The Troilus and Cressida Puzzle


The Design of The First Folio

Part I



Mather Walker
Summer 2006


If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it would probably be better if it was not allowed to play with the other kids, because they can be cruel to those who are different. Contrary to first impressions, the preceding is an attempt to convey something of the flavor of Troilus and Cressida, which has a distinctive trait of being contrary to first impressions, and is not at all funny, although an advertisement to a quarto edition of the play raved about how comical it was.

In his book, The Shakespeare First Folio, Sir W. W. Greg said,

"Troilus and Cressida is a play of puzzles, in respect of its textual history no less than its interpretation, and any attempt to solve them cannot be other than speculative".

Sir W was referring to the anomalies associated with Troilus and Cressida, and he was right on the money,- up to the point where he said, "any attempt to solve them cannot be other than speculative". Then he was out of his depth. The puzzling phenomena of the anomalies in the textual history and interpretation of Troilus and Cressida can be solved. As a matter of fact, they were designed to be solved, but only by selected people. They are pieces of a carefully crafted puzzle Bacon devised in his use of the Enigmatical and Disclosed method in transmitting his knowledge:

"The pretence whereof is to remove the vulgar capacities from being admitted to the secrets of knowledges; and to reserve them to selected auditors, or wits of such sharpness as can pierce the veil."

Alas, poor Sir W, in the race for 'selected auditors' he was scratched.

An overview will be helpful before going into the details of the anomalies associated with Troilus and Cressida, and the related puzzle. I will cover some of the same ground later, but better redundancy than lack of clarity.

Troilus and Cressida is a puzzle, but Francis Bacon himself is the greater puzzle, and much of the mystery associated with Francis Bacon arose from the circumstances connected to his invention of an automatic method of discovery for which he was forced to keep the operational key secret. Because he had to keep this secret it has been believed that he never discovered it . For example, J.G. Crowther, who gave Bacon very high marks in his book, FRANCIS BACON The First Statesman of Science, said of Bacon,

"He did not leave any description of an automatic method of discovery, in which imagination plays no part; he almost certainly did not succeed in discovering this." O ye of little faith!

When Francis Bacon invented his New Method for science, his automatic method of discovery, designed to be the basic instrument in his renewal of all arts and sciences, and to guide the minds of men in discovering new arts and sciences, just as a ruler or compass guides the human hand in drawing a straight line, or a circle, he gave some details, but not the operational key, in his Novum Organum. Of the details he did give, it is important to note that the Discovery Machine had, as one of its basic tools, a particular type of information tabulation, called tables by Bacon.

But inventing the New Method was only the first hurdle. Bacon said, "in this case it is no imposture at all, but a sober foresight, which tells me that the formula itself of interpretation, will thrive better if committed to the charge of some fit and selected minds, and kept private". The selected minds were those of his Secret Society, the Freemasons, to whom he entrusted the secret part of his New Method. Although many manuscripts were burned at the time Freemasonry first went public, a number survived. One of these contains a very significant variance from the contemporary ritual of Freemasonry. In the Opening Ceremony in the contemporary ritual the following exchange takes place:

Worshipful Master: I hail.

Senior Warden: I conceal.

Worshipful Master: What do you conceal?

Senior Warden: All the secrets of Masons in Masonry…

But the dialogue from the old document had a very significant difference:

Worshipful Master: What dothe the maconnes concele and hyde?

Senior Warden: Thay concelethe the arte of ffyndinge neue artes…

The plan was that the Freemasons would maintain custody of this knowledge in secret for 120 years before revealing it. During that period something went wrong, however, for instead of revealing the formula of interpretation when the 120 years was up, they merely revealed themselves. Fortunately, Bacon had made a backup plan. As a failsafe he devised the stratagem of concealing in models demonstrating the operation of his discovery machine under the disguise of allegory in the Shakespeare plays. He could not go public with his knowledge in his time, since the people of his time were not ready for this knowledge, so he had to devise a method to preserve this knowledge until such a time as mankind was ready for it. He, therefore, constructed his plays as masterpieces of literature that would endure the ravages of time. He was well aware of the durability of such works. In The Advancement of Learning he said:

"We see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable that the monuments of power or of the hands. For have notthe verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished?"

Bacon said,

"I may truly say my soul hath been a stranger in the course of my pilgrimage. I seem to have my conversation among the ancients more than among those with whom I live".

Bacon had a great veneration for the knowledge of antiquity, but at the same time, he had a great concern for the knowledge of the future. Because of this Bacon was torn between the past and the future. But what would have been an insurmountable problem for anyone else, was not insurmountable for Bacon. He designed his plays to contain both at the same time, contrasting the knowledge of antiquity with the knowledge the future. Thus important aspects of knowledge from the past are concealed under the veil of allegory in the various plays in the First Folio: The Mysteries, Gnosticism, Ancient Cosmology, The Fallen Angels, Orphism, Kabbalah, The Golden Age, Proserpine, Isis, Sufism, Alchemy, Vedanta, Natural Magic, The Holy Grail, and so on. At the same time each play has concealed in allegory a demonstration of the operation of his Discovery Machine in an inquiry into a related aspect of knowledge.

Bacon adopted a stratagem of using existing stories, or authors, and making changes to their works, so that the changes he made could give an indication of his secret intent in the individual plays. He did the same for the First Folio as a whole, and he found the perfect model for his purpose - Homer.

Homer, earliest and greatest of all the poets, had an all pervasive influence on the Greeks, and was the principal factor in the subsequent intellectual development of Greece. In his Advancement of Learning Bacon said Homer was made, "a kind of scripture by the later schools of the Grecians." In his "Homeric Problems" Heraclitus, a commentator on Homer writing sometime around the first century A.D., said:

"From the very earliest infancy young children are nursed in their learning by Homer, and swaddled in his verses we water our souls with them as though they were nourishing milk. He stands beside each of us as we start out and gradually grow into men, he blossoms as we do, and until old age we never grow tired of him, for as soon as we set him aside we thirst for him again; it may be said that the same limit is set to both Homer and life."

An early work attributed to Plutarch made Homer the founder of the whole sphere of Greek knowledge. According to this work Homer was the source of Greek literature broadly defined to include science, rhetoric, history, philosophy, and rather incidentally, comedy, tragedy, and other poetry. This was the parallel Bacon made with himself. He transmitted aspects of knowledge from the distant past just as had Homer, and he intended to bring about a subsequent renewal of all arts and sciences, while producing the greatest poetry, comedy, history, and tragedy just as Homer had. And, amazingly,Bacon accomplished exactly this.

In his inclusion of knowledge from the past in his works Bacon had a great parallel with Homer, for Homer's Iliad and Odyssey contains a great deal of knowledge from the distant past embedded in myths Homer did not invent himself, but merely transmitted. Bacon plainly stated this in his Wisdom of The Ancients. In this work (published in the same year as The Sonnets and Troilus and Cressida) Bacon refers to 'The earliest antiquity':

"The earliest antiquity lies buried in silence and oblivion, excepting the remains we have of it in sacred writ. This silence was succeeded by poetical fables, and these, at length, by the writings we now enjoy; so that the concealed and secret learning of the ancients seems separated from the history and knowledge of the following ages by a veil, or partition-wall of fables, interposing between the things that are lost and those that remain."

He said he believed, "a concealed instruction and allegory was originally intended in many of the ancient fables", and he spoke of his, "veneration for antiquity", showing that this antiquity of which he speaks was the 'earliest antiquity', not the antiquity of the Greeks. The 'fables' of the Greek poets, He says, were not:

"the product of the age, or invention of the poets, but as sacred relics, gentle whispers, and the breath of better times, that from the traditions of more ancient nations came, at length, into the flutes and trumpets of the Greeks".

Of poets who transmitted these 'sacred relics' from the earliest antiquity he mentions only Homer and Hesiod, and gives first place to Homer. Bacon used Homer as his model for the First Folio, but he knew that he himself was the greater poet. In his inimitable fashion of turning a phrase so it had two opposite meanings at the same time, Bacon said in the preface to his Novum Organum:

"For if I profess that I, going the same road as the ancients have something better to produce, there must needs have been some comparison or rivalry between anything misapprehended by them, or falsely laid down, why may not I, using a liberty common to all, take exception to it) yet the contest, however just and allowable, would have been an unequal one perhaps, in respect of the measure of my own powers."

The Wisdom Of The Ancients was designed with 32 parts, i.e., a preface and 31 treatises on ancient knowledge. If the histories in the First Folio with more than one part are counted as one, then the table of contents of the First Folio shows 32 plays. Again, both The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona are written as prefaces to the First Folio. If we count this as one preface and Troilus and Cressida is included in the Tables of Contents there is an even more exact match, a preface with 31 treatises on ancient knowledge.

Bacon also knew that in antiquity Homer was believed to be like Calchas, the seer, in the Iliad, who had knowledge of the past, present, and future. Of Calchas it was said :

"[He] knew those things that were, those that were to be and those that had been before"

Therefore, instead of merely designing his works to incorporate knowledge from the past and future, Bacon incorporated knowledge from the past, future, and present. In his early work, The Masculine Birth of Time, when he discussed the problems involved with transmitting his knowledge, the following description of the design he had decided to use for this transmittal has a covert allusion to his use of Homer as a model :

"Nevertheless it is important to understand how the present is like a seer with two faces, one looking toward the future, the other towards the past. According 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."

This passage from The Masculine Birth of Time alludes to, Homer the seer, who knew those things that were, those that were to be, and those that had been before. Each play in the First Folio deals at the same time with events from the present (dealing with some aspect of events in Bacon's time); events from the past (dealing with the course and progress of the ancients in some particular aspect of knowledge); and events from the future (showing the operation of his discovery device inquiring into the form of some related aspect of knowledge, thus contrasting Bacon's knowledge with theirs).

Among all the gods and goddess in the two works of Homer, Athena was predominant. She was the great champion of the Greeks and the patron goddess and champion of Odysseus. In "The Cave of the Nymphs", Porphyry's great commentary on the eleven lines from the Odyssey situated at the crucial moment of Odysseus's magical return to Ithaca, Porphyry showed that the first line

"At the head of the harbor is a slender-leaved olive"

referred to Pallas Athena, for whom the olive tree was the symbol. The description of the cave itself was an allegory representing the physical universe, and according to Porphyry the olive tree at the head of the harbor next to the cave itself represented the divine wisdom (Athena) that informs the universe and yet is something separate from it. So Porphyry designated Pallas Athena as the most important deity in Homer's works. Athena was called The Spear-Shaker because the spear in her hand on her statue placed on Greek temples, appeared to shake in the rays of the suns. Therefore, when Bacon adopted Shake-speare as his pseudonym, he was using the pseudonym of Pallas Athena, and his use of this was another link to the works of Homer.

One of the most curious elements in the Shakespeare phenomena is the intermittent presence of the hyphen (Shake-Speare) in the name of Shakespeare. The hyphen appeared in fifteen out of thirty-three of the plays published before the First Folio in 1623. It appeared in two editions of poetry (the Sonnets and the appended A Lover's Complaint, and Love's Martyr). It appeared in one cast list; and in six literary allusions. And the first time the author's name was alluded to, in a poem prefixed to Willobie His Avisa (1594) it was spelled with the hyphen. Many attempts have been made by orthodox scholars to explain this unprecedented aberration, but their explanations have no value with the exception that they are an additional bit of evidence showing that they missed another golden opportunity to conceal their ignorance by remaining silent.

In the preface to The Wisdom of the Ancients Bacon said,

"And even to this day, if any man would let new light in upon the human understanding without raising contests, animosities, opposition, or disturbance, he must still go in the same path [as the ancients], and have the like method of allegory, metaphor, and allusion."

This paralleled Homer. Heraclitus, a commentator on Homer, writing sometime around the first century A.D., called the Odyssey "a vast allegory." Origen of Alexandria, (circa 185-254 A.D.)viewed the writings of Homer as filled with allegory, and Porphyry assumed that the Iliad and Odyssey, in the allegory they incorporated, had multiple levels of meaning simultaneously. So likewise, the 'Shakespeare' works incorporates allegories that have multiple levels of meaning simultaneously.

Homer's works were designed as a model of the universe. So Bacon designed the First Folio to also be a model of the universe. Bacon said:

"We neither dedicate nor raise a capitol or pyramid to the pride of man, but rear a holy temple in his mind, on the model of the universe, which model therefore we imitate."

So now Bacon not only had models dealing with the past, present, and future, they also were models of the macrocosm and microcosm. This design was described in the Fama Fraternitatis (one of the anonymous works of Bacon which contains many concealed references to the Shakespeare plays) where the body of Christian Rosencreutz (referred to as Francis Rosicross by John Wilkins) was found perfectly preserved in the secret vault, i.e. in the vault of the First Folio, and in his hand a parchment book, called "I", that said, among other things, of Francis Rosicross:

"He constructed a microcosm corresponding in all motions to the macrocosm and finally drew up this compendium of things past, present, and to come."

The Iliad deals with the macrocosm, since it is set in the starry heavens, and the characters personify stars and constellations. During the 1930s the young daughter of a Kansas farmer spent night after night watching the stars and planets wheel across the vast prairie sky. Later as a teacher in England, she combined her devotion to astronomy with a passion for Homer. After years of study it became clear to her that the battles in the Iliad between the Greeks and the Trojans mirrored the movement of stars and constellations as they appeared to fight for ascendancy in the night sky. Her discovery lay buried in her notes until her daughter Florence Wood inherited her papers in 1991. Florence Wood was joined by her husband Kenneth Wood in the enterprise of creating the book "Homer's Secret Iliad", published in 1999, which depicts in detail the astronomical symbolism in the Iliad.

The fall of the stars in the symbolism in the drama of the Iliad represents the fall of souls. The ancient astral mysticism universally depicted the souls which came into the earth as falling from the starry heaven above, sometimes even equating them with stars. The Odyssey deals with the microcosm, i.e., with the individual soul, since the wanderings of Odysseus around the Mediterranean sea actually depicts the story of the individual soul through its cycle in the earth. (Porphyry informs us that Homer associated the element of water with the material universe as opposed to the immaterial reality.)

Both the Iliad and the Odyssey are composed of 24 parts (called books) reflecting a design found among many ancient nations. In the Laws, Plato gave the blueprint for an ideal twelve-tribe nation. The Bible described the twelve tribes under King Solomon. Many other nations of antiquity, all the way from Iceland to Madagascar, and from Europe through the ancient East to America, had this twelve-tribe division. The twelve tribe division was half of a 24 part design because the twelve part design on earth reflected and corresponded to the twelve signs of the zodiac in the heavens above.

So the 24 divisions in Homer's works was a composite of heaven and earth.

Dr. Rawley noted in his Life Of Francis Bacon, that it was a practice of Bacon's, when he borrowed from other men, to improve what he borrowed. Bacon followed the same practice with Homer. In his First Folio, Bacon modified the design so that instead of 48 divisions (24 dealing with the macrocosm, and 24 dealing with the microcosm), it had just 24 divisions, and the two streams of allegory flow concurrently, one deals with the macrocosm and the other, depicts the cycle of the individual soul, deals with the microcosm. The 24 plays in the First Folio are prefixed by two plays, summarizing respectively their content. In the First Folio table of contents (Troilus and Cressida is omitted) and these plays (The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona) are indented by the large ornamental "T" to set them apart from the other plays listed in the table of contents. The Tempest is a preface, depicting the cosmos (The Tempest incorporates an allegory of the Greater Mysteries at Eleusis, which, according to Clemens of Alexandria dealt with the entire universe) and summarizes the stream of allegory dealing with the macrocosm in the 24 plays. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a preface depicting gnostic allegory concerning the cycle of the individual soul, and therefore deals with the microcosm. The 24 divisions in the First Folio are composed of 12 Comedies, and 12 Tragedies respectively:


The Merry Wives Of Windsor

The Tragedy of Troilus and Cressida

Measure For Measure

The Tragedy Of Coriolanus

The Comedy Of Errors

Titus Andronicus

Much Ado About Nothing

Romeo and Juliet

Loves Labor Lost

Timon Of Athens

Midsummer Nights Dream


Julius Caesar

The Merchant Of Venice

The Tragedy Of Macbeth

As You Like It

The Tragedy Of Hamlet

The Taming Of The Shrew

King Lear

Alls Well That Ends Well


Twelfth Night, or What You Will


Anthony and Cleopatra


The Winters Tale



-end part one-

Part II

See: The Bacon-Shakespeare Essays of Mather Walker



























 - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning