MACBETH:

Tabling Another Hell Above the Ground

by

Mather Walker

 

Macbeth offers immediate and satisfying evidence that Francis Bacon was author of the play. Like the other plays, Macbeth is constructed with two faces, one looking toward the past, and the other toward the future, reflecting the design Bacon described in the Masculine Birth of Time : 

"Nevertheless it is important to understand how the present is like a seer with two faces, one looking toward the future, and the other towards the past. Accordingly I have decided to prepare for your instruction tables of both ages, containing not only the past course and progress of science, but also anticipations of things to come."

But, unlike the other plays, we have a letter by Bacon written to Tobie Matthew shortly before Macbeth was written. This letter refers to the event that was the basis for Macbeth. In connection with this event, Bacon implies that he intends to devise a table. He describes the content of this table. It is precisely the same as that in the play of Macbeth when it appeared soon afterwards.  

In November of 1605 merry old England received a shock that rendered it much less merry. There was discovered beneath the Houses of Parliament a secret cache containing enough fuses and gunpowder to blow the king, his ministers, and the lawful government of the entire realm sky-high. Seven bold men, of martial spirit, (like Macbeth), had brewed a plot which was nothing less than a conspiracy to blow up the Parliament House on opening day, with King James, the Queen, Prince Henry, the Lords, and as many commoners as happened to stand behind the bar. By providence, it seemed, the plot was revealed. The conspirators were apprehended and died the horrible death proscribed by the law of the time for treason. The plot was ever afterwards known as the Gunpowder Plot. Every year, for hundreds of years, the arch conspirator Guy Fawkes was burned in effigy on the anniversary of the event.  

Soon after the Gunpowder Plot, Bacon wrote a letter to his friend Tobie Matthew. Tobie Matthew had been converted to Catholicism while traveling on the continent. He felt that the required oath of allegiance to the king of England conflicted with his new faith. He had been banished from England, and had traveled long upon the continent. But now he had returned and had been promptly cast into prison.  

In his letter to Matthew, Bacon said: 

"I pray God, that understandeth us all better than we understand one another, contain you, even as I hope he will, at the least within the bounds of loyalty to his majesty, and natural piety towards your country. And I intreat you much, sometimes to meditate upon the extreme effects of SUPERSTITION in this last powder treason; FIT TO BE TABLED AND PICTURED IN THE CHAMBERS OF MEDITATION, AS ANOTHER HELL ABOVE THE GROUND:" 

Soon afterward Macbeth appeared. In a perceptive article on the play, entitled, General Macbeth, Mary McCarthy notes that the fatal flaw which led to Macbeth's downfall was SUPERSTITION. She notes that when they came upon the witches, Banquo amused himself at their expense, like a man idly chaffing a fortune teller. But their words immediately begin to work upon the superstitious mind of Macbeth. So she detects the identical cause, (given by Bacon for the Gundpower Plot, in the passage in his letter to Tobie Matthew), as the cause that led to the downfall of Macbeth. Furthermore, the drunken porter in Macbeth parodies the doorman of hell when he admits visitors to Macbeth's castle, giving one of many allusions in the plays which shows it depicts another hell above the ground. The play also has obvious allusions to King James who was the central intended victim of the Gunpowder Plot: and to the Gunpowder Plot itself, and to various other particulars connected with the event.  

In view of these facts, there can be no doubt whatsoever that Francis Bacon was the author of the play. We don't need the other striking evidence within the play, as for example, the passage in the book I have before me:Sir Francis Bacon His Life and Works by A. Wigfall Green. Green is apparently a Stratfordian, born and bred, but on page 134 of his book, he discusses some of the passages in Religious Meditations and says that: 

"A brief text such as `Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,' launches Bacon on the flood of thought. Developing the idea practically, he reflects the spirit of the Spanish proverb, `To-morrow, to-morrow; and when to-morrow comes, to-morrow," 

Here we have Bacon reflecting upon a Spanish proverb that is the basis for the most famous passage in Macbeth: 

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time." 

Bacon has already told us that the face looking toward the past deals with Hell, so lets take a look for ourselves. 

THE FACE LOOKING TOWARD THE PAST

 

The face which looks toward the past in Macbeth is like nothing so much as one of those Universal Studio simulations. In these simulations a specific set of stimuli input is engineered to give the person experiencing the attraction a sensation of actually taking part in some blockbuster movie. The engineers have called this the sensation of "riding the movie." The difference in the play is that the specific set of stimuli input is engineered to give the person experiencing the play the sensation of "riding the tradition." The tradition, in this case, is that aspect of ancient knowledge that concerns Hell. To follow this analogy lets begin by looking at the device of the witches in Macbeth. 

The analogue in the play to the "stimuli set" relating to a particular movie in the Universal Studio attractions, is the ancient tradition concerning Hell. Moreover, the ancient tradition must be related by allusion to the Gunpowder Plot. The device of the Witches allows Bacon to show Macbeth's superstition. At the same time the witches provide an allusion which relates to King James (who was the central intended victim of the plot) since James wrote a book on Witches entitled Demonologie. But beyond this the device of the Witches has a very specific allusion not only to hell, but to two hells, one below the ground, and "another hell above the ground." 

In the play the mistress of the witches is Hecate, which takes us to classical antiquity. Hecate was associated particularly with night, the world of ghosts and magic. She was supposed to send at night demons and phantoms from the lower world. Walter Clyde Curry says, ".we may conveniently assume that in essence the Weird Sisters are demons or devils in the form of witches. At least their control over the primary elements of nature, the rationes seminales, would indicate as much." And he pointed out that Francis Bacon classified knowledge of angels and unclean spirits under Natural Theology, and concluded: 

"The same is to be understood of revolted or unclean spirits:
Conversation with them, or using their assistance, is unlawful:
And much more in any manner to worship or adore them: but
The contemplation and knowledge of their nature, power, and
Illusions, appears from Scripture, reason, and experience to
Be no small part of spiritual wisdom."

Curry also points out that certain aspects of Lady Macbeth's experience indicate that she was possessed of demons. He says: 

"At least, in preparation for the coming of Duncan under her battlements, she calls upon precisely those metaphysical forces which have seemed to crown Macbeth. The murdering ministers whom she invokes for aid are described as being sightless substances, i.e., not evil thoughts and `grim imaginings' but objective substantial forms, invisible bad angels, to whose activities may be attributed all the unnatural occurrences of nature. Whatever in the phenomenal world becomes beautiful in the exercise of its normal function is to them foul, and vice versa; they wait upon nature's mischief. She recognizes that they infest the filthy atmosphere of this world and the blackness of the lower regions; therefore she welcomes a night palled in the dunnest smoke of hell, so dense that not even heaven may pierce the blanket of the dark and behold her projected deed. Her prayer is apparently answered; with the coming of night her castle is, as we have seen shrouded in just such a blackness as she desires. She knows also that these spiritual substances eagerly the effects of mental activities upon the human body, waiting patiently for evidences of evil thought which will permit them entrance past the barriers of the human will into the body to possess it. They tend on mortal thoughts. For, says Cassian: `It is clear that unclean spirits cannot make their way into those bodies they are going to seize upon, in any other way than by first taking possession of their minds and thoughts.' Thus instead of guarding the workings of her mind against the assaults of wicked angels, Lady Macbeth deliberately will that they subtly invade her body and so control it that the natural inclinations of the spirit toward goodness and compassions may be completely extirpated. Says she: 
Come you spirits,
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,
Stop up th'access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
Th'effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts
And take my milk for gall, you murth'ring ministers,
Wherever, in your sightless substances,
You wait on nature's mischief

And without doubt these ministers of evil do actually take possession of her body even in accordance with her desire. As Mrs. Siddons remarks: `Having impiously delivered herself up to the excitements of hell, the pitifulness of heaven itself is withdrawn from her, and she is abandoned to the guidance of the demons whom she has invoked.'

Possession of Lady Macbeth's body enables these forces of evil to control her spirit. " 

Hecate taught sorcery and witchcraft, and frequented places where two roads crossed, tombs, and near the blood of murdered persons. Hecate was threefold, as is denoted by the three Witches, and was not only a denizen of, but was connected with the idea of hell. In her book PRIESTESSES Norma Lorre Goodrich says: 

In our language of the twentieth century, to descend into The Underworld, or to journey into black Tartarus, is to Go to hell. That is really what the Cumaean Sibyl told the frantic Romans when they asked her what they should do in their life-threatening emergency: go consult the triple goddess Hecate, who sits where three roads (trivia) meet. In other words, GO TO HELL." 

By depicting Hecate as mistress of the Witches, Bacon gives an allusion to the Hell that he depicts in the play. But he does more than that. At the beginning of act IV, we are shown the three Witches. Then Hecate enters with THREE OTHER WITCHES. At least this is what is shown in the First Folio. Some modern Editors, such as those in the Heritage edition of the plays, have omitted the reference in the stage direction to the three other Witches. This stage direction is very important because Bacon utilizes this device to show the existence of two hells. One is the hell below ground in which Hecate dwells with the "three other Witches", and the other is "another hell above ground" depicted according to Bacon's expressed intent in Macbeth , and with which Hecate, and the three Witches commonly noted in the play are related.

In order to assess the impact that the Gunpowder Plot had on the mind of the average Englishman it is necessary to have some idea of his view of the scheme of things entire. In his book, The Elizabethan World Picture E.M.W. Tillyard sets this out at some length. He says: 

"The world picture which the Middle Ages inherited was that of an ordered universe arranged in a fixed system of hierarchies but modified by man's sin and the hope of redemption. The same energy that carried through their feats of architecture impelled them to elaborate this inherited picture. Everything had to be included and everything had to be made to fit and to connect. For instance, it would not do to enjoy the Aeneid as the epic of Augustan Rome: the poem had to be fitted into the current theological scheme and was interpreted as an allegory of the soul from birth to death. Once invented, the convention of courtly love had to be given their precise value in the total scheme. Thus Launcelot, the perfect courtly lover, is the champion of chivalry but is denied the vision of the Grail: the limits of his possible virtue are precisely set.
Typical of much medieval elaboration and precise correspondence of detail was the habit of acting in accordance with the position of the planets."

Tillyard goes on to say that the conception of order in Elizabethan times was so taken for granted, so much part of the collective mind of the people, that it was hardly mentioned except in explicitly didactic passages, and he goes on to cite at Ulysses's speech on "degree" in Troilus and Cressida:

"The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre
Observe degree priority and place
Insisture course proportion season form
Office and custom, in all line of order;
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthron'd and spher'd
Amidst the other, whose med'cinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil
And posts like the commandment of a king,
Sans check, to goot and bad. But when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents, what mutiny,
What raging of the sea, shaking of earth,
Commotion in the winds, frights changes horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and dracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixture. Oh, when degree is shak'd,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns sceptres laurels,
But by degree stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string
And hark, what discord follows. Each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy. The bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
And make a sop of all this solid globe.
Strength should be lord to imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead.
This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
Follows the choking." 

Tillyard goes on to say,

"Much of what I have to expound is contained in this passage, and I shall revert to its details later. The point here is that so many things are included simultaneously within this `degree' or order, and so strong a sense is given of their interconnections. The passage is at once cosmic and domestic. The sun, the king, primogeniture hang together; the war of the planets is echoed by the war of the elements and by civil war on earth; the homely brotherhoods or guilds in cities are found along with an oblique reference to creation out of the confusion of chaos. Here is a picture of immense and varied activity, constantly threatened with dissolution, and yet preserved from it by a superior unifying power." 

Opposed to the cosmos of order was the effect of sin that brought about the opposite, the disorder of chaos. This disorder was Hell. This was the reason for the shattering impact of the Gunpowder Plot on the mind of the Elizabethan. James' accession to the throne, following Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603, brought about an end to the long, long war with Spain, and seemed to offer a solution to many of the problems facing England both at home and abroad. This sentiment was echoed in the sonnets: The mortal moon hath suffered her eclipse, and peace brings olives of endless age. The conspirators were foreign backed Catholics. They were agents of the devil intent upon the destruction of God'' divine plan for Great Britain and her people. They were inspired by Lucifer, and the conflgration they purposed had its analogue in the flames of Hell. This is reflected in the play where in the banquet scene Lady Macbeth's gives an initial, albeit rather nervous assertion of the traditional structure of order: 

You know your own degree, sit down 

But after the appearance of Banquo's accusing ghost, this is reduced to: 

Stand not upon the order of your going
But go at once. 

This fabric of hell is further shown in the play by this world of darkness giving birth to strange and hideous creatures. G. Wilson Knight says,

"Vivid animal disorder-symbolism is recurrent in the play and the animals mentioned are for the most part of fierce, ugly, or ill-omened significance. We hear of `the Hyrcan tiger' and the `armed rhinoceros', the `rugged Russian bear'; the wolf `whose howl's his watch'; the raven who croaks the entrance of Duncan under Lady Macbeth's battlements; the owl, `fatal bellman who gives the stern'st goodnight' . There are `maggot-pies and choughs and rooks', and  ..hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs, Shoughs, water-rugs, and demi-wolves.. 

We have the bat and his `cloistered flight', the `shard-borne bettle', the crow making wing to the `rooky wood'; night's black agents' rouse to their preys; Macbeth has `scotch'd the snake not killed it; his mind is full of `scorpions'. All this suggests life threatening, ill-omened, hideous: and it culminates in the holocaust of filth prepared by the Weird Sisters in the Cauldron scene. But not only are animals of unpleasant suggestion here present; we have animals, like men, irrational and amazing in their acts. A falcon is attacked and killed by a `mousing owl', and Duncan's horses eat each other. There is a prodigious and ghastly tempest, with `screams of death'; the owl clamoured through the night; the earth itself shook. We are thus aware of a hideous abnormality in this world; and again we feel its irrationality and mystery." 

Immediately after the murder of Duncan we have the scene of the porter at the entrance to Macbeth's castle. The stage direction calls for knocking within, and then the porter says: 

"Here's a knocking, indeed! If a man were Porter of Hell Gate, he should have old turning the key. [Knocking.] Knock, knock, knock, Who's there, I'th name of Belzebub?-Here's a farmer, that hang'd himself on th'expectation of plenty: come in, time-pleaser; have napkins enow about you; here you'll sweat for't. [Knocking.] Knock, knock. Who's there, I'th'other devil's name?-Faith, here's an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven:
O! come in, equivocator." 

One of the conspirators, Father Garnet, had used an assumed name of "Farmer." In 1606 the case presented against Garnet had dwelt at length on his use of verbal double-dealing, technically termed "equivocation." Garnet's subsequent admission that he considered it perfectly acceptable to equivocate `if just necessity so require' had seemed doubly outrageous to a society already disposed to think the worse of Roman Catholic priests. As a result equivocation had very swiftly became the popular badge of subversion. In his introduction to Twentieth Century Interpretations of MACBETH Terence Hawkes says: 

"It is important to realize that the question is not one of simple `lying.' Equivocation of the type allegedly defended by Garnet's Jesuit order involved the deliberate and premeditated manipulation of language in order to obscure the truth and so, as it would appear to Shakespeare's audience to strike at the foundations of the entire community. When that community is also by and large nonliterate, and thus dependent more than we can imagine on face-to-face colloguy as the repository of truth and certainty, the crime seems even more fundamental, able to effect the debasement of a whole way of life. In a theologically centered society it may readily be labeled devilish, and there is not doubt that much of the `hellish' quality of Macbeth's crime in the play derived from the extent to which, in his journey to damnation, he ultimately commits himself to those who reduce language in this way, and who may for that reason be justly described as
Juggling fiends.
That palter with us in a double sense 
It is against this background that, at the point in the play where the murder is about to be discovered, the Porter drunkenly presents himself as the guardian of the gate of Hell, and goes on to utter the allusions to Father Garnet which reinforce the metaphorical relationship between Macbeth's crime and that of the Gunpowder conspirators." 

Once Macbeth takes the first step on the path of darkness and hell by murdering Duncan, step follows step almost automatically. He murders the two grooms. He has Banquo murdered. He reaches the point where he says:

I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.  

The malady spreads through the entire realm. Ross says of Scotland: 

Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself! It cannot
Be call'd our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
Where sighs, and groans, and shrieks, that rent the air,
Are made, not mark'd; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy; the dead man's knell
Is there scarce ask'd for who; and good men's lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.  
THE FACE LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

The particular which is present in the first 32 speeches in the play (the table of presence) is evil. This is shown by the presence of the Witches at the very beginning of the play with their inversion of the normal order of things:

Fair is foul, and foul and fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air
denoting demonic presences.

Discussing his Tables of Invention in the preface to the INSTAURATION Bacon

said: 

".the first is to set forth examples of inquiry and invention according to my
method, exhibited by anticipation in some particular subjects; choosing such subjects as are at once the most noble in themselves among those under inquiry, and most different one from another; that there may be an example in every kind. I do not speak of those examples which are joined to the several precepts and rules by way of illustration (for of these I have given plenty in the second part of the work); but I mean actual types and models, by which the entire process of the mind and the whole fabric and order of invention from the beginning to the end, in certain subjects, and those various and remarkable, should be set as it were before the eyes. For I remember that in the mathematics it is easy to follow the demonstration when you have a machine beside you; whereas without that help all appears involved and more subtle than it really is." 

And in his NOVUM ORGANUM Bacon names some of these subjects: 

"It may also be asked (in the way of doubt rather than of objection) whether I speak of natural philosophy only, or whether I mean that the other sciences, logic, ethics, and politics, should be carried on by this method. Now I certainly mean what I have said to be understood of them all; and as the common logic, which governs by the syllogism, extends not only to natural but to all sciences; so does mine also, which proceeds by induction, embrace everything. For I form a history and tables of discovery for anger, FEAR, shame, and the like; for matters political; and again for the mental operations of memory, composition and division, judgment and the rest; not less than for heat and cold, or light, or vegetation, or the like." 

Lily Campbell wrote a book Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes in which she demonstrated that Macbeth was a treatise on Fear, "analysed in accordance with the medical and philosophical teaching of the period." She did very well as far as she went, but she only had a partial vision of the subject matter of the face looking toward the future in Macbeth. In fact, she has a quote from The French Academie (a work which Smedley demonstrates was written by Bacon) which should have made her realize she only saw part of the meaning. The quote was as follows: 

"Nowe, as sorrow is a griefe for some evil which a man presently
Feeleth, shutting up the heart as unwilling to receive it: so feare is
A sorrow, which the heart conceiveth of some looked for evill, that
May come unto it..So that we may well say Feare is not onely
A fantasie and imagination of evil approaching, or a perturbation
Of the soule proceeding from the opinion it hath of some evil
To some, but it is also a contraction and closing up of the heart." 

Campbell also makes another point which is very apposite to Macbeth. She says:

"It must, of course, be noted that everywhere and always superstition and fear are considered as related." 

Fear was defined in The Anatomy of Melancholy as "sorrow for anticipated evil." Thus the final cause of fear is evil. The metaphysical allegory in Macbeth deals with the Form of Evil,and Bacon's answer is strange indeed: Evil is produced by superhuman, extraterrestrial influences, and is cyclical like seasonal influences.

For Hecate is the ultimate form of evil in the play. Hecate is associated with the three phases of the moon, and there are a number of references to cyclical, seasonal influences in the play.  

It is odd that Campbell could not see, even when she had them evil joined to fear before her, that Macbeth, in its ultimate issue, dealt with evil. On the other hand G. Wilson Knight saw this very clearly. In his book, The Wheel of Fire he had a chapter on Macbeth and the Metaphysic of Evil which did an excellent job of probing into the nature of evil portrayed in Macbeth. Knight says,

"Macbeth is Shakespeare's most profound and mature vision of evil."

And, of course, it must deal with evil, since fear anticipation of evil , and evil is the natural complement to hell.

******

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