Shakespeare and Bacon on

CUNNING

by Roderick Eagle

from the book, New Views For Old

Chapter XII

pp.87-90

Dr. Charles Creighton was a free-lance among Shakespeares and, though opposed to the Baconian authorship, has done much to upset the Stratford myth. His book entitled An Allegory of Othello, published by L. Humphrey's in 1912, should be read by every Baconian, for Bacon and his writings are called upon for many illustrations in the course of his interesting interpretation of the play; indeed, without Bacon, the writing of such a book would have been impossible. According to the doctor, the play is designed upon the religious controversies of the day.

I do not propose to enter into any discussion as to how much or how little one would agree or disagree with Dr. Creighton's conclusions. What seems particularly interesting is a comparison between Shakespeare's illustration of the working of cunning and Bacon's description of how it works. We should bear in mind that Othello was performed at Whitehall in 1604 (this being the first record of the play), while the Essay Of Cunning was not published until 1612. "Othello" remained upublished until 1622. On page 46 of his book Dr. Creighton observes :

The essay Of Cunning, which is rich in parallels for the artifices of Iago, as well as for Edmond in King Lear, had a curious history. In the edition of 1625 it is four times as long as as in that of 1612, but the opening paragraph of fifteen lines is exactly the same in both,and the closing paragraph is also the same,except that the last three lines of 1612 are transferred in 1625; the whole difference is that an intermediate section of some ninety lines is omitted from the first printing, or interpolated in the second. This is the second which contains the artifices of Iago and Edmond. It consists of eighteen specific points, which are introduced as "the small wares of cunning." Those are the illustrations of the general principles, so that the essay in the illustrations,being so many as they are,which were collected from time to time, and not completed until long after the general principles, two of them being instances from the reign of "the late Queen Elizabeth." Among the Harleian MSS. there is a Solicitor -General, so that the it was completed after 1607. It differs from the printed edition of 1612 only in the order, omitting the essay Of Cunning , as well as those of Of Love and Of Religion . The essay on Love underwent no changes; that on Religion was was much enlarged in 1625 to "Unity in Religion"; and that on Cunning had the extensive middle section of examples interpolated. Whatever was the history of the last in manuscript, there are the following similarities between the small wares of cunning and the artifices of Iago and Edmund :

 

ESSAY "OF CUNNING"(1625)

It is a point of cunning to wait upon
him with whom you wish to speak with your eye.

"OTHELLO" (1622).

IAGO. Wear your eye thus, not jealous nor severe. (showing him how).

 

The breaking off in the midst of that one was about to say, as if he took himself up, breeds a greater appetite in him with whom you confer, to know more.

 

OTH. And, for I know thou art full of love and honesty.
And weigh'st thy words before thou giv'st them breath,

Therefore, these stops of thine fright me
the more:
Such things in a false disloyal knave
Are tricks of custom.

I knew another that when he came to
have speech, he would pass over that he
intended most; and go forth and come
again, and speak of it as a thing that he had almost forgot.


OTH. Leave me Iago.
IAGO. My lord, I take my leave.
IAGO (returning). My lord, I would I
might entreat your honor---
To scan this thing no further.....
Note if your lady strain his entertainment
With any strong or vehement importunity;Much will be seen that.

 

It is a way that some men have, to glance and dart at others by justifying themselves by negativve, as to say, "This I do not."

 

IAGO. It were not for your quiet nor your good,
Nor for my manhood, honesty or wisdom,
To let know my thoughts.

 

A sudden, bold, and unexpected question doth many times suprise a man and lay him open.

IAGO. Did Michael Cassio, when you woo'd my lady.
Know of your love?
OTH. He did from first to last :
Why dost thou ask?

 

Some persons procure themselves to be suprised at such times, as it is like the party they work upon will suddenly come upon them, and to be found with a letter in their hand, or doing somewhat which they are not accustomed, to the end that they may be opposed of (i.e. questioned upon) those things which of themselves they are desirous to utter.

This is exactly the artifices of Edmond in King Lear.

To these instances detected by Dr. Creighton may be added this parallelism noted by Edwin Reed :

 

There is a cunning which we in England call "The turning of the Cat in the Pan," which is when that which a man says to another, he lays it as if another had said it to him.

(Enter Othello and Iago from a distance.)
EMILIA. Madam, here comes my lord.
CASSIO. Madam, I'll take my leave.
DES. Why, stay, and hear me speak.
CAS. Madam,not now; I am very ill at ease, unfit for mine own purposes.

(Exit Cassio)

IAGO. Ha, I like not that!
OTH. What doth thou say?
IAGO.Nothing, my lord; or if--I know not what.
OTH. Was not that Cassio parted from my wife?
IAGO. Cassio, my lord? No, sure I cannot think it,
That he would steal away so guilty like,
Seeing you coming.
...........
O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey'd monster, etc.

Iago first incites the feeling of jealousy in his victim, and then, as if suprised and grieved to discover it, utters his warning against it. Mr. Wigston, to whom we owe this splendid parallelism, thus comments upon it :

"If we study the whole of this scene where Iago first begins to work upon Othello's mind, we find this exactly illustrated. This caution against jealousy, uttered by Iago, reads as if Othello's mind, we find this exactly illustrated. This caution against jealousy, uttered by Iago, reads as if Othello, and not Iago, had first started the subject, and placed the latter in the position of a friend endeavouring to disabuse a suspicious mind of jealous fancies."

Dr. Creighton quotes Francis Bacon as a preface to his book, selecting this passage from Bacon's Preface to The Wisdom of the Ancients :

Many may imagine that I am here entering upon a work of fancy, or amusement, and desiring to use a poetical liberty, in explaining poetical fables. It is true, fables in general are composed of ductile matter, that may be drawn into great variety by a witty talent or an inventive genius, and be delivered of plausible meanings which they never contained.....And certainly it were very injudicious to suffer the fondness and licentiousness of a few to detract from the honour of allegory.

The last paragraph of his book sows the uneasiness in the doctor's mind when it comes to the necessity of "marrying the man" of Stratford "to his verse.":

The proof of symbolism which I have attempted has been made difficult by the infinity and subtlety of the invention, as well as by the all sufficing beauty of the poetry in its plain meaning. Had Shakespeare been Bacon, we should not have been left in the smallest doubt as to the symbolism of the tale. In Bacon's Wisdom of the Ancients, we have an interesting application of scientific method to elicit the profound meaning of "poetical fables," and in the preface to that work an even more interesting statement of the general principles of "concealed and secret meanings," and of the indications which proclaim an allegory even afar off.

Dr. Creighton, like other orthodox commentators, has been hampered in his studies by his unwillingness to admit, or his inability to perceive, that Bacon is Shakespeare. He is not alone in arriving at the truth, and failing to grasp it.

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