c. (Nov. Org. i. 124; Lear iii. 6, 85). “Blood-letting for the State” (Letter to Cecil, Queen’s service in Ireland; R. II. i. 1, 153, &c.). A plaister to heal the wound of revolt (Touching the Union, K. John v. 2, 12). “Medicine to the mind” (Advt. i. 1, ib. vii. 3, frequent Mac. v. 3, 40-47; Cym. iv. 2, 43, &c.). “Green wounds” in the State (of Ch. Controversies Ess. of Revenge, 2 Hen. VI; iii. 1, 285). A man’s deeds his schoolmasters (Maxims of the Law, III.; Lear ii. 4, 303). “Silence the best herald,” &c. (Praise of Knowledge; M. A. ii. 1, 299; Cor. ii. 1, 180). The tropics “the girdle of the world” Nat. Hist. 368; M. N. D. ii. 2, 116). “Out of shot” (Essay of Goodness, Tit. And. ii. 1, 2; Ham. i. 3, 35; Oth. iv. 1, 273), &c., &c.

(27) That the collection of private notes which Bacon calls his store, or “Promus of Formularies and Elegancies,”* containing quotations in six languages, a quantity of proverbs-English, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and Greek, forms of morning and evening salutation, single words, and turns of speech, until that time (CIR. 1584-1594) unknown or little used-appears to have been made by Bacon with a special view of enriching his vocabulary, and of helping his “invention,” or


* Published Longmans, 1882. 


imagination, in writing the plays. That the subjects of these notes have not (with rare exceptions) been found used by any other author previous to, or contemporary with Bacon, but that they are found to be alluded to in the Plays about 3,000 times. That although the Promus notes have this strong apparent relation to the Plays, Mr. Spedding did not publish this collection of Bacon’s private notes-50 pages, nearly all autograph-because, as he said plainly, and wrote to the same effect, he could make nothing of them in connection with Bacon’s prose works. That although these “Promus” notes have been for more than a year before the public, no one has succeeded in showing that others besides “Shakespeare” used them-excepting in the rare instances already alluded to. 

(28) That the superstitions, as well as the religious beliefs and opinions on Church matters, as well as the study of the Bible, which is so clearly traceable in the Plays, are plainly acknowledged by Bacon.

EXAMPLE.-Only one small but curious instance can be offered on this vast subject. Bacon told the King that he feared that the wedding-ring was becoming an object of too much respect, almost of superstition. There is not one mention in the Plays of a wedding-ring.

(29) That the authors whom Bacon prefers, and the study of whom he chiefly recommends, are the authors whom the learned have pronounced to have been studied by “Shakespeare.”

(30) That many striking omissions may be noted in the works of Bacon and “Shakespeare,” not only considering these works as a whole, but taking in detail the wide variety of subjects which they include; and that these omissions are, in a remarkable degree, the same in both groups of works.

EXAMPLES.-It might naturally be expected that a man born and bred in the country would have given some kind of description of, or scene in, a country town or village-a village green with rustic dancing, may-pole,


&c., or a smithy, a country inn, fair, or market; but there are none of these in the plays. Neither is there a harvest-home, a haymaking, or Christmas merry-making, nor any of the small pleasures and occupations of country life. There is no brewing, cider-making, nor baking, no fruit or hop-picking, no reaping, gleaning or threshing. No scene in a farm or country gentleman’s house, no description of homely occupations, nor of any kind of trade. It might naturally be expected that the father of a family, as was Shakespeare, would have much to say of children; but these are conspicuously absent from the Plays. Bacon married late in life, and was childless.

(31) That in 1623 (seven years after the death of William Shakespeare) the “Folio” Edition of the thirty-six Plays was published, without any editor’s name on the title-page. That the Folio of 1623 included some Plays never before heard of. (Timon of Athens was one of these.) That it included eighteen Plays never before published, and that in most of those which had been previously published there were great alterations, additions, and omissions. That there were such alterations even in the Play of Othello, which had been published only a year before.

That the “Folio” was published two years after Bacon’s fall, at a time when his poverty and his failing health caused him to press forward the publication of all his works, however fragmentary, and especially of his crowning work, the De Augmentis, which was published simultaneously with the “Folio” of the Plays. 

There is reason to believe that a mysterious suggestion in a letter (1621-2) from Bacon to his literary friend and critic, Sir Tobie Matthew, that he should “place the alphabet in a frame,” “as you can do it right well,” and present it to the Marquis of Buckingham, is a suggestion that Sir Tobie should collect the tragedies and comedies (for which alphabet was their pass-word) into one volume, and dedicate them to the Marquis (See of the Alphabet, No. 11 ante.). 

(32) That the difficulties which have to be explained away, the improbabilities and improved assertions which have to be credited, in order to maintain the theory that Shakespeare wrote the Plays, are infinitely beyond any which are entailed upon those who maintain that Bacon was the real author.


That any difficulties which may present themselves regarding the theory of Bacon’s authorship of the Plays, dissolve and fade away under a searching examination of facts, and by a close examination of both groups of works and comparison of these with the whole mass of English literature during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

These pages should not conclude without a caution that they contain only a sketch of the most outward circumstances, and as it were, portable arguments upon the subject of which they treat. They leave unstated many large and deep questions as to the philosophy of Bacon, expressed in his acknowledged works and reflected in the Plays. Also as to his inner life of thought, speculation, social and political aims, and aspirations.

Such matters can only be presented by a wide and exhaustive analysis of both groups of works; they are far beyond the scope of the present slight publication.

It should also be borne in mind that such similarities as have been observed in the prose works of Bacon and in the “Shakespeare” Plays, in verbal diction and in style, in knowledge, opinion, and experience, are to be reckoned, not by scores, but by thousands; that they have been found, and written out. That at any time when sufficient interest is awakened in the reading public, they can be published.

It is earnestly requested that any student who may find grounds for contradicting or disputing any of the foregoing propositions, or any one who may have further propositions to suggest, will communicate his or her discoveries, corrections, or suggestions to the Editor. It is proposed to publish from time to time fresh editions of this brochure, and to add to each edition a summary of the objections raised, and of the improvements suggested.

Every statement should be accompanied by some attempt at proof; and passages referred to should be plainly indicated.


An entry in Bacon’s private notes, or “Promus,” offers a good hint as to the manner in which an inquiry like the present should be conducted:- 


London, April, 1884.










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