"The History of the Winds"
From the book
The Shakespeare Secret
by Edwin Bormann
If the assumption that The Tempest is a poetical supplement to and continuation of Bacon's science is to be still further confirmed, it is essential to turn for comparison to that creation of the mind to which The Tempest stands nearest in respect of title as of subject, namely The History of the Winds.
The similarity of title between this first comedy and the first natural historical treatise, the nearly simultaneous appearance of both works ( in 1622 and 1623), the equally strongly emphasized wish expressed in both for the discovery of a means of exciting and allaying the winds, all these are certainly weighty bases of evidence in favour of the scientific-parabolism of the poesy of The Tempest. The present aim, however, is to enquire whether The History of the Winds (which occupies about 60 octavo-pages of Spedding's edition and 24 folio-pages of the Frankfort edition) agrees or disagrees on other points with the views of nature as set forth by the author of The Tempest.
With the north wind, says Bacon, men are brisker, healthier and have a better appetite; with the sound wind more dull and heavy. The north wind is bad for consumption, cough, gout, or any sharp humour. Here, if a clear and dry south wind continue long, it is very pestilential.
In the Dramatis Personae (cast) of the comedy Ariel is described as an ayrie spirit. In his merriness and freshness, his sound and cheerful being, he corresponds with what Bacon says of the north wind. Caliban, on the contrary, the misshapen, dull, morose fellow shows a decidely south wind nature. His mother, be it remembered, was Sycorax a south wind witch of the worse sort. She came, so the comedy says, from Algiers, whence she was expelled in consequence of her many evil deeds was
one so strong
That could controle the Moon; make flowes and ebs....
in short, the witch Sycorax was no harmless fable witch but a
mighty witch of nature who could bring danger upon great cities and
raise the flood. If the term Caliban(as is generally assumed) is an
inversion of the word Canibal, so, too, does the Sycorax put us in
lively rememberance of the word Sirocco.
According to Bacon, when the south wind passes over swamps it brings pestilence. According to Shakespeare, the witch Sycorax brushes evil dews with raven feathers from unwholesome fens. Her nature is described in the comedy as earthy;which is distinct from earthly. Caliban, too, her son, is addressed by Prospero as thou Earth. In Bacon, likewise, southwind and earth appear in close connection. We learn from him that south-wind on our hemisphere, where the south-pole lies under the earth, also blows from below.
Caliban's very first entrance corresponds entirely with Bacon's views concerning the south wind :
Cal. As wicked dewe, as ere my mother brush'd
With Ravens feather from unwholesome Fen
Drop on you both : A Southwest blow on yee
And blister you all ore.
whereupon Prospero, entirely in the sense of Bacon's north-wind, retorts :
Pro. For this be sure, to night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stiches, that shall pen thy breath up, Urchins
Shall for that vast of night, that they may worke
All exercise on thee: thou shalt be pinch'd
As thicke as honey-combe, each pinch more stinging
Then Bees that made' em.
The urchin- stiches and the bee stings clearly point to gout.
Here is another bouquet of pestilence-blossoms from the mouth of Caliban :
All the Charmes
Of Sycorax : Toades, Beetles, Batts light on you.....
The red-plague rid you..............
All the infections that the Sunne suckes up
From Bogs, Fens, Flats, on Prosper fall, and makes him
By ynch-meale a disease :.......
A plague upon the Tyrant.
Would such a thoughtful and masterly linquist as the author of
The Tempest, in wishing to portray a cursing monster in
general, have found no greater variety in the curses? It is the
regular recurrence of pestilence and fen curses that shows mos
impressively the south wind nature of Caliban.
The strongest evidence of the contrast between the natures of Ariel and Caliban appears in the fourth and fifth acts of the comedy, where Ariel drives Caliban with blows across the stage.
Whatever happens in the comedy, whatever we see and hear, in no single instance do we find a natural historical contradiction between Shakespeare and Bacon. What the one knows is known to the other; what the one means is meant by the other; where the one errs the other is at fault.
Bacon calls toads with tails prognostics of the pest; Caliban's body ends in a clumsy tail.
Bacon calls the sirocco a burning air without flame; Prospero says of Caliban : he do's make our fire.
Bacon names the bay berries and juniper berries as remedies against the pest. Caliban says to Prospero : wouldst give me water with berries in it.
Bacon calls the stars real flames; Caliban speaks of the stars that by day and night burne.
Bacon says : In a south-wind the breath of men is more offensive. Trinculo says of Caliban : He smels like a fish.....a kind of, not of the newest, poore-John.
Bacon says : The screech of the owl indicates fair weather.
Ariel sings :
Where the Bee sucks, there suck I,
In a Cowslips bell, I lie,
There I coweh when Owles doe crie,
On the Batts backe I doe flie
After Sommer merrily.
When owls screech the air spirit sleeps in the cowslips
bell, meaning that it is a fine summer-night. (It may be mentioned
parenthetically that the Batt is introduced thrice into The
The raven, in contrast with the owl, is according to Bacon, the foreteller of bad weather. It is also in Shakespeare the special bird of the witch Sycorax . ( The name Sycorax is thus compounded out of Sirocco= South-wind and raven, implying the bird of the south-wind.)
It has been often noticed already with what seamanlike certainty the author of The Tempest describes the vessel, the action of the storm and the manipulations of the mariners in the first scene. Ariel, too, describes his attack upon the vessel in quite nautical terms. Bacon's History of the Winds, likewise, does not neglect this point. It contains 35 instructive paragraphs under the heading: Motus Ventorum in velis navium (The Motion of Winds in the Sails of Ships). This section gives the description of a vessel with admirable clearness, of its masts, spars and sails and of all their proportions. It then discusses the effect of the winds upon the sails and directs what is to be done in heavy storms (tempestatibus majoribus).
The air is recognised by us as the primary transmitter of sound; of the mighty thunder as of sweet music. And precisely as the laws of acoustics and the teaching of the winds are handled in Bacon's scientific writings so do we find in The Tempest that noises, tones, music, thunder, in short, that all kinds of sound play an important part in every act.
The six-fold distinction of sound has already been referred to. But that is not enough. Bacon says : it is supposed that the ringing of bells disperses the storm. When, in the comedy, the heavy storm has died away Ariel sings the previously quoted song on the circulation of matter ((Full fadom five) to which, as closing sounds, the ding-dong of bells is added from behind the scene. Thus, here again, as already in so many other instances, Bacon's theory is put into practice; his science is converted into action; an instructive phrase is presented to the eye in tangible form.
Still more profound is the following uniformity of thought. In
Bacon's Sylva Sylvarum the following comparison of the senses
is made : The sense of hearing reaches the mind more closely than
the other senses but less corporeally than the sense of smell.
And Ariel describes to his master, Prospero, the effect that music,
which is performed by invisible musicians, has upon the rough
fellows, Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, in these words
: They prickt their eares, advanc'd their eye-lids, lifted up
their noses as they smelt musicke. That is as much to say that
fellows possessing coarser senses, who are most affected by those of
taste and smell, conceive music also as something corporeal and
desire to to enjoy it in their own way. As they smelt musicke!
The words are full of drastically comical poetry and yet so full of profound knowledge and thought. It is submitted that this passage belongs to the most characterstic of anything which one can imagine within the boundries of parabolic comedy- poesy. This sniffing of music excites merriment, even in the naive spectator who has had no preparation in natural science, but it is only the thinker who grasps spontaneously the whole depth of thought comprised in the words; only for him shines the parabolic mental lightning of the poet. Such as he experiences merriment and gathers wisdom at the same time. Thus, and not otherwise, is the second chief part of Bacon's science, namely poesy, to be understood, and thus only is it to be regarded when at its highest grade, i. e. in dramatci-parabolic poesy, and this, moreover, when, in agreement with the first Bacon-parable, a natural historical thought forms its basis. There is nothing dry, nothing unwholesome or stiff-kneed in allegorical and parabolic art as presented to us in Shakespearean verse. Bright, merry Imagination relieves sober Reason of her office. Poesy dreams onward beyond where Science must for the time being hold her hand. Imagination gives form, tne and colour to the theories of the learned; she presents profound wisdom to the people in the garb of pleasure; she converts into golden, enjoyable and instructive practice an appreciable state of knowledge which would otherwise be reserved for the select few.
The reflexion with regard to the senses, the considering of what effect the deprivation of one or more of the senses produces, of how intoxicating and deafening means affect the senses, the enquiry as to whether there exist more than the five recognised human senses, all these questions recur frequently in Bacon. So, in exactly the same ratio, does philosophising anent the senses form one of the favourite occupations of the great dramatist.
Miranda, her father excepted, has seen no other male being but the monster Caliban. When she sees the young prince Ferdinand for the first time she asks : What is't a Spirit? And Prospero's answer is that of an exact searcher into nature to a teachable pupil:
Pro. No wench, it eats, and sleeps, and hath such senses
As we have : such.
Let the emphatic reptition of such be duly noted !
The following is another example of how (and often) in The Tempest the greatest wisdom is clothed in playful terms and put into the mouths of semi, or complete fools. In Bacon's History of Life and Death, as touching the fishes, we read, Sanuinis perhibentur esse minus tepidi.(Their blood is reported to be less warm).
In the comedy Trinculo at first supposes Caliban, who is lying on the ground, to be a fish on account of the odour he emits and of his fin-like arms (a strange fish); then he feels him and exclaims: warme o'my troth: I doe now let loose my opinion; hold no longer; this is no fish, but an Islander. The knowledge of the fact the higher vertebrates, (mammalia and birds) are warm, whereas the lower vertebrates, (amphibians and fishes) are cold blooded animals, or rather have blood of no decided, individual warmth, was most certainly very little known three hundred years ago. Even Bacon cautiously uses the term perhibentur (it is said, it is reported). But, here again, Shakespeare's fool, Trinculo, is as well informed on the point as the investigator of nature, Bacon, and uses the knowledge practically, in order to definitely decide whether Caliban is man or fish.
So much in respect of The Tempest and its affinity to Bacon's science.
The following fact is of extrinsic nature. In the year 1609 the ship of Admiral Sir George Sommers, who commanded the exploration-flotilla, stranded. The English took refuge on the Bermuda Islands.(Sommers was not, as we often read, the first discoverer of the Bermudas. The islands had been discovered earlier, for the words 'La Bermuda' are found printed in Ortelius' Atlas as far back as 1570.) The comedy of The Tempest appeared soon afterwards. Direct mention of the Bermudas is made by Ariel, so that no doubt can exist as to the intimate connection between their rediscovery and the comedy :
Thou calldst me up at midnight to fetch dewe
From the still-vext Bermoothes....
Bacon figured among those who contributed with advice and money to fit out the expedition of discovery. Among those who were associated with him in this colonisation-society where the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery. And it was to these two earls and brothers-in-law that the Complete Folio-Edition of Shakespeare's Dramas was dedicated fourteen years later, The Tempest being the first work appearing therein.
Let us hold a short retrospect on that which has been found!
The magician of nature, Prospero, commands the winds in the sense of Bacon's science-of-the-future. In the comedy, as in the scientific writings, exactly the same views concerning the nature of the winds, and more particularly of the north and south winds are to be found. Complete conformity of ideas exists with regard to the circulation of matter. The knowledge, then restricted to very few, concering warm and cold blooded animals is common to both. The views with regard to sound are the same, viz., the grading of sounds; the effect of bell ringing upon storms; the effect of music on coarse minds and drunkards.The same degree of interest is shown with reference to the human senses. The interest shown concerning deviations from nature, intermediate forms and monstrosities is identical. The same interest is taken in the rediscovery of the Bermudas. The same meaning is conveyed in hundreds of individual items relating to natural science and psychology. To these must be added the complete uniformity subsisting between the natures of Prospero and Pan. Moreover it is most suprising to note that the first Shakespearean Drama of the Folio-Edition sows the most intimate relation to the First, unattained, science of the future (see De Augmentis) , to the first treatise on motion (Organum), to the first natural philosophical aphorism (Parasceve), to the first natural historical treatise (History of the Winds), to the first rule of the History of Life and Death. Still more striking is the fact, as supplementing that mentioned above, that the Folio-Edition of Shakespeare appeared in the same years as all the Baconian writings and, finally, that it is of exactly the same form and size (folio), printed in the same types and with the same lively mixture of mediaeval and italic as the chiefest works of Bacon.
The summing-up of all these facts leaves no doubt behind. The
conclusion to which one is necessarily compelled is: that the comedy
of The Tempest is not a comedy in the ordinary sense of the
word. It is, on the contrary, a parabolic-dramatic poem, written in
illustration of natural science and in the highest style of art.
The Tempest belongs to that which, in conformity with Bacon's
particular idea, may be regarded as the highest poesy.
The affinity to Bacon's collective science, in respect of externals as of internals, in leading features as in hundreds of individual instances, (and this present essay by no means exhausts the comparisons which are available) is of so intimate a character as to justify the assumption that both works, namely The Tempest and The Great Instauration, emanated from One mind, in short, that the poet and the thinker consisted of but one and the same person.