To be or not to be, that is the question…


With the intense imagery and moribund narratives to which you are subjected on a daily basis, I figured that a reprieve was long overdue. After all, a brief distraction won’t hurt anyone and a little chaos in our neatly packed understanding of the nature of things is sometimes beneficial.  All in good fun my friends.  You know the “all work… dull boy” bit.  Several years ago, I stumbled across the writings of distinguished Freemason Manly Palmer Hall. Needless to say, Mr. Hall’s scholarship was quite thought provoking and compelling. Taken from his seminal work The Secret Teachings of All Ages, I submit the following case for your consideration and or amusement. Remember my credo, believe nothing, simply entertain ideas.

Whether Hermeticism or Heisenberg, Hinduism or Hume, every construct upon which we base our version of reality is ultimately borrowed or derived from some larger body of knowledge. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that this principle universally underpins the evolution of mind. If we then extend this reasoning, the same should apply to noteworthy personages throughout the annals of history. Even the two cited earlier, Heisenberg and Hume, would both probably agree that their respective contributions are but extensions, based upon either acceptance or rejection of the plethora of ideas introduced during the process of education. Why do we then permit the good ole bard from Avon an exclusion from this truism?

The philosophic ideals expressed in Shakespeares’ works would necessarily have been teachings requiring a certain degree of exposure and familiarity. Mr. Manly P. Hall makes an excellent case that William Shakespeare could not possibly have crafted the corpus of literature to which he is credited. Imagine if you will, a medieval English setting where the skills or reading and writing had not yet become the widespread province of the commoner.

“It is quite evident that William Shakespeare could not, unaided, have produced the immortal writings bearing his name. He did not possess the necessary literary culture, for the town of Stratford where he was reared contained no school capable of imparting the higher forms of learning reflected in the writings ascribed to him. His parents were illiterate, and in his early life he evinced a total disregard for study. There are in existence but six known examples of Shakespeare’s handwriting. All are signatures, and three of them are in his will. The scrawling, uncertain method of their execution stamps Shakespeare as unfamiliar with the use of a pen, and it is obvious either that he copied a signature prepared for him or that his hand was guided while he wrote.”

Hall continues, “A well-stocked library would be an essential part of the equipment of an author whose literary productions demonstrate him to be familiar with the literature of all ages, yet there is no record that Shakespeare ever possessed a library, nor does he make any mention of books in his will. Commenting on the known illiteracy of Shakespeare’s daughter Judith, who at twenty-seven could only make her mark, Ignatius Donnelly declares it to be unbelievable that William Shakespeare if he wrote the plays bearing his name would have permitted his own daughter to reach womanhood and marry without being able to read one line of the writings that made her father wealthy and locally famous.”

The query has also been raised as to where did our esteemed bard secure his knowledge of modern French, Italian, Spanish, and Danish, to say nothing of classical Latin and Greek? Ben Jonson, who knew Shakespeare intimately, declared that the Stratford actor understood “small Latin and less Greek”! Hall also cites W.F.C. Wigston who called the Bard of Avon “phantom Captain Shakespeare, the Rosicrucian mask.”

He proposes that the Shakespearean writings are instead the works of the preeminent English scholar of the era, Sir Francis Bacon. He states:

“The philosophic ideals promulgated throughout the Shakespearian plays distinctly demonstrate their author to have been thoroughly familiar with certain doctrines and tenets peculiar to Rosicrucianism… [W]ho but a Platonist, a Qabbalist, or a Pythagorean could have written The Tempest, Macbeth, Hamlet, or The Tragedy of Cymbeline? Who but one deeply versed in Paracelsian lore could have conceived, A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”

Bacon has been referred to as a father of modern science, legal scholar, patron of modern democracy, one of the founders of modern Freemasonry, and a high initiate of the Rosicrucian order. Moreover, “It was in recognition of Bacon’s intellectual accomplishments that King James turned over to him the translators’ manuscripts of what is now known as the King James Bible for the presumable purpose of checking, editing, and revising them. The documents remained in his hands for nearly a year…”

Sir Francis Bacon unquestionably possessed the range of general and philosophical knowledge necessary to write the Shakespearian plays and sonnets, for it is usually conceded that he was a composer, lawyer, and linguist. His chaplain, Doctor William Rawley, and Ben Jonson both attest his philosophic and poetic accomplishments. The former pays Bacon this remarkable tribute: “I have been induced to think that if there were a beam of knowledge derived from God upon any man in these modern times, it was upon him.”

As a qualified barrister and courtier, Bacon enjoyed intimate knowledge of parliamentary law.   The humble environs of Stratford could not possibly have facilitated the intimate knowledge of law and royal court etiquette displayed in the Shakespearean works, much less for a local actor who signed his name rather awkwardly.  Bacon, the Earl of Verulam had also visited many of the foreign countries which enriched his understanding of setting and was in a position to create the authentic local atmosphere contained therein. There is no record of William Shakespeare’s ever having traveled outside of England which would weigh heavily against his favor in a world still awaiting the Promethean boon of photography.

The magnificent library amassed by Sir Francis Bacon contained the very volumes necessary to supply the quotations and anecdotes incorporated into the Shakespearian plays. Many of the plays, in fact, were taken from plots in earlier writings of which there was no English translation at that time. Because of his scholastic acquirements, Lord Verulam could have read the original books; it is most unlikely that William Shakespeare could have done so.

To cement his argument Hall cites to examples such as the following:

Abundant cryptographic proof exists that Bacon was concerned in the production of the Shakespearian plays. Sir Francis Bacon’s cipher number was 33. In the First Part of King Henry the Fourth, the word “Francis” appears 33 times upon one page. To attain this end, obviously awkward sentences were required, as: “Anon Francis? No Francis, but tomorrow Francis: or Francis, on Thursday: or indeed Francis when thou wilt. But Francis.”

Throughout the Shakespearian Folios and Quartos occur scores of acrostic signatures. The simplest form of the acrostic is that whereby a name–in these instances Bacon’s–was hidden in the first few letters of lines. In The Tempest, Act I, Scene 2, appears a striking example of the Baconian acrostic:

“Begun to tell me what I am, but stopt

And left me to a bootelesse Inquisition,

Concluding, stay: not yet.

The first letters of the first and second lines together with the first three letters of the third line form the word BACon. Similar acrostics appear frequently in Bacon’s acknowledged writings.

In conclusion, “The tenor of the Shakespearean dramas politically is in harmony with the recognized viewpoints of Sir Francis Bacon, whose enemies are frequently caricatured in the plays. Likewise their religious, philosophic, and educational undercurrents all reflect his personal opinions. Not only do these marked similarities of style and terminology exist in Bacon’s writings and the Shakespearean plays, but there are also certain historical and philosophical inaccuracies common to both, such as identical misquotations from Aristotle.”

History alone holds the answer regarding who actually wielded the goose feather all those centuries ago, but I hope that I have incited a spark of curiosity that may cause you to conduct further inquiry. Keep well friends.

One love,



About H3nry J3kyll
Vincit omnia veritas (using an obscure Latin heraldry motto makes one seem kinda learned and distinguished).

10 Responses to To be or not to be, that is the question…

  1. I have heard of this claim/theory (I did my Master in English). Some of the arguments are less (illiterate parents? – that does not mean anything), some more convincing. But I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy/girl. Thanks for this. The works remain great, almost non-human in their greatness.

  2. Erik Andrulis says:

    RIch post. Much to like. I was gonna major in the ‘speare until my Dad axed that idea. Made it up to the 200 level classes at U of R, I did.

    Whether it was Bacon or not, I recall Donne: Alle of Mankynde is of One Author…

    • Henry Jekyll says:

      Thanks for the kind words sir. Loaded quote also. I think Mr Donne may have been pleased with the intervention on the part of your Dad. I am sure he is quite fascinated with the model that substantiates his quotation.

  3. Aside: She smiles.
    All plays written for performance in the great marketplace.
    Who shall lay claim by name?
    Matters it one wit?
    Mystery, we do so adore it.
    Shall we scorn Lear if by another penned?
    I think not.
    But this Bacon theme sings a touch sweeter than those
    of other ink brothers.
    An illiterate bard, what droll irony.
    Makes all the worlds dance in harmony.

  4. Pingback: Ode to Truth | high-grade discourse

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