Who was the Bard
Who was the Bard
There is some controversy about who wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Two names that come up often with skeptics are Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon. During the mid 19th century, Bacon was the most popular candidate. Now it is Edward de Vere. Was William Shakespeare the author of those masterpieces of the English language? It is impossible for Shakespeare to be the author, with his low background and little education. The two best candidates for authorship are Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon. There are verbal and content parallels between the writings and Oxford's life and poetry. Certain text in the plays and sonnets can be deciphered into messages that point to Bacon being the author. Shakespeare was from a shabby, highly illiterate back settlement where thirteen out of nineteen politicians couldn't sign their own names(Twain, Chpt 3). His parents were both farmer class and illiterate. His early schooling cannot be proven, and it is known that he did not attend a university. A popular candidate for authorship is de Vere, Earl of Oxford. There are many verbal parallels between the plays and letters written by Oxford. William Plumer Fowler gave numerous examples in his book, Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Poetry. The plays also reflect Oxford's background and events in his life. The plays include political intrigue, and Oxford served in an Elizabethan court. And Hamlet is a reflection of events related to Oxford's life. His predecessor as candidate for authorship is Francis Bacon. In Penn Leary's book, Are There Ciphers in Shakespeare? He shows that text in plays or poems arranged to attract attention can be ciphered into many different spellings that are phonically pronounced "Bacon". Bacon was a cryptographer, and his brother a cryptanalyst(Leary, Ciphers). Besides, if the publication of the plays and poems are dated, there is a coincidence, Edward de Vere dies the same year Shakespeare is said to have retired from writing. And only Francis Bacon was still alive when the First Folio, containing twenty new plays was published. Of the three people mentioned earlier, only Shakespeare was from the common class. And with the little education that he received, it would be impossible for him to write such great works.
How could the Works, a collection of unrivaled literary masterpieces, have been written by a common class businessman and actor? William Shakespeare was born to good farmer class parents, but they were both illiterate. Even though his father had been elected as alderman and later as bailiff, he could not read or write. As surprising as it may seem, "of the nineteen important men charged with the government of the town, thirteen had to 'make their mark' in attesting important documents, because they could not write their names(Twain, Chpt 3)." This was not uncommon in a small back settlement like Stratford-upon-Avon. The first document from his life emerges when he is eighteen, nothing is known of his life before that. It seems strange how so much could be unknown about one who supposedly wrote some of the greatest literary works in existence. In many documents, it is stated as a fact that he went to grammar school at an early age because of his father's status. Shakespearites claim that Shakespeare is the author of the works because there are several excerpts from the plays and poems in Latin that match text recited by schoolboys. Unfortunately, according to many historians, he was taken out of school because of financial problems in the family. If this is so, he could not have been so affluent in English, Latin and some Spanish and Italian. Shakespeare called Venus and Adonis "the first heir of his invention(Twain, Chpt 4)." This means that he must have wrote it before 1586 when he wrote his first great plays. Where did he find time to write, between butchering and supposed poaching of deer during the "lost years"? Also keep in mind, much of his life is unknown, and many "facts" about it are inferred or supposed. It seems absurd that so little could be known about one of the greatest writers in history. Maybe William Shakespeare is not the true author. Oxfordians would certainly like to argue otherwise. The amount of verbal parallels between Oxford's poems and the Works, is too much to be a coincidence.
There are many verbal parallels between the works, credited to William Shakespeare and the poetry of Oxford. Obviously contemporary authors will have a little in common, but when hundreds of similarities between the works of two authors can be found, it is just too much to brush off as coincidence. "Considering that we have only a small body of Oxford's acknowledged poetry, I think we might� posit an upper limit of three dozen. Much more� would be beyond possibility of coincidence(Sobran)." In both Shakespeare and Oxford's poetry, there are similar images for example: fertility and harvest, lazy drones robbing honey from bees. There are examples of images used to capture pity like weeping lovers, wailing and moaning, panting and sighing, floods of tears and morning sun melting dew. Common allusions used in both works are Caesar, Hannibal and Pompey, Venus' beauty, blind Cupid with his bow, and countless more from Greek mythology, with cupid often being referred to as "blind boy" or "wanton"(Sobran). In the two sets of writings, certain factors for comparison are used very often. The use of sweet and sour, joy and woe, ebb and flow, flowers and weeds, heaven and hell is commonly found in both Shakespeare and Oxford. All of these similarities are weak when they stand alone, but in context they can show a lot more(Sobran). Oxford writes: "He pulls the flowers, he plucks but weeds." Shakespeare uses this combination of flowers and weeds, for example: "They bid thee crop a weed, thou pluck'st a flower." There are dozens more, but what is even more revealing is that they both have similar rhythm and sentence structure(Sobran). In a couplet, Oxford writes:
Ev'n as the wax both melt, or dew consume away
Before the sun, so I behold, through careful thoughts decay.
Shakespeare also uses such comparisons:
As soon decay'd and done
As is the morning's silver melting dew
Against the golden splendor of the sun.
Now finished with the verbal parallels, reflections of Oxford's life in some of the Works can be critically examined. Hamlet for example, is a story based on a common theme to most Elizabethan tragedies(Kathman). Though there is a resemblance to real life people. King James' father had been murdered, and his mother suspected in the scandal. "She later married the suspect, a heavy drinker just like Claudius."(Kathman) Her chief advisor was murdered in her presence and the body disposed of in a stair case. James was a disconsolate prince, married to Queen Anne who treated him decrepitly. Obviously, Hamlet being King James' biography is a definite possibility. Oxfordians have also claimed to have found "the names of specific Italians� Oxford visited in Padua and Venice showing up in the plays."(Kathman) William Shakespeare, being a common class businessman and actor could not have known the details of King James' life so well. Oxford on the other hand had served in the king's court. Skeptics who have not found arguments made by Oxfordians sufficient to prove that Oxford is the author look deeper into the writings and have found messages encrypted in the Works. The solutions to these cryptograms point to Francis Bacon as author of the works credited to Shakespeare.
Certain portions of the works credited to Shakespeare can be deciphered into messages that lead Baconians to believe that Francis Bacon is the true author of the works. Bacon was a cryptographer, and his brother a cryptanalyst.(Leary, Ciphers) A good cryptographer will want to stump a cryptanalyst, but not let his message go undeciphered. A good example of a seemingly impossible cipher can be found on the title and Dedication page of the Sonnets. The Dedication page contains an odd use of periods, which could have no other use than to attract attention. Within these two pages, Bacon uses two techniques to cipher his message. The first method is an acrostic cipher, where the ciphered text is hidden in a pattern along with useless words or "nulls" as a cover up.(Leary, Chpt 9) In this particular case, it is the last letter of a capitalized word. Oddly enough, there is a single lower case "r" in the Dedication page. Again, probably for no other reason than attention. The cipher happens to end at this lower case "r". The year is there for a reason, "1609" has to be deciphered also. It is actually just a simple code, 1 was assigned to "a", 2 to "b" and so on. "0" is a null because it has no value. 1,6, and 9 represent A, F, and I. The solution to the acrostic cipher is as follows:
S S R D T N Y G D T T M Y A F I O E E R F E G S R
So far, they are still a meaningless bunch of letters. That is because Bacon had ciphered this too, this time using a substitution cipher invented by Julius Caesar. (Leary, Chpt 9) That is, shifting the whole sequence of a plain text alphabet to match a cipher text alphabet, for example: matching "a" with "b", "b" with "c" and so on. The question is, which letters do you match? Cryptographers often leave clues in their cryptograms. Notice the first words of the Dedication are, "TO THE ONLIE" and the last word is "FORTH". "There were no standards [for spelling]� but for Shakespeare, his 1609 spelling of 'onlie' was a singular one."(Leary, Chpt 11) "TO" is a homonym for "two", "ONLIE" may very well refer to "one" and "FORTH" is a homonym for "fourth". Two and one put together is twenty-one. The normal Elizabethan alphabet only had twenty-four letters, it excluded "j" and "u". Twenty-one simply tells the cryptanalyst to take off three more letters. After "testing by omitting three likely letters at a time� I got an alphabet that excluded 'w, x and z' also."(Leary, Chpt 11) "FORTH" is the key to solving the Caesar cipher. It means that the cipher text was derived from a normal alphabet matched up to every fourth letter back:
Plain text: a b c d e f g h i k l m n o p q r s t v y
Cipher text: e f g h i k l m n o p q r s t v y a b c d
The final decipherment is the message that points to Bacon as author of the works. It reads: O O NYPIR CYPPHRS BEKAAN BACON
The misspellings are typical of ciphered messages. "NYPIR" is actually "Napier", as in John Napier(Leary, Chpt 11). He was a friend of Bacon who wrote "Disme", a book on decimals and logarithms. How does this prove that Bacon is the author of the Works? The answer to that lies within the works, for example: Troylus and Cressida
"Every tythe soule 'monst many thousand dismes,
Hath bin as deere as Helen : I meane of ours:"
In Sonnet 136, Shakespeare writes:
"Among a number one is reckon'd none."
The only place one can equal none is in logarithms where the log of 1 is 0.(Leary, Chpt 11) Logarithms were a revolutionary idea at the time, a businessman and actor such as Shakespeare would not have time to read about such things. And the odds that twenty-five letters appearing in the pattern and order on the Dedication page of Sonnets is almost a trillion to one.
The controversy about the authorship of the Works has been laid out above. All of the evidence is against Shakespeare as being the author. Charles Dickens said: "The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery." So much is unknown about his life, and the "proofs" that Shakespearites use to prove that he is the author are merely deductions made from a minute amount of documents and facts on his life. The three most popular candidates for the authorship of the Works are Shakespeare, Oxford and Bacon. Of these three, only William Shakespeare was of the common class. Both Oxford and Bacon were from the higher class, and Oxford had served in an Elizabethan court. The plays contain a great deal of knowledge that commoner would not know. The language used in the poems and plays contain so many similarities with Oxford's poetry that it could not have been a coincidence. Then there is the odd configuration of the title and Dedication page of Sonnets. Why are there so many periods in the Dedication page? And a sole lower case "r" amidst a page of capital letters? The spacing on the page is also very peculiar. Cryptanalysts have only have one explanation: to attract attention. Penn Leary used a combination of deciphering methods and came up with a message that points to Francis Bacon as author. What is more, is that he only used methods that existed at the time, including the acrostic cipher, the most complicated cipher in the Elizabethan period. Even though every faction in the controversy have good arguments, to most, it does not matter who the author is, the Works are still great literary masterpieces. On the other hand, John Greenleaf Whittier once said, "Whether Bacon wrote the wonderful plays or not, I am quite sure the man Shaksper neither did nor could."
Kathman, Dave. "The Shakespeare Authorship Page." Shakespeare Authorship home
page. http://www.bcpl.net/~tross/ws/will.html (23 March 1998)
Leary, Penn. "Are There Ciphers in Shakespeare?" http://home.att.net/~tleary/ (23 March
------, ed. Second Cryptographic Shakespeare. http://home.att.net/~tleary/penn9 (26
Sobran, Joseph. "Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Poetry." De Vere Society Newsletter.
Twain, Mark. Is Shakespeare Dead? http://www.lm.com/~joseph/shake3.html
(26 March 1998)