MAN - MASK - MYTH ?
From the introduction to "Clipt Wings", a five part play about the authorship
by Henry Wellington Wacke, June,1930
For nearly a century the intellectual world has been unevenly divided in an acrimonious controversy concerning the authorship of the plays and sonnets attributed to William Shaxper, one time a butcher and taphouse tippler of Stratford-on-Avon. The lazy-minded majority, always inclined to the easiest way through life, has constantly accepted tyrannical tradition that the works of Shakespeare were, of course, written by Shaxper, the obscure Stradfordian whose own intellectual attainments and culture were such as to permit his daughter Juditha, to attain the age of twenty-eight years without having learned to read or write.
Notwithstanding the infinite beauty and wisdom residing in the Shakespeare plays, not a single scrap of a Shakespearean manuscript of any character has been found. Moreover, William Shaxper, their reputed author, unable to sign his own name, departed his obscure life without leaving more than five illegible specimens of his attempts at a signature. All these scrawls were spelled differently.
When this distinguished dramatist, poet, philosopher, lawyer, traveler, linguist and courtly dignitary died in the humblest circumstances, his will disposed of a second-best bed-stead and less furniture than would stock an almshouse cell. These impedimenta, with a cheap and clumsy. ring, practically constituted all his domestic chattels. Not a word about his books, plays, poems and manuscripts of priceless value, the literary and historic significance of which must at least have been known to the man capable of their authorship.
Although the real author of the works of "Shakespeare" employed a vocabulary of fifteen thousand words and added five thousand words to the English language; betrayed an accurate knowledge of the common law; knew in detail the speech, customs, usages, ceremonials and social life of the British and European courts, possessed a literary style can of great fluency, clarity, perfection and beauty, and a wisdom never author before nor since excelled by the greatest minds the world has produced--- yet this marvel of human expression, of methodical thought and labors, action, left not a single line of his own scrivening, nor one word of plays commonplace correspondence or writing on any subject whatsoever!
Everything his perfervid idolaters have scavenged for, exhumed, the compounded, and published about William Shaxper, of Stratford, is living proof that their idol, with the habits of a boor and the mind of a scullion, could not, by the most fantastic attribution, have written anything of literary or dramatic stature, anything worth performance or publication in his own or any other age. In fact, all that has been alleged in favor of Shaxper of Stratford as an immortal genius convicts him of helpless illiteracy, intellectual incapacity and densest ignorance beyond the petty affairs of an English village cotter's life
. There has seldom prevailed a more persistent propaganda than that which, insisting upon the mythical Shaxper authorship, seeks to impose this colossal fraud upon one generation after another by the commercialists who have large, accumulated investments buried in this spurious, yet saleable myth.
Every sincere and resourceful student of the true origin of the so- called Shakespeare plays has been piked and pilloried for the truths he has revealed. They who complacently prefer to sneak through life without research and inquiry, and the crucifixion of falsehood and justice, have blatantly condemned every word published to expose the egregious Shakespeare hoax.
The courageous author of "Clipt Wings " will presently be execrated scorned, spat upon, kicked and bludgeoned for this intensely interesting play, for daring to upset the old ladies of both sexes who still blindly, stupidly and fanatically worship at the shrine of a Stratford lout, in - stead of letting fact, logic and reasoned probabilities guide them to the realm of truth. As Barnum cynically remarked: People insist on being humbugged-why suppress the source of their joy?
As a life-long militant opponent of all that Shakespeareolatry which worships Shaxper, the man, as the alleged author of the immortal a erroneously accredited to him, I am quick to acknowledge the force of all factual publications in proof of the true authorship of the plays and sonnets. Whether the reader harbors the easy prejudices of unenlightened, the violent intolerance of the stubborn Shakespearean fanatics, or the frank and fearless advocacy of the Baconian authorship, the author of "Clipt Wings" herein contributes a beguiling story and effective argument to the controversy. For his resourceful labors, researches and fidelity to fact, every open-minded lover of the plays and sonnets, every exponent of good sportsmanship and fair-and every individual addicted to thinking logically, must admire virile, unafraid and progressive spirit which has produced the thrilling literary adventure within these pages.
I disagree with those Shakespeareans and Baconians who still regard case of Bacon versus Shakespeare as dealing with a mystery. It is as far from a mystery as mutually admitted and evidential facts and the probabilities of reason can place the case. There is no evidence whatever in the life of the petty, materialistic Stratfordian yokel, that he ever had written or could write a social or business message of the meagrest form and simplest content. Are we of this inquiring generation to believe that on the one hand Shaxper's domestic life was so utterly barren of the slightest evidence of intellectual and social conditions, and on the other that he was the author of the profoundest literary works of all time? Yet many pedantic scholars, still afraid of the intellectual liberty of the modern world, grovel through and publish thousands of futile pages (for acceptable royalties) in unconvincing efforts to confirm the authorship of the plays and sonnets in William Shaxper, who could not even write his name, who in his lifetime was never taught the rudiments of primary thought, knowledge or expression.
In 1588 Shaxper ceased butchering beef and mutton in Stratford, abandoned his family and went to London to consort with horses in Burbage¹s stable, the highest form of easy, lazy physical work for which his village life had indifferently fitted him. That was the natural gravitation of a vacuos liquor-lushing loafer seeking a free and irre sponsible existence in the hidden holes of ponderous London. Until mean and cowardly flight from his sordid family life in Stratford, no one on earth had thought of this obscure roisterer in connection plays, poems, books or pamphlets. He was wholly unknown outside-of the taprooms, green grocers, butcher shops and brawls of Stratford-on-Avon. Yet in 1585, three years before Shaxper emerged from the hunks and hams of his Stratford butcher¹s shop, the Earl of Leicester entertains his distinguished guests of the Elizabethan Court with a gala week at Oxford which included a performance of the play of Hamlet. In November of the same year the noble Earl presents the play of Hamlet in Holland. In 1586, Hamlet¹s soliloquy "To be or not to be" is already famous on the English stage. The same year in Antwerp the King of Denmark entertains Cardinal Alphonsus and the Spanish Infanta, with a performance of Hamlet. During all these public performances of Hamlet, Shaxper was plodding through a lowly, obscure, mean and stupid existence with cattle carcasses and clownish companions in the little village of Stratford.
What authorship had Shaxper achieved when, as early as 1584, four years before he left his wife and children, Venus and Adonis was published in London? Hamlet had been acted there in 1585 and in Amsterdam in 1586, while Shaxper was busy carving chops, tender-loins, brisket, oddments and catsmeat on his butcher's block in Stratford. In 1587 the Taming of the Shrew and the Comedy of Errors appeared in London. Yet Shaxper still wielded the meat cleaver in Stratford. He evidently had never heard of such dramatic fustian as these plays. However, in 1588 he obtained an impolite introduction to Burbage¹s horses and tried listlessly to imitate a little feeble stable work. He remained in London ten years, from 1588 to October 25, 1598, yet never had occasion to write a letter or receive one, such was the marvelous literary productiveness of this masterful genius of which, by the way, his gaping neighbors in Stratford had not heard a word. When Shaxper left London in 1598, did he visit France and learn the French language? Did he tour the Courts of Europe to acquaint himself with their formal ceremonials, their intimate customs, personal habits? Did he study the laws, the arts and the sciences of foreign lands? ---a knowledge of all of which is patently reflected in the plays. Not at all. He returned to Stratford and lent money on usurious terms to impoverished neighbors, and incidentally proceeded to drown himself in stout and bitter ale, and died in a drunken brawl in 1616.
Although Shaxper left London in October 1598, new plays continued to appear as follows: In 1600, As You Like It and Much Ado; in 1602, Twelfth Night; 1603, Troilus and Cressida; 1604, Othello and Measure for Measure; 1605, King Lear; 1608, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Pericles; 1610, Macbeth and Cymbeline; 1611,The Winter's Tale and TheTempest. This decade of prodigious literary work produced while the beloved Bard of Avon (As mawkish sentimentalists droolingly lisp of Shaxper, the butcher) the while he was away from London carrying on a libationary career amongst the pubs of Stratford, where the village, had a consistent whelp of charcters like Shaxper.He was not the only one of her illiterate sons. Her own parish records have revealed her real character to the impartial historian. Some have even been so incensed at their discoveries that they referred to her "as a vile place". Out of nineteen of her alderman, thirteen could not write just like Shaxper. An author well named Wise declares that in all the records so far discovered the name of Shaxper was so little and so indifferently known that it appears over 100 different forms. Indeed, it would seem that this hill-billy Shaxper was best known for his guzzleosity, to coin a word peculiarly fit for a fellow who held a drinking contest under a crab tree; who was the most profitable pewholder at the Mermaid Tavern, and who "shuffled off this mortal coil" in a drunken orgy at the early age of fifty-two, a significant confirmation of his rude,unwholesome, intemperate life. After he died on April 23, 1616, plays continued to appear , just as if he had never had any part whatever in the production of the works later attributed to him. Henry VIII appeared in 1621; Coriolanus and Julius Caesar in 1622; Timon of Athens and All's Well in 1623.
Ordinarily a man equipped with a mind capable of producing these immortal works, having everything to gain and nothing to lose by proclaiming his authorship of them, would have left directions concerning the plays he had written; but which were still unpublised, before drowning himself with Stratford ale. But he left not a word, never scrivened any reference whatever to plays or poems in all his life; never disposed of any in his short, impish will, in which he leaves his wife a second-best-bed stead. Mean to the very last drop of the musty ale that ignominously ejected him from tht splendid literary coterie who commercialized Shakespeare tradition for perpetual revenue to publishing conspiracies-- one after another through all their false and profitable years.
Shaxper, the toper,succeeded to the unearned glory which should, by the force of available evidence, have been accorded to Francis Bacon, the author of all the so-called Shakespearean plays and sonnets, because during Shaxper¹s ten years in London he posed as the author of certain works which their real authors dared not acknowledge lest they lose their heads on the block. For such pretenses Shaxper was, while attached to the Globe Theatre, paid certain fees and invested with the power to exact more fees and much favor as the further price of his silence. As a professional dummy Shaxper sponsored A London Prodigal--A Yorkshire Tragedy-- Thomas, Lord Cromwell-The Puritan-Locrine---Heywood's two poems and other productions of the anxious times of a Queen of many human attributes and many false pretenses.
It is the misfortune of the writer that much more of intense human interest concerning the fraudulent Shakespeare tradition on the one hand, and the affirmative case for the Baconian authorship on the other, may not be included in the limited space available for this brief, inadequate introduction. There is a wealth of evidential matter avail able to unbiased minds in proof of the tenability of the Baconian theory. Its advocates, however, are not always of an intellectual stature, or habits of dispassionate and cogent reasoning, nor as apt and coherent as they might be with a case of infinitely more historic fact, advantages and logical probabilities than that of the smug, complacent and intol erant fanatics hysterically chattering at the hoofs of Shaxper, the boorish Stratfordian. That the writer is not alone in the unequivocal asservations herein uttered, the following quotations from distinguished sources, will show:
"I am a firm believer sn the Baconian theory."--Gen. Benj. F. Butler, 1891
"The English-speaking world has been humbugged in this matter long enough."-W. H. Edwards, 1900.
"Shakespeare is a voice merely; who and what he was that sang, that sings, we know not."-Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1842.
"The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery, and I tremble every day lest some thing should turn up."-Charles Dickens, 1880.
"If Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems attributed to him, nothing is so use less as a good education."-Prof. David Swing, 1890.
"Whether Bacon wrote the wonderful plays or not, I am quite sure the man Shakespeare neither did nor could."-John G. Whittier,1891
"What! Are we to have miracles in sport? Does God choose idiots by whom to convey divine truths to men?"-Samuel Taylor Coleridge,1811
"Any man who believes such a man wrote Hamlet or Lear is a fool."--John Bright, British Statesman.
"It is a mere fable, a blind extravagant error."--Schlegel
"I doubt it."--Benj. Disraeli.
"I rejoice to have lived to see the explosion of the Shakespeare illusions."-Lord Palmerston.
"Considering what Bacon was, I have always regarded the discussion as one perfectly serious and to be respected."-Wm. E. Gladstone, 1889.
"Nobody believes any longer that immediate inspiration is possible in modern times; and yet, everybody seems to take it for granted of this one man Shakespeare"-James Russell Lowell, 1870.
"If Shakespeare was a lawyer, he might have written the plays; if not, he could not have done so. There is no evidence connecting him with the law, even as a law student." Mark Twain.
"I believe Lord Bacon and Shakespeare to be one and the same person, or rather, I believe, that Lord Bacon wrote what are called Shakespeare¹s plays and sonnets."--Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1857.
"Our Shakespearean scholars hereabouts (Boston, Mass.) are very impatient when-ever the question of the authorship of the plays and poems is even alluded to. It must be spoken of, whether they like it or not. . . .Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1583.
"There is not one thread of evidence connecting the Stratford actor with literary work of any kind, though he may have perpetrated the shocking doggerel inscribed on the gravestone. This is the greatest imposture which, this world has ever tolerated."-Lord Sydenham, of Combe, 1928
"The time will come when those who accept the
biographies of Shakespeare will perceive that these biographies do
not depict any literary character, or any character familiar with
libraries or the use of them or with a book or a pen in his hand, or
in consultation with any literary authority; and that the facts
collected by such writ ings as I propose effectively dispose of the
orthodox Shakespearean theory. If this course is pursued, it will
eventually convince the world that whether Bacon or anybody else
wrote the plays, William Shakespeare of Stratford, did not ,
and this was what I started out to prove in my 'Shakespearean
Myth' of 50 years ago."
--Dr. Appleton Morgan, noted lawyer and scholar, president of the New York Shakespeare Society, and honorary member of the Bacon Society of America, in American Baconiana No.5, November and February,1927-28.
"Incredible that the man who had written the greatest dramas in the world of literature could of his own free will, whilst still in the prime of life, have retired to such a place as Stratford-on-Avon, and lived there for years, cut off from intellectual society and out of touch with the world."--Prince Bismarck.
Notwithstanding all this and more, the author of "Clipt Wings" has certainly thrown an apple into the monkey cage!
New York, June, 1930. HENRY WELLINGTON WACKE
Former President of The National Shakespeare Federation Later of the Shakespeare Memorial Circle. One of the Founders and a Vice-President of the Bacon Society of America.