Francis Bacon, Shakespeare and Secret Societies

Sir Francis Bacon, first Viscount of St Albans,  was born on 22 January 1561. He is well-known for his contribution to science. In fact, science and research is what it is today because of Bacon. The methodology of science and research, something we may not even think about as having an origin, of ever not existing, was Bacon’s brainchild. He is the father of empiricism.

'Engraving: portrait of Francis Bacon', Wellcome Library, CC-BY-NC

‘Engraving: portrait of Francis Bacon’, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Bacon championed the need for inductive reasoning. That means being able to gradually generalise findings based on accumulated data – the more data you investigate, the more convincing your hypothesis. If you’re interested in his works, you can find them on Europeana here.

'Francis Bacon, Viscount St Albans' as a boy. Stipple engraving by F. Holl after A. Hughes. Wellcome Library, CC-BY-NC

‘Francis Bacon, Viscount St Albans’ as a boy. Stipple engraving by F. Holl after A. Hughes. Wellcome Collection, CC BY

So, Bacon has played his part in all of our educations – science experiments would not be the same without him.

But did you know that some would say the same about English lessons?

A theory first published in the mid-19th century suggests that Sir Francis Bacon was the real author of some or even all of the plays that most of us believe were written by William Shakespeare. Baconian theory holds that Shakespeare was merely the front man, taking all the glory so that the important statesman would not be criticised as being a lowly public playwright. By finding another man to take the credit, Bacon’s high ambitions to hold high office in government  could remain achievable.  Scholars came up with this theory after perceiving similarities in the philosophies of Bacon as seen through his correspondence and the ideas put forward in Shakespeare’s plays. Some also find codes and ciphers in the plays that point to Bacon. But it has to be said that the vast majority of Shakespeare scholars reject this theory.

A scene from Hamlet, but who wrote it, Shakespeare or Bacon? 'Costume design-sketch, Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act I, father of Hamlet and the spirit warriors,' ECLAP, e-library for Performing Arts, public domain

A scene from Hamlet, but who wrote it, Shakespeare or Bacon? ‘Costume design-sketch, Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act I, father of Hamlet and the spirit warriors,’ ECLAP, e-library for Performing Arts, In Copyright

This isn’t the only unusual claim about Bacon’s life.  He is also thought to have been a member of secret societies. He is alleged to have had connections with the fraternity of Freemasons and German secret philosophical society, the Rosicrucians. While there are scholars who don’t believe this, others think that he was part of other closed intellectual movements, which he joined motivated by his passion for the advancement of  learning. His motto certainly bears this out: bene visit qui bene latuit – one lives best by the hidden life.

'An archangel revealing the physical nature of the universe to a group of natural philosophers and mathematicians' (including Bacon)  Wellcome Library, CC-BY-NC

‘An archangel revealing the physical nature of the universe to a group of natural philosophers and mathematicians’ (including Bacon) Wellcome Collection, CC BY

His death, aged 65,  has a touch of irony to it. One day in April 1626,  Bacon took a walk in the snow. Whilst on this walk, he had the idea of freezing meat to preserve it. He immediately bought a fowl and stuffed it with snow, whereupon he contracted pneumonia and died just a few days later.  In a letter Bacon wrote on his deathbed to his friend Lord Arundel, he said, ‘As for the experiment itself, it succeeded excellently well.’

So to conclude, we wish Sir Francis Bacon a happy birthday and thank him for research methodology, Shakespeare’s plays, and frozen food.

16 thoughts on “Francis Bacon, Shakespeare and Secret Societies

  1. It is quite evident that William Shakspere 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.

    1. I would not hold him guilty in the totality of the writings, so acclaimed to his name, your explanation has a high degree of credibility.

  2. Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century.
    His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

  3. Just about everyone has probably heard of Shakespeare and either read or watched or listened to something based on at least one of his scripts but not everyone has heard of Sir Francis Bacon. Bacon truly was a fascinating and extremely intelligent man and i would recommend visiting the link above to find out more about him if you dont already know. Another great article from Europeana!

  4. As an older female i have recently come to be convinced that Francis Bacon was indeed the Master of the Shake-speare Atelier. He being a supremely gifted man of the highest birth, had many friends with talent akin to his, with many who shared his developing world view, re educating the masses, which they helped along through the Plays, thereby expanding the English Language and promoting insights to the human condition.

    There is so much to Lord Bacon and the life he led in such a difficult, cruel and debauched era – much like our own! That’s why he/Shakespeare is so relevant in any times.

  5. Francis Bacon called himself a “concealed poet” and upon his death or disappearance he was lauded as Chancellor of Parnassus, the mount of the muse. To really know with every fabric of your being that Bacon was the author of what is called the Shakspeare plays can not be acquired instantaneously. It is the greatest detective story I know. As a beginning I suggest the article in Manly P. Hall’s massive book Encyclopedic Outline of Hermetic, Quabalistic and Rosicrucianism Symbolic Philosophy and his essay reprinted in Hall’s collective works entitled “Francis Bacon the Concealed Poet.” There are many ways to approach the subject thereafter, cryptographically, by text comparison, by simultaneous development of ideas as best can be made by the dating of the plays and Bacon’s evolution, and finally by learning the sources of the plays themselves, frequently unknown in English. The author of the plays exceeds in erudition all his contemporaries and as a highly placed member of the court he had access to details of the English Kings only subsequently verified. I call Rouse a professional lier and Harold Bloom a windbag, both of which ridicule an inquiry into the true authorship of the plays. The time will come for the truth to be more commonplace.

  6. Do you know about the hypothesis of Professor Marina Litvinova from Moscow (author of the book in Russian “Justification of Shakespeare”, 2008) that is two people: Bacon (great thinker) and his pupil Roger Manners 5th Earl of Rutland (great poet).?

  7. Very confusing in the beginning of this article when you stated that he was born on this day. Would have been much easier for you to just include the date instead of making the reader check when the article was made. It was not much of a hassle to do, but just for future reference, make sure you include the data right in the text rather then making the reader execute an extra step to figure out what date it is. Good article, though.

  8. I love the figurative language and the use of logos and pathos throughout the entirety of this exquisite piece of literature. I one day hope that the publisher can turn this into a 5000 page book to enhance my knowledge on this article.

  9. In early schooldays, boorish tutors foisted on the young Shakespearian experiences of a life they had yet to experience. Explain please how a person of six years standing can understand “For in my thoughts thy eternal summer will not fade. Nor lose possession of that fairness thou didst own.”

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