Mining Meaning
 

in

Much Ado About NOTHING



by

 

Mather Walker

March 2003

 

     "a pioneer in that mine of truth,

which (he  said) lay so deep."

                                                               -Francis Bacon's Letter to Lord Burghley

__________ 

"Much Ado About Nothing" could not more obviously be by Francis Bacon if his name was written all over it in 10 foot high neon letters.   Granted, this raises the issue as to why, if it is true, has it not been generally recognized long before now.  It all has to do with Francis Bacon's Fool-Screen.   Make a better Fool-Screen and the whole world may not beat a path to your door, but if you are Francis Bacon and use it in connection with your Shakespeare 'mask', all the fools in the world will be effectively screened out without even knowing it is there.  Don't take my word for the existence of his Fool-Screen.   Look at Bacon's Advancement of Learning where he says the true method of delivery of knowledge to the Sons of Science is the "Enigmatical and Disclosed", and adds:

"The pretence whereof is to remove the vulgar capacities from being admitted to the secrets of knowledges, and to reserve them to selected auditors, or wits of such sharpness as can pierce the veil."

So, by definition, fools will not be able to make the mental leap that will enable them to surmount the screen, and will not, therefore, be able to discern those 10 foot high neon letters.  The Stratfordians have demonstrated this over and over again during the past 400 years.  Although generally recognized as the experts in the field (by other fools) they are like that General, who, when informed the Americans were attempting to build an Atomic Bomb, uttered these immortal words:

                "It will never work, and I speak as an expert on the science of explosives."

Fools called upon to make a mental leap do their famous imitation of the quail shot laden Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Without that mental leap they are left behind, securely anchored to their ignorance, because between ordinary humans and Francis Bacon the leap is just as great as that between ordinary explosives and the Atomic Bomb.

Should I worry because the advent of truth is too late in a country grown too old?  Not at all.  Time will bring truth to light.  I HAVE A DREAM!  One day little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, and black and white together will be able to sit down and read in their little dictionaries everywhere the following simple and beautiful words:

fool 1. a) a person with little or no judgment, common sense, wisdom, etc.; silly or stupid person; Stratfordian; simpleton.

And what about the Oxfordians?  The Stratfordians have some excuse for their mistake because the man from Stratford is part of the deception built into the Fool-Screen.  The Oxfordians have none.  And there's the Stratfordian-Oxfordian story, a real life - "Dumb and Dumber". 

Now, just in case you are saying to yourself at this point, "Hey, I'm sharp as a razor and I didn't see it",

I would add that, in addition to measuring up in the brain department, you would ordinarily need to be familiar with both the play, and the works Bacon published under his own name.  However, if you think  you have the right stuff come along with me and I will do the heavy lifting, dragging excerpts from the play and Bacon's works out in the light, and stacking them up side by side so you can 'tear and compare' without over exerting yourself.  What more could you ask?  Then you will certainly see those 10 foot letters.  How about 5 foot letters?  Would you believe 1 inch letters with a slight flicker in the lighting? In any case, I can promise you I will mine depths of the play that have never before been revealed.

 
                                                           Epitaph for the Vulgar Capacities

 

Will Durant quipped that "Much Ado About Nothing" lives up to its title.  Durant's assessment of "Much Ado About Nothing" as a trivial, meaningless, play has been echoed by other critics.  Actually it may be the most profound of all the plays.  The denigrators  would have done well to heed the caution to the readers from Heminge and Condell's introduction to the First Folio edition of the plays:

             "…if you do not like them surely you are in some manifest danger not to understand them."

After a 400 year learning curve every student of the Shakespeare plays should have tumbled by now to the obvious fact that the intellect of the author of the Shakespeare plays is so far beyond ours that the only valid criticism we can offer must be in terms of whether the author fulfilled his own goals for the plays. So let's take a look at  those goals.

Francis Bacon said the tradition of science should spread like some lively vigorous vine, and implied that this could be expected as long as that tradition was rooted in the facts of nature.  But he traced the origin of the learning (in vogue in his day) back to the later Greeks where Plato popularized the notion that it was not necessary to depend on the facts of nature, instead claiming all knowledge could be gained by reason alone.  Thus Plato uprooted science from the soil that would permit its growth, and his pupil, Aristotle, completed the destruction by constructing the entire edifice of learning as a finished system.

Bacon said Plato made over the world to thoughts; and Aristotle made over thoughts to words.  Then (he said) after Aristotle became accepted as the great arbiter of all human knowledge, people began to think all knowledge was already present in his works, so that although viable learning did not actually die, it sank into obscurity.  He said it was necessary to look all the way back to the elder of the Greek philosophers for learning rooted in the facts of nature.  And even as regards the elder of the Greek philosophers Bacon believed he had something better to offer.  For he had invented a discovery device that would guide the human intellect automatically to the discovery of new arts and sciences.  But he found people of his age (even the choicer wits) were not ready for his great discovery, and, in any case, it was certainly not suitable for the 'vulgar capacities', so he had to find some way to bypass his age, and transmit his knowledge directly to future ages.  Thus, one of his primary objectives in writing the plays was to fashion works of such universal and popular appeal that they would provide an effective vessel to convey to future ages the knowledge he concealed in those works: 

"If, therefore, the invention of a ship was thought so noble, which carries commodities from place to place and consociateth the remotest regions in participations of their fruits, how much more are letters to be valued, which, like ships pass through the vast ocean of time, and convey knowledge and inventions to the remotest ages (Francis Bacon The Advancement of Learning 1605

He certainly met this objective for "Much Ado About Nothing".  Because, as far as popular appeal goes, contemporary testimony (Leonard Digges's commendatory poem to the 1640 edition of the poems of Shakespeare) tells us "Much Ado About Nothing" was one of  the most popular comedies of its time.  Comparing Jonson's plays with Shakespeare's, Digges wrote:

Though these have sham'd all the Ancients and might rise
Their Authors merit with a crowne of Bayes,
Yet these sometimes, even at a friends desire
Acted, have scarce defrai'd the Seacoale fire
And doore-keepers: when let but Falstaffe come,
Hall, Poines, the rest, you scarce shall have a roome
All is so pester'd: let but Beatrice
And Benedicke be seene, loe in a trice
The Cockpit, Galleries, Boxes, all are full.

Moreover it has been one of the most popular of the mature comedies since the mid-18th century.  And, as for the hidden content, no doubt it will continue to be conveyed to the most remote of future ages.

In addition, Bacon saw the necessity of comparing his system of knowledge with that of the ancients

"For if I profess that I, going the same road as the ancients, have something better to produce, there must needs have been some comparison or rivalry between us"  Francis Bacon, Preface to the Novum Organum
 


So he designed each play as an entertaining story on the surface, while underneath it had a Janus design with two faces, one looking toward the past, the other toward the future. One face looks at the course and progress of the ancients in some particular aspect of knowledge. The other, looks toward the future, comparing Bacon's method with theirs and showing that his is better by demonstrating the operation of his discovery device in inquiring into the form of a related aspect of knowledge :

Durant and company are like the patrons of P. T. Barnum's Sideshow.  Barnum had various signs in his Sideshow, one said, "TO THE LION"; another, "TO THE TIGER"; and yet another: TO THE EGRESS".  But when his patrons went through the door with the sign "TO THE EGRESS" they, of course, found themselves outside on the street.  The play, like P. T. Barnum's Sideshow, is designed to leave those who are a few quarts low in intellectual capacity, standing out on the street cooling their heels.  We might use Francis Thompson's words and say of the Stratfordians, "'Tis you, 'Tis your estranged faces that miss the many-splendored thing" I would paraphrase Hamlet's "these fools are so obvious" to say of Durant and his colleagues, "these fools are so oblivious."  Like the "Egress" sign, clearly meaning EXIT, the title of the play is explicit also.

The subject of the play is NOTHING,  but it deals with nothing on four different levels.  On the surface level the play gives the impression of triviality and insignificance.  But the play is like the passage in Bacon's letter.  One must go beneath the surface and become a pioneer in the mine of truth that lays so deep.  Each level opens up new depths of meaning. So let's go on to the next level and find out if you, most esteemed reader, are capable of seeing those 10 foot high neon letters.      

                                     FRANCIS BACON IN 10 FOOT HIGH NEON LETTER

Anyone, who pays close attention to the play, will see that, far from being merely a trivial thing, it deals, just beneath the surface level, with an important subject - the problem of valid knowledge.  Certainly, students of the play should see a need for carefully NOTING the situation.  As far back as 1863, Richard Grant White, said Elizabethans pronounced "nothing" and "noting" alike.  Based on this he claimed much ado about noting was the real sense of the play, and said the much ado about nothing sense of the play should be ignored because it was about much ado about nothing only in the most vague and general sense.  To support his claim White added that Balthazar used the words 'note', 'notes', and 'noting', and Don Pedro replied, 'Note, notes, forsooth and NOTHING'

Of course, with a little thought White might have questioned why, if the play was only about Much Ado About Noting, it was given the title "Much Ado About Nothing".  And why, if the dialogue of Balthazar and Don Pedro was inserted to indicate that it was only about Much Ado About Noting, Don Pedro insisted on three features, 'Note, notes, forsooth and NOTHING', i.e. 'observation, recording, and NOTHING'.   White nowhere addresses this issue.  He did not have the proper insight to realize the "noting" factor was subtext an additional element designed to show the play dealt with the problem of valid knowledge, and the real subject of the play was NOTHING - precisely as the title tells us.

One of Bacon's concerns was accurate observation (noting)

"And all depends on keeping the eye steadily fixed upon the facts of nature and so receiving their images simply as they are." (Introduction to the Great Instauration )

He was also concerned that people do not go beneath the mask of appearance that conceals the truth beneath.  So in the play we see the 'mask' theme.  Hero is courted by Don Pedro for Claudio at the ball where everyone is masked, and where, in general, everyone mistakes everyone else for someone else. Near  the end of the play Beatrice and Hero are first brought forward masked before they are finally unmasked at the very end.

Another of Bacon's concerns was that accurate records, or histories be made of the data that was derived from the observations.

But he was also concerned with language, and his description of the one problem with words that surpassed all others gave a deeper sense to the title, "Much Ado About Nothing".  Bacon said

"there are words to which nothing in reality correspond" 

The beginning scene of the play is set before the house of Leonato, Governor of Messina.  Messina  is located on the eastern side of Sicily approximately in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, and Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, who has just had a war in which he defeated his upstart bastard brother Don John, is coming from Aragon (located in Spain near the western end of the Mediterranean Sea) to pay a visit to Leonato.  He brings his bastard brother with him.  Bad idea.  Don John, like the lyrics about "Cat Ballou" in the movie of that name, is 'mean and rotten through and through'.  He harbors enmity toward the good guy, Don Pedro, and all he asks of any occasion is "Will it serve for any model to build mischief on?"  This provides the framework that allows Bacon to build a story in which he puts (in allegory and allusion) the information he wants in the play.  Bacon is concerned with the problems relating to valid knowledge,  and from the very beginning of the play it is carefully crafted to present those basic scenarios of problems relating to valid knowledge into the play.  Take a look:

                                             Act I, Scene 1

                                                   Before Leonato's House

Leonato.  I learn in this letter that Don Pedro Peter of Aragon comes this night to Messina.

Messenger.  He is very near by this; he was not three leagues off when I left him.

Leonato.  How many gentlemen have you lost in this action? 

Messenger.  But few of any sort, and none of name.

Leonato.  A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.  I find her that Don Peter hath bestowed much honor on a young Florentine called Claudio.

Messenger.  Much deserv'd on his part, and equally rememb'red by Don Pedro.  He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion; he hath, indeed, better bett'red expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.

Leonato.  He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.

Messenger.  I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him; even so much that joy could not show itself modest enough with a badge of bitterness.

Leonato.  Did he break out into tears?

Messenger.  In great measure.

Leonato.  A kind overflow of kindness.  There are no faces truer than those so wash'd.  How much better it is to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!

Anyone who looks closely at this beginning passage will note certain peculiarities.  For example, in the first two references by Leonato in the First Folio edition of the Shakespeare plays, Don Pedro is referred to as Don Peter.  Bacon was careful to insert these little clues in his plays.  Modern editors (vulgar capacities all) are just as careful to remove them.  Most change the text so wherever his name occurs it is "Don Pedro". But there was a reason for the "Don Peter", and I will return to that later. That, having been said, now look closely at the specific units of information presented in the opening passage. 

(1) In the first unit of information we see a presentation of written information from a letter and hearsay information from a messenger.  Leonato says, "I learn in this letter, that Don Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina".  The messenger replies, "He is very near by this; he was not three leagues off when I left him." The information from letter and messenger alike has a common characteristic &endash; it is merely words.  In The Advancement of Learning Bacon says the first disease of learning is when men study words and not matter.

(2) The second unit of information above deals with additional information Leonato has received.  Leonato says he finds in the letter that Don Pedro has bestowed much honor on a young Florentine called Claudio.  The messenger says that Claudio is held in special favor by Don Pedro.  This supports the information in the letter, but this time the messenger adds that Claudio has done in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion, and also that Claudio has 'indeed better bettered expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how', implying that Claudio has done such incredible deeds it is impossible to describe them.  This is obviously hyperbole, and any alert reader will begin to suspect that the messenger does not limit himself to sober fact.  After all, he also says it was not much of a war, almost a bloodless affair, in which 'few gentlemen of any sort, and none of name were lost', an action totally inconsistent with the feats the messenger alleges for Claudio.  In The Advancement of Learning Bacon said the second disease of learning was vain matter when men indulge in unprofitable subtlety.   

(3) In the third unit of information when the messenger says that Claudio's uncle has responded to the news of his nephew's approach with much joy, 'even so much that joy could not show itself modest enough without a badge of bitterness' it doesn't require a Solomon to realize that the messenger doesn't keep his eye steadily fixed upon the facts of nature and receive them simply as they are.  And Leonato jumps right in, asking if the uncle broke out in tears, to which the messenger promptly agrees, saying there was an overflow of tears, and then Leonato goes on to say, "There are no faces truer than those so wash'd.  How much better it is to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!"

In The Advancement of Learning, speaking of the third disease of learning, that concerns deceit or untruth, Bacon says:

"This vice therefore brancheth itself into two sorts, delight in deceiving, and aptness to be deceived; imposture and credulity; which, although they appear to be of a diverse nature, the one seeming to proceed of cunning, and the other of simplicity, yet certainly they do for the most part concur: for as the verse noteth

                                Percontatorem fugito, nam garrulous idem est,

and inquisitive man is a prattler, so upon the like reason a credulous man is a deceiver: as we see it in fame, that he will easily believe rumors will as easily augment rumors and add somewhat to them of his own; which Tacitus wisely noteth, when he saith, Fingunt simul creduntque, [as fast as they believe one tale they make another:] so great an affinity hath fiction and belief."  

It is obvious the specific problem relating to valid knowledge, depicted by the play, is the characters have false knowledge because they continually believe hearsay evidence words to which nothing in reality corresponds.  But Bacon goes beyond this. He makes a situation comedy of it, and, indeed, in The Advancement of Learning, discussing the ideas of some who saw the felicity of learning as consisting solely of the pleasure of learning itself, and not of the practical benefits to the human race that would accrue from learning, Bacon compared their idea to a Comedy of Errors where the mistress and the maid change habits, and the maid is mistaken for the mistress, but this was another play, or was it?

In his survey of human knowledge Bacon distinguished two streams of knowledge, one useless for adding to the existing body of human knowledge:

"Let there be therefore (and may it be for the benefit of both) two streams and two dispensations of knowledge; and to like manner two tribes or kindreds of students in philosophy tribes not hostile or alien to each other, but bound together by mutual services,-let there in short be one method for the cultivation, another for the invention, of knowledge.

And for those who prefer the former, either from hurry or from consideration of business or for want of mental power to take in and embrace the other (which must needs be most men's case), I wish that they may succeed to their desire in what they are about, and obtain what they are pursuing.  But if any man there be who, not content to rest in and use the knowledge which has already been discovered, aspires to penetrate further; to overcome, not an adversary in argument, but nature in action; to seek, not pretty and probable conjectures but certain and demonstrable knowledge;- I invite all such to join themselves, as true sons of knowledge, with me, that passing by the outer courts of nature, which numbers have trodden, we may find a way at length into her inner chambers." 

The two basic streams of knowledge he distinguishes in his survey of human knowledge correspond exactly to the two basic plots, or stories, in Much Ado About Nothing

1. The story of Beatrice and Benedick

2. The story of Hero and Claudio.

Furthermore, Bacon left some unmistakable footprints leading up to his contrivance in the play.  If an examination is made of his sources, it will be seen that the basic story of the slander of Hero is taken from prior sources, although Bacon made some changes to fashion it for the design of his allegory, but the other plot, the story of Beatrice and Benedick was invented from whole cloth. This tells us that Bacon wanted two basic plots in "Much Ado About Nothing".  And his reason for having two basic plots was so he could allegorize the two basic streams of knowledge.

If we are to see those 10 foot high neon letters all depends on keeping our eyes fixed upon the facts of the play and receiving their images simply as they are, and further paralleling these facts with the information Bacon published in the writings under his own name.  In a letter to his friend Lancelot Andrewes, Bacon remarked of his Great Instauration:

 "I have received from many parts beyond the seas, testimonies touching that work, such as beyond which I could not expect at the first in so abstruse an argument; yet nevertheless I have just cause to doubt, that it flies too high over men's heads: I have a purpose therefore (though I break the order of time) to draw it down to the sense, by some patterns of a Natural Story and Inquisition."

In addition, Bacon used allegory and allusion in his 'patterns of a Natural Story'.  In his Preface to the "Wisdom of the Ancients" he tells us why:

"And every man, of any learning, must readily allow that this method of instructing is grave, sober, or exceedingly useful, and sometimes necessary in the sciences, as it opens an easy and familiar passage to the human understanding, in all new discoveries that are abstruse and out of the road of vulgar opinions.  Hence, in the first ages, when such inventions and conclusions of the human reason as are now trite and common were new and little known, all things abounded with fables, parables, similes, comparisons, and allusions, which were not intended to conceal, but to inform and teach, whilst the minds of men continued rude and unpracticed in matters of subtlety and speculation, or even impatient, and in a manner incapable of receiving such things as did not fall directly under and strike the senses.  For as hieroglyphics were in use before writing, so were parables in use before arguments.  And even to this day, if any man would let new light in upon the human understanding, and conquer prejudice, without raising contests, animosities, opposition, or disturbance, he must still go in the same path, and have recourse to the like method of allegory, metaphor, and allusion."  

We must also bear in mind that when Bacon deals with knowledge he repeatedly uses the metaphor of knowledge as a woman, the union of the mind with knowledge as a marriage, and the benefits that spring from that union as the offspring of that marriage:

"The explanation of which thing, and of the true relation between the nature of thing and the nature of the mind, is as the strewing and decoration of the bridal chamber of the Mind and the Universe, the Divine Goodness assisting; out of which marriage let us hope (and be this the prayer of the bridal song) there may spring helps to man, and a line and race of inventions that may in some degree subdue and overcome the necessities and miseries of humanity."

Bacon describes the sterile stream of learning, in vogue in his day, as originating for the most part, from the later Greek philosophers - people such as Gorgias, Protagoras, Hippias, Polus, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus, Theophrastus and their successors.  They was professorial and much given to disputation.  Bacon said these Greeks were like boys, they were prompt to prattle, but could not generate, for their knowledge abounded in words, but was barren of works.  From the learning of these Greeks descended the learning of the schoolmen whose great authority was Aristotle.  This was the system of logic, philosophy and theology of the monks and medieval university scholars or schoolmen from the 10th to the 15th century based on Aristotelian logic, the writings of the early Christian fathers, and the authority of tradition and dogma.  Schoolman were devoted to logical subtleties and arguments.  Instead of keeping close contact with the facts of nature, they spun intricate webs of reason divorced from all contact with nature.  Bacon said they had strong wits, abundance of leisure, but their wits being limited to no great quantity of matter, theirs was a contentious type of philosophy restricted to arguments, and disputations.  He said this type of philosophy or knowledge was like Scylla, who was a fair virgin in the upper parts, but with only the barking monsters of disputation about her lions and useless for generation. 

He allegorizes this in the story that deals with Beatrice and Benedick in the play.  Beatrice is a fair virgin who has a strong wit.  She continually talks, but that talk is devoted to logical subtleties, disputation, and contention. The story of Beatrice and Benedick is the story of their arguments.  In Dante's medieval work, "The Divine Comedy", Beatrice represents philosophy or knowledge.  This is obviously why Bacon chose the name Beatrice.  She represents the medieval philosophy of the schoolmen,- the same system of learning in vogue in Bacon's day that was sterile and useless for generating works or new knowledge.  The name Benedick was obviously taken from that of Saint Benedict, famous as the founder of a monastic order, and the very personification of the schoolmen.  The schoolmen have broken with experience, not utilizing their senses to relay to them the data that comes from nature, but  relying  on the flawed oracles of their own reason.  So we see Beatrice saying of Benedick (the personification of the votaries of this type of learning):

"Alas, he gets nothing by that.  In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man govern'd with one; so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature."

The romance and ultimate marriage of Beatrice and Benedick would never have occurred had not Don Pedro taken on himself the role of Cupid and caused both to be given the false information (words to which nothing in reality corresponded) that each was in love with the other.  The reference to generation is introduced when Benedick, having been duped into thinking he is loved by Beatrice, accepts the idea of their marriage, saying, "the world must be peopled", but it is apparent from the character of their interaction that no generation is to be expected from their marriage, and their whole love affair, based on 'words to which nothing in reality corresponds', is Much Ado About Nothing.  The end of their story is a dead give away.  When they discover the hoax that has been played on them, Benedick says to Beatrice: Do you love me?  Beatrice replies: Why no, no more than reason.  And Beatrice says to Benedick: Do you love me?, and Benedick says to Beatrice: Troth no, no more than reason.  The factor that drives the union of sterile philosophy with the scholastic mentality is that particular brand of reason that was divorced from all contact with nature and was used to spin out their empty cobwebs of logic.

The second division of learning, Bacon described as the natural philosophy which existed among the elder of the Greek philosophers - Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus, Parmenides, Heraclitus, etc., who, devoting themselves to the inquisition of truth much more silently, severely and simply without affectation and parade, stuck close to the facts of nature.  This division of learning had the possibility of generating benefits and additional knowledge for mankind.  But this division of learning had sank into obscurity.  Bacon said (Novum Organum, Book I, Aphorism 77) that although the general opinion was that after the publication of the philosophy of Aristotle the philosophy of the elder of the Greek philosophers died away, this did not actually happen, but they were obscured in the course of time after the inundation of barbarians into the Roman empire by the philosophy of those slighter persons such as Plato, and especially Aristotle, and subsequently the Schoolmen.  Bacon intended to bring the viable learning back to life, or back from obscurity, but it was necessary that science become literate, and learn to read and write.  Note carefully aphorism 101 of his Novum Organum:

"But even after such an abundance of material from natural history and experience, as is needed for the work of the understanding or of philosophy, is ready at hand, the understanding is still by no means capable of handling this material offhand from memory, any more than one should expect to be able to manage and master from memory the computation of an astronomical almanac. 
Yet up to now thinking has played a greater part than writing in the business of invention, and experience has not yet become literate.  But no adequate inquiry can be made without writing and only when that comes into use and experience learns to read and write can we hope for improvement."   

Thus Bacon stressed as the third part of his Great Instauration the need for written histories to be made in which in all the facts from nature were set down fully and in order.

So we see, in the play, the story dealing with Hero and Claudio.  Hero is a virtual opposite to Beatrice.  She is silent and simple, without affectation and parade.  In fact, one commentator describes her as "a virtual mute who seems in the early part of the play to take so little interest in her own destiny that she might be suspected of being under the influence of soporifics."  Upon the return from the war Claudio is smitten immediately with Hero.  Here again Don Pedro plays the role of Cupid.  At the masked ball he makes love to Hero in Claudio's name and gets her father to consent to the marriage. The time set for the marriage is one week away.  But Don John hearing of the plan hatches a villainous plot.  Borachio is a follower of Don John and he is in the favor of Margaret, the gentlewoman attending on Hero.  Together they hatch a plot whereby Borachio has Margaret dress in Hero's clothes.  Then when Don John tells Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero is unfaithful to Claudio they go with him and see what appears to be Hero calling to Borachio, who then enters her chamber window, and spends time with her.

Now we see those simple people, constable Dogberry and his partner, Verges with their Watch.  They overhear Borachio describing to Conrade how he has earned a thousand ducats of Don John by staging the hoax whereby Hero was slandered.  They take Borachio and Conrade into custody and try to give the information about the hoax to Leonato, but he is too busy making plans for the wedding..  

The following day, which is the day set for the wedding Claudio denounces her for her unfaithfulness.

And Hero who dotes on Claudio, and has told him she would die if he loves her not, swoons dead away.  They then leave.  The wise Friar Francis [Bacon], who has taken upon himself the role of marrying the two, and who believes in Hero, takes charge, saying that they left Hero for dead, and advising that it be published that she is dead, and says he sees a good end to the affair yet..

Now we see Dogberry and Verges with the Watch and Borachio and Conrade in prison.  Although Dogberry and company are simple souls, two of the Watch possess a singular distinction.  Hugh Oatcake, and George Seacoal can actually read and write, and Dogberry has a disposition of the nefarious hoax of Conrade and Borachio written down in due order and detail.  But in the First Folio when the time comes to write the history of the deception down, instead of George Seacoal, we find Dogberry saying:

                "Go, good Partner, go get you to Francis Seacoal, bid him bring his Pen and Inkhorn"

because it is Francis [Bacon] who insisted on those written histories which are concealed in the tables he placed in the plays, and further the seacoal, as Digges tells us is what was burned at playhouses.  

With his disposition Dogberry goes back to Leonato, and this time he succeeds in conveying the details of the plot. When the plot of Don John is finally uncovered by Constable Dogberry and his partner Verges, Claudio is so penitent that he calls upon Leonato to impose whatever sentence he will upon him for causing the death of his daughter.  Leonato says his brother has a daughter who is almost a copy of Hero and Claudio, as penitence, must come to his house the following and marry her.  When Claudio appear the following morning, Beatrice and Hero enter masked.  After Claudio swears to marry the masked woman (actually Hero) who is presented to him as the daughter of Leonato's brother Antonio, she unmasks and is disclosed to be Hero.  Leonato says she died but while her  slander lived.It is obvious that the plot dealing with Hero is an allegory of Bacon's account of the viable stream of knowledge.  The valid philosophy dies, or sinks into obscurity without votaries, and we see of Hero, just as Bacon said of the original fate of the viable stream of knowledge, that she seems to die, but actually only sinks into obscurity.  The name Hero is appropriate because, in mythology heroes were a peculiar class of being regarded as partly of divine origin just as Bacon thought all real knowledge to be, and they did not really die, but after their apparent death were translated to a life among the gods and were entitled to sacrifice and worship.

It is significant that it is those simple people, Constable Dogberry and his watch, who discover the truth, for although Bacon says histories of the facts of nature must be made, and they must be written down in due order, he also stresses, "my way of discovering sciences goes far to level men's wits but little to individual excellence".

The mistake whereby Claudio and the others accepts the slander to Hero results from the mistress (Hero) and her maid (Margaret) changing habits, which is precisely the situation Bacon alluded to in the Advancement of Learning, where discussing the ideas of some who saw the felicity of learning as consisting solely of the pleasure of learning itself, and not of the practical benefits to the human race that would accrue from learning, Bacon compared their idea to a Comedy of Errors where the mistress and the maid change habits.

It might be countered that this is introduced in connection with the viable stream of learning in the story, but this is a case where, as Bacon says in the preface to his "Wisdom of The Ancients"  "that some of these fables are so absurd and idle in their narration, as to show and proclaim an allegory, even afar off" for we see in play that no sooner has Don John practiced his deception by having Margaret dress in Hero's clothes, than Benedick (the follower of the sterile stream of learning) is shown writing a sonnet to Margaret in praise of her beauty:

Benedick.  Pray thee, sweet Mistress Margaret, deserve well at my hands by helping me to the speech of Beatrice.

Margaret.  Will you then write me a sonnet in praise of my beauty?

Benedick. In so high a style, Margaret, that no man living shall come over it, for, in most comely truth, thou deservest it.  

Although he does not actually use the word fashion, Bacon continually describes the adoption of the popular forms of knowledge, as similar to those popular fads where changes of fashion correspond to regard for outer appearance without thought to the inner truth beneath that outer appearance.  And in the deception where Hero is slandered based on the outer appearance when her garment is worn by her serving woman, the instigator of the deception actually compares it those surface appearances of fashions.  Borachio describes the deception in the following scene:

Act III, Scene 3:

Borachio.  That shows thou art unconfirm'd.  Thou knowest that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak, is nothing to a man.

Conrade. Yes, it is apparel.

Borachio.  I mean the fashion.

Conrade. Yes, the fashion is the fashion.

Borachio. Tush!  I may as well say the fool's the fool.  But seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is?...

Borachio. Seest thou not, I saw, what a deformed thief this fashion is, how giddily 'a turns about all the hot bloods between fourteen and five and thirty, sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh's soldiers in the reechy painting, sometime like god Bel's priests in the old church-window, sometime like the shaven Hercules in the smirch'd worm eaten tapestry, where the codpiece seems as massy as his club?

Conrade. All this I see; and I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man.  But art not thou thyself giddy with the fashion too, that thou hast shifted out of thy tale in telling me of the fashion?

Borachio.  No so neither; but know that I have to-night wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero's gentlewoman, by the name of Hero; she leans me out at her mistress' chamber-window, bids me a thousand times good night-I tell this tale vilely, I should first tell the how the Prince, Claudio, and my master, planted and placed and possessed by my master Don John, saw afar off in the orchard this amiable encounter.

Conrade. And thought they Margaret was Hero?

The name Claudio means lame.  In his treatise in The Wisdom of the Ancients on The Sphinx, or Science Bacon said we must not forget that the Sphinx was conquered by Oedipus, a lame man, for men usually make too much haste in their solutions of Sphinx's [sciences] riddles.  And we must remember that in the end it is Friar Francis [Bacon] who marries Hero to Claudio.  With the foregoing in place we can also note a couple of more features of the allegory.  Leonato is the father of Hero.  Leonato is composed of Leo+nato which is as much as to say Leo born.  Leo is the zodiac sign associated with the sun, and it is appropriate that the sun, the source of all light, should be the father of Hero, because Bacon continually associates knowledge with light.  In Novum Organum, aphorism 70, he says that just as on the first day God created Light, giving to that work an entire day, so we should seek light first in our experiments.

The wife of Leonato is Innogen, who has no speaking part in the play, merely appearing as a stage direction with Leonato in the opening scene.  Most modern editors leave her out of the play altogether, but Bacon noting the zeal and jealousy of the Divines who said that knowledge caused the original fall of man and was a dangerous thing to be accepted with great limitation and caution, responded that it was the proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent in man to give law unto himself and to depend no more upon God's commandments that caused the fall, and the pure knowledge of nature and universality never gave harm to anyone.  So therefore: Innogen, the mother of the viable knowledge is composed of Inno+gen as in innocuous (in-,not, and nocere,-to harm) and gen(to cause to be born) showing this was the nature of the mother of true knowledge.

A main allegory in the play is that curious feature (which must have been noticed by anyone who reads it closely) of Don Pedro's role as Cupid.  There are numerous references to Cupid in the play, apparently all designed to call our attention to this allegory.  Don Pedro actually refers to himself as assuming the glory of Cupid.  He courts Hero for Claudio, and arranges the match between the two, and when Benedick disdains love he takes it as a challenge to himself saying,

"If Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly." 

He then undertakes to bring Benedick and Beatrice 'into a mountain of affection' with each other.  And he shows a curious expertise in the art.  He says to Hero:

"I will teach you how to humor your cousin that she shall fall in love with Benedick, and I, with your two helps, will so practice on Benedick that, in spite of his quick wit and his queasy stomach, he shall fall in love with Beatrice.  If we can do this Cupid is no longer an archer; his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods."

This is an allusion to the parallel between the story of Don Pedro and Don John in the play and Bacon's account of Cupid and Pan.  In his exposition on Cupid and Pan (the Universe or Universal Nature) in the De Augmentis, Bacon refers to the contention between Cupid and Pan.  Pan wrestled with Cupid and Cupid won.  Hence the bloodless 'war' of Don John with Don Pedro in the play.  Don John is portrayed as an out and out villain in the play. This  reflects a stock idea of Bacon's that Pan (the Universe or Universal Nature), born from the squalid matter of the primal chaos, is malignant and degenerate.  In his treatise on Pan, or Nature in the Wisdom of the Ancients Bacon says that Pan,

"has an appetite and tendency to a dissolution of the world, and falling back to its first chaos again, unless this depravity and inclination were restrained and subdued by a more powerful concord and agreement of thing".

We see this in the allegory of Caliban in Tempest.  Caliban, the spawn of Sycorax (chaos) represents nature.  We see Don John depicted as degenerate Nature, not only in his general character, but in specific instances such as the following, where, referring to Don Pedro he says:

                 "I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace.."   

The "rose", referring to Don Pedro, identifies him with the principle of Love, and canker, referring to Don John, identifies him with degenerate Nature.  What we call science today, was generally called Natural Philosophy in Bacon's day.  Philosophy literally means, 'love of knowledge'.  Hence the pertinence of the Cupid allegory.  But even more to the point, the incorporation of the Cupid and Pan myth into the play allows Bacon to depict the connection with Nature in the story of Hero and Claudio.  For the viable stream of knowledge is that learning that is in contact with Nature.  And Don John who symbolizes nature plays a major part in the Hero-Claudio story in the play.

And this answers the objection that may be raised as to why, if Don John represents Pan in the allegory he should be shown as the deceiver since the viable stream of knowledge is that steam which maintains a close contact with the facts of nature.  But nature, as well as being the fount of knowledge, is also the arch deceiver.  In the Preface to his Great Instauration Bacon says:

"But the universe to the eye of the human understanding is framed like a labyrinth; presenting as it does on every side so many ambiguities of way, such deceitful resemblances of objects and signs, natures so irregular in their lines, and so knotted and entangled.  And then the way is still to be made by the uncertain light of the sense, sometimes shining out, sometimes clouded over, through the woods of experience and particulars"

Some people have believed that instead of Francis Bacon, Anthony Bacon was the author of the plays and the guiding light behind the whole enterprise of learning.  Francis Bacon anticipated this, and inserted a small allegory in the play that forestalls the idea.  The play has a character named Francis, and a character named Antonio.  These represents Francis Bacon and Anthony Bacon.  In the play the character named Antonio is the brother of Leonato, and it is given out that the masked person who Claudio is to marry at the end of the play is actually his daughter.  But this is only words with no reality in fact, another "Much Ado About Nothing" scenario, just as the belief that Anthony was the author of the plays is a much ado about nothing scenario.

To reiterate what I said to begin with, "Much Ado About Nothing" could not more obviously be by Francis Bacon if his name was written all over it in 10 foot high neon letters.  But this is only the second level of meaning in the play.  We must not think this is all of the meaning in the play.  The deeper meaning of the play, as anyone will see who notes the situation carefully,  has to do not specifically with the problems of valid knowledge, but with NOTHING.  We haven't really gotten into this yet.  But now the time has come as we dig down to the third level in this mine that lays so deep.

 

                                                      The Face Looking Toward the Past

 

"Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being like a worm.      -Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

 

 Having shown evidence to support Bacon's authorship of the play, I now feel free to frame a Baconian "Declaration of Independence" and get on with mining meaning in the play.  I hold these truths to be self evident:  Bacon wrote the play.  The play is couched in allegory and allusion.  Its subject is Nothing.  But if you are saying nothing don't do nothing for me, I would add that there is a great deal more to Nothing than meets the eye, and suggest that you are not familiar with the important role Nothing has always played in human thought.  Actually there are two nothings corresponding to the two streams of knowledge described by Bacon.  One is the abstract, paradoxical, psychological nothing of reason the nothing of the Beatrice-Benedick plot. This is the nothing of mental ideas, the nothing juggled with by playwrights and philosophers.  This nothing is well represented by the dialogue of Benedick and

Beatrice:

"Benedick: I do love nothing in the world so well as you.  Is not that strange? Beatrice.  As strange as the thing I know not.  It were as possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you.  But believe me not; and yet I lie not.  I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing."

The other nothing is the nothing of nature ; the nothing of the Hero-Claudio plot.  Where we deal not with the juggling of mental ideas, but with that physical reality in which there is the nothing lurking beneath all existence, the nothing of the vacuum; the nothing that of necessity must have been there before there was something.

The name of the heroine in the story plot dealing with viable knowledge refers to this type of nothing.  Hero of Alexandria (285-221 B.C.), a mathematician celebrated for his inventions, was one of the people Bacon referred to in discussing the question of the vacuum.  Hero dealt with the nature of vacuums, i.e. of nothing.  In "Cogitationes de Natura Rerum" [Thoughts on the Nature of Things] Bacon says of Hero:

"With respect to the second sense of the word atom, namely, that it presupposes a vacuum, and defines an atom as that without a vacuum, it was a good and earnest diligence on the part of Hero to deny the existence of a collected vacuum, but maintain that of a vacuum interspersed.  For when he saw the constant connection of bodies, and that no space at all could be found or assigned where a body was not; and much more, when he observed that heavy and ponderous bodies are carried upwards, and throw aside and violate their nature, rather than suffer an absolute separation from the body contiguous to them, he laid it down as certain that Nature abhorred any large or collected vacuum.  On the other hand, when he perceived that the same matter of a body was contracted and condensed, and again expanded and dilated, and it occupied and filled unequal spaces, sometimes larger, and sometime smaller, he did not see how this ingress and egress of bodies in their own places could happen except by means of vacuum interspersed"

Indeed, we know today that the atom is mostly made up of empty space, i.e. nothing, or a vacuum. Aristotle rejected the possibility that a vacuum could exist.  According to him nature abhorred a vacuum. Anytime an area of space was vacated it was instantly filled.  Bacon symbolizes this idea in a scene in the play that deals with the Benedick-Beatrice steam of knowledge.

In Act II, Scene 3, in the play Benedick is alone in Leonato's orchard.  He calls to a boy who is in his room above  him:

Benedick. Boy!

Boy. [Within] Signior?

Benedick.  In my chamber-window lies a book, bring it hither to me in the orchard.

Boy.  [Above, at chamber window] I am here already, sir.

Benedick. I know that; but I would have thee hence and here again. [Boy brings book; exit].

At that point we Benedick suddenly begins making apparently meaningless references to an oyster:

"I will not be sworn but love may transform me to an oyster; but I'll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me he shall never make me such a fool."

This is a clever little tableau in which a great deal of meaning is packed.  In the tableau the boy must move from one place to another.  Benedick would have him 'hence' and 'here' again.  In order for the boy to be 'hence' he must vacant the space he occupied.  In order for the boy to 'here' again, the space he will occupy 'here' must have been already empty.  One cannot logically infer the existence of empty space, of NOTHING because if an empty space is created, matter (air)  instantly moves to refill it, an apparent confirmation of Aristotle's ancient precept that 'Nature abhors a vacuum."  Not only does this suggest the later Greek philosophers, the boy is talkative like Bacon's description of the Greeks from who the knowledge of his day descended.  That knowledge is described by Bacon as , "It has the character of the property of boys: it can talk, but it cannot generate".  When Benedick calls up to his chamber to tell the boy to bring the book to him, instead of just bringing the book, the boy must get his few words in.  The boy says, "I am here already, sir."  And Benedick answers, "I know that; but I would have thee hence and here again."  Only then does the boy bring the book.  The boy represents the learning of the Greeks, with allusion to their idea about the vacuum.  The book the boy brings Benedick represents the written heritage given the schoolmen from the learning of Aristotle and the Greeks.  And the reference to the oyster, though meaningless on the surface, is actually quite apposite to the allegory.  In aphorism 13 of his Novum Organum Bacon says:

 "The syllogism is not applied to the first principles of sciences, and is applied in vain to intermediate axioms; being no match for the subtlety of nature"

and a famous syllogism designed to show the worthlessness of syllogisms went as follows:

Nothing is better than God
An oyster is better than nothing.
Therefore, an oyster is better than God.

At the same time as this allusion supports Bacon's stand on syllogisms, it denigrates the logic of the schoolmen.  Furthermore, it says that if Benedick is united to Beatrice who represents the philosophy of the schoolmen he will metaphorically be transformed into an oyster, i.e. he will be subject to the type of reasoning in the above syllogism.  And it brings in the subject of Nothing.  This is vintage Bacon, although most of it is a case of :

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear"

But Bacon can afford the waste because he is so prodigal in his invention.  Besides he wasn't interested in getting his ideas across to 'vulgar capacities' anyway.  That's why he devised his Fool Screen. 

Georges Jacques Danton said, "It nous faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace", and one might say of the "Much Ado About Nothing" that it is gives us allusions, more allusions, and always allusions centering around the subject of NOTHING.

This exploration of the ambiguities of Nothing is present everywhere just beneath the surface in The Face Looking Toward the Past.  For example, the Greeks grappled with the paradoxes of nothing, and one of the most striking instances was the encounter between Ulysses and the Cyclops, Polyphemos, created by Homer in the Odyssey.  Ulysses sets about lowering the one-eyed monster's guard by providing him with an abundance of wine.  When asked by the Cyclops for his name he replies, 'my name is Noman'.  Ulysses manages to blind the Cyclops with a burning stake from the fire.  The Cyclops screams out to the other Cyclops for help, but when they ask who is harming him, he replies 'Noman', and the other Cyclops says, 'if no man is attacking you, you must be ill, and there is no help for it'.  There is a clear allusion in the play to the paradox of nothing embodied in the Cyclops story.  In the play when Hero is accused of being false to Claudio, and Claudio demands that she state who she spoke to out her window between twelve and one, she says:

"I talk'd with no man at that hour, my lord"

In order to delve deeper into the allegory in this "face looking toward the past" we need to get a handle on the allegory devised into the framework of the play, and determine what it means.  Prior to the beginning of the drama in the play Don John engaged in a war with Don Pedro.  At least, Beatrice calls it a war, although Leonato had earlier referred to it as an 'action', but, in any case it seems to have been a more or less bloodless conflict, and what it boils down to is that there, just before the beginning the play began, we had Don Pedro and Don John in open conflict with each other (and that opposition remains covertly throughout the play).

Here, as in many other instances in the plays, Robert Fludd's "Mosaical Philosophy" throws light on the matter.  Fludd says that people who are conversant in the laws of true wisdom tell us that before the creation everything was in that profound abyss or darkness termed Ain in Hebrew, which is to say in plain English Nothing at all.  So in ancient knowledge the Kabbalah had the idea that in the beginning there was only nothing.  And from this Nothing everything was created.  With the creation, Fludd says, two principles (each in opposition to the other) arose.  One was light, the other darkness.  One was order, the other chaos, that dark deformed matter from which everything was made.  One was love, friendship, order, and concord.  The other strife, hate, contention and discord.This 'strife, hate, contention and discord' is exactly what defines Don John.  The prime question he has of any occasion is, "Will it serve for any model to build mischief on?"  He says

 "I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace; and it better fits my blood to be disdain'd of all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any.  In this, thought I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied that I am a plain-dealing villain.  I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchis'd with a clog; therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage.  If I had my mouth, I would bite"

What is the opposition to light, the principle of darkness, strife, hate, and discord?  It is the devil, and the word devil comes from the Greek and Latin term diabolos (from the Greek diaballein,  "to traduce")  means a slanderer or accuser.  Is it coincidence then that in the play Hero is both accused and  slandered by Don John?  He is even identified as the devil in play.  When his man Borachio refers to him, he says, "the devil my master".  Furthermore, is it coincidence that Don John was involved in a war with the character who always represents the principle of good in the play, and that this war is part and parcel of the legend of the Devil? For the record of  that war between good and evil we need only turn to the last book in the Bible.     

"And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him" (Apocalypse 12:7-9).

This explains too why it was a 'bloodless conflict'.  It was a war fought between celestial entities.  But how is the allegory of the Devil relevant to NOTHING - the subject of the play?  Simply because Nothing became interwoven with the doctrine and traditions of Christian theology.  These people inherited the idea from the Jews of turning away from nothing because it was the antithesis of God.  The very fact that God created the world out of nothing was overwhelming evidence that Nothing was something undesirable, a state He had acted to do away with this.  Augustine of Hippo (354-430) went even further than this.  Augustine equated Nothing with the Devil.  He saw it as representing complete separation from God, loss and deprivation from all that was part of God. 

At the same time, the allegory of Cupid and nature runs side by side with the allegory of God and the Devil.

This is the cosmological allegory of what takes place after the creation.  Bacon had some rather peculiar ideas about Cupid.  In the first place, he says that there were two Cupids.  This seems to have been a rather unique idea, and probably explains why we see two Cupids in certain of his "AA" devices.  One Cupid, according to Bacon, was the most ancient of the gods, and the other (the youngest son of the gods) was born of Venus.  The first Cupid has a cosmological role related to the theme of nothing in the play.  Don Pedro is depicted as old.  Benedick refers to him as 'old senior'.  But he also acts as if he is a young man.  Note his wooing of Hero.  In those 10 foot high neon letters we saw the young Cupid, the Cupid that has sway on the minds of men and women.  The old Cupid is the Cupid of the cosmological allegory.  Cupid from this aspect is the atom, referred to by Bacon as the primary matter. Don John symbolizes both the Devil and Nature.  Both love and nature are the teachers of man.  Thus the title of "don" for both.  At Cambridge, where Bacon attended college, the instructors were called 'dons' (the 'd' was not capitalized).  And we see in Love's Labour's Lost that when Berowne refers to Cupid he calls him:

"This senior-junior, giant-dwarf, don Cupid"

which gives the same connotation.  "Senior-junior' conveys Bacon's idea that Cupid was the eldest and the youngest of the gods.  And 'don' gives the idea of Cupid as the instructor from whom we gain our knowledge.  In Loves Labour's Lost, learning and loving is contrasted and loving is shown as the greater teacher.  Of course, all the modern editors come along, and screw up the allusion as usual, changing Cupid's title to 'Dan Cupid'.  But this gives us the reason why Bacon makes the two Spanish.  He wants to use the title "don". 

In the story in the play Don Pedro is masked as he woos Hero for Claudio.  Bacon cited four different opinions by the ancient philosophers dealing with Cupid in regard to the principles and origins of things.  The one that accounted for the multiplicity of things by imagining a great many principles of things instead of one, he said, could be said to represent Cupid as cloaked and almost masked.  And this is well represented by the masked ball where there are many masked figures, Don Pedro or Cupid among them.

Bacon said another opinion was that of those who assert there is one principle of things, but make the diversity of things to consist of the inconstant and dispensable nature of that one principle.  Bacon said these people introduced Cupid as if he was separated by a veil.  In the play where we see Don Pedro arrange to have Benedick hiding behind cover, overhear he and Claudio discussing the love of Beatrice for him, Cupid is represented as separated by a veil. 

In Bacon's ideas Cupid played a major role in the creation process.  For Cupid symbolized the summary law of nature, the principle of desire, or attraction, impressed by God upon the atoms, or primary particles of matter, that caused them to come together, and by the repetition and multiplication whereof all the variety in the universe was produced. Bacon said the primary role of Cupid was to bring bodies together, which is exactly the role played by Don Pedro in the play.  And his opposite, Don John separates bodies.

A close examination of the roles of Don Pedro and Don John in the play reveals a creation allegory.  This is present because Bacon has constructed into the play the allegory of all creation being produced from Nothing.  Don Pedro plays the role of Cupid throughout the play, and this signals the allegory.  In Bacon's system of knowledge Cupid played an integral part in the creation, and moreover, that creation involved a continual creation from nothing, hence the allegory played by Cupid in the play.

Later, when the zero symbol entered Western thought it was believed by many to have been invented by the Devil.  Because, in fact, zero from the very beginning was an outlaw and brought a certain degree of confusion to the staid old arithmetic that had existed before it came along.  Consider: zero does not obey the rules of simple arithmetic.  It just wont behave like other numbers.  Add it to a number and it leaves the number unscathed.  Subtract it from a number and it leaves the number unchanged, also.  But, in the case of multiplication which, after all, is simply adding again and again and again, zero is transformed from a Dr. Jekyll to a Mr. Hyde that destroys everything it all disappears without even a puff of smoke.  And division is even worse.  Division by zero transforms everything into terminal ambiguity.  Division by zero is the only operation in arithmetic that is outright banned.  It means nothing and everything at the same time. 

Don John, in his role as the Devil, provides an allusion to the subject of NOTHING.  This allusion also gives one facet of the rationale behind making Don Pedro and Don John Spanish.  Zero played a large role in the ideas about nothing, and although the idea of zero originally came from India, Barrow says: 

"The Indian zero symbol found its way to Europe, primarily through Spain, via the channel of Arab culture.  The Arabs had close trading links with India which exposed them to the efficiencies of Indian reckoning."

Anyone who has followed my argument will have noted that the above would make Don Pedro an allegory of God, and anyone who has following my articles on the other plays will have noted that God is almost always allegorized as a Duke in the plays.  So, is this a contradiction?  Why is it not the case in "Much Ado About Nothing"?  The reason for this is there that other facet to the allegory where Don Pedro is Cupid.   As we have already seen, This physical allegory is based everywhere on Much Ado About Nothing, and thus symbolizes the creation from nothing.  But there are also two main ideas that pertain to the history of ideas of nothing and Bacon manages to get these into his account through the device of allusion.

These two ideas are Zero and the Vacuum. 

Most ancient cosmologies depicted the creation as arising from a pre-existing chaos of matter.  The Greeks, and especially Aristotle abhorred the idea that everything could have come from nothing. Aristotle even abhorred the idea of a vacuum, and laid it down in a carefully reasoned dictum that a vacuum could not exist in nature.

Bacon distinguished three degrees of knowledge among the ancients.  The last was that of the latter Greeks which had broken with experience and nature.  Before that was the early Greeks that had some contact with the facts of nature, and before them was the earliest antiquity which Bacon called the primitive wisdom.  In his Wisdom of the Ancients Bacon said:

"The earliest antiquity lies buried in silence and oblivion, excepting the remains we have of it in sacred writ.  This silence was succeeded by poetical fables, and these, at length, by the writings we now enjoy; so that the concealed and secret learning of the ancients seems separated from the history and knowledge of the following ages by a veil, or partition-wall of fables, interposing between the things that are lost and those that remain."

Bacon said he had a high regard for the ancient mythology, and adds that he receives them not as as the product of the age, or invention of the poets:

."but as sacred relics, gentle whispers, and the breath of better times, that from the traditions of more ancient nations came, at length, into the flutes and trumpets of the Greeks.

But Bacon had a fundamental disagreement even with the primitive Wisdom, because he believed that everything was created from nothing.  He said:

 "For by one who philosophizes according to the sense alone, the eternity of matter is asserted, the eternity of the world (such as we now see it) is denied; and this was the conclusion both of the primitive wisdom, and of him who comes nearest to it, Democritus.  The same thing is testified by Sacred Write; the principal difference being, that the latter represents matter also as proceeding from God; the former, as self-existing.  For there seems to be three things with regard to this subject which we know by faith.  First, that matter was created from nothing.  Secondly, that the development of a system was by the word of Omnipotence; and not that matter developed itself out of chaos into the present configuration.  Thirdly, that this configuration (before the fall) was the best of which matter (as it had been created) was susceptible.  These however were doctrines to which those philosophies could not rise.  Creation out of nothing they cannot endure"

It would be a mistake to think that Bacon espoused the doctrine of the creation from nothing because it was a part of the Christian tenet.  Rawley says of Bacon:

"I have been induced to think, that if there were a beam of knowledge derived from God upon any man in these modern times, it was upon him.  For though he was a great reader of books, yet he had not his knowledge from books, but from some grounds and notions from within himself; which, notwithstanding he vented with great caution and circumspection."

The truly incredible thing about Bacon was that his psychic powers were as great as his intellectual powers, and he merely used the myths of the ancients in "The Wisdom of the Ancients" and the tenet of the Church, as in this case, as a means of external propaganda to shore up support for his own ideas. I have noted before that of all historical precedents Bacon's perception seems closest to that of the Vedic Seers.  The Hymn of Creation in the very ancient Rig Veda matches his idea of the creation exactly:

"Neither nonbeing nor being was as yet,
Neither was airy space nor heavens beyond;
What was enveloped?  And where?  Sheltered by whom?
And was there water?  Bottomless, unfathomed?

Neither was there death nor immortality,
Nor was there any sign then of night or day;
Totally windless, by itself, the One breathed:
Beyond that, indeed, NOTHING whatever was.

In the Principle darkness concealed darkness;
Undifferentiated surge was this whole world.
The pregnant point covered by the form matrix,
From conscious fervor, mightily, brought forth the One.

In the Principle, thereupon, rose desire,
Which of consciousness was the primeval seed.
Then the wise, searching within their hearts, perceived
That in nonbeing lay the bond of being."

One might think that early Christianity inherited the idea of creation out of nothing from Judaism.
After all the King James Version of the bible begins with:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without from and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

This implies, although it does not state outright, that God created everything from nothing.  Actually, however, there appears to have been little interest in the subject, and there is no explicit statement in early Jewish writings about the creation of the Universe.  The idea of creation from nothing sidled into Christian dogma from the idea mills of their worse enemies &endash; the Gnostics, emerging primarily out of the ideas of the Gnostic Basilides.  In a carefully reasoned argument Basilides and his school in Antioch proposed that in the beginning there was just pure ineffable Nothing.  This is the earliest explicit rejection of the general idea of the formation of the world out of chaos.  Basilides' views became widely accepted and the rejection of the formation model for the origin of the world allowed creation out of nothing to become established during the 2nd half of the 2nd century.  The early Christian Church fathers were generally an uneducated bunch, with no interest in any specific doctrine of the creation of the world and would have been happy to match a picture of the world forming out of pre-existent material with the Genesis account.  But they had no one capable of combating Basilides' account.  As a result creation ex nihilo was adopted as a central doctrine of the Church, and the theories of world formation out of anything other than nothing was rejected as heretical challenges to the omnipotence of God and an adherence to the heretical theories of the godless philosophers.  

This tells us why Bacon used the name Peter and John in the opening passage.  This is an allusion to the early beginnings of Christianity, as is the name of Don Pedro's attendant, Balthasar, which was the name of one of the Wise Men.  Around the middle of the 2nd century Creation ex nihilo was adopted as a central doctrine of the early Christian Church and theories of world formation out of anything other than nothing were rejected as heretical challenges to the omnipotence of God.  This may also be the reason the location of the play is set in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  In Bacon's mythos, the Mediterranean Sea represented the old world, and the adoption by the Christian Church of the creation from nothing doctrine occurred somewhere near the middle of that era.  Don Pedro, along with Claudio and Benedick goes to Messina from Spain.  Symbolically this represents a movement back in time. But in the play we find an allusion that after the action has taken place in Messina the movement is to be back toward Spain:

Don Pedro. I do but stay till your marriage be consummate, and then go I toward Arragon.
Claudio.  I'll bring you thither, my lord, if you'll vouchsafe me.

Don Pedro.  Nay, that would be as great a soil in the new gloss of your marriage as to show a child his new coat, and forbid him to wear it.  I will only be bold with Benedick for his company."

It is as if Bacon foresaw future developments about the idea of Nothing.  In his day the effort was already under way to produce a real vacuum by sucking all of the air out of a container.  Bacon must have foreseen that progress in this effort would continue to be made after his time.  Certainly it would have been no great reach for him to have foreseen future developments about the vacuum.  I will consider some of those as I delve down into the fourth level.

 

                                                The Face Looking Toward the Future

 

You ain't seen nothin' yet
B-B-B-Baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet
Here's something that you never gonna forget

B-B-B-Baby, you just ain't seen nothin' yet.
-You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

 Bachman-Turner Overdrive


Although for more than two thousand years philosophers argued fervently about the reality of a physical vacuum, the search for the vacuum only really began to heat up when Seventeenth-century scientists began investigating the behavior of gases under pressure.  They tried to pump all of the air out of a container, and in 1638 Galileo wrote that he had noticed a limit to how high he could pump water using a suction pump.  It would rise ten and a half meters, but no higher.  At first this seemed to confirm Aristotle's dictum that 'Nature abhors a vacuum'.  The answer to the puzzle of the water pumps was solved in the year 1643 by Evangelista Torricelli, one of Galileo's students.  He showed that it was a result of atmospheric pressure from the weight of air exerting a pressure on the surface of the earth.  Later experiments demonstrated that this pressure diminished proportionately depending on the distance above the surface of the earth.

The logical inference was that at a certain point beyond the surface of the earth the air eventually thinned to the point where it ceased to exist and beyond this existed only a true vacuum.  In 1654, Otto von Guericke, a German scientist who for thirty years was one of the four mayors of the German city of Magdeburg, conducted a famous experiment in which he had a public display demonstrating the reality of the vacuum.  His celebrated 'Magdeburg Hemispheres' consisted of two hollow bronze hemispheres, carefully constructed to fit closely together to make a good seal.  A pump was requisitioned from the local fire service and attached to a valve on one of them through which all the air was sucked out after they were joined together to form a spherical shell.  Then two teams of horses were harnessed together and hitched up to each hemisphere and driven off in opposite directions in an attempt to tear the hemispheres apart.  Despite all their efforts they failed!  Next Von Guericke opened the valve to let the air back in and the hemispheres were effortlessly separated.

Later scientists came up with the idea of a extremely subtle substance labeled 'ether' that permeated all of space.  This idea was eventually proven to be false.  The movement toward a perfect vacuum continued until finally it was reached.   Here was nothing at last, or was it? 

As physical science progressed so did mathematical science.  In 1854 British logician, George Boole, published a book, "The Laws of Thought".  Boole demonstrated that mathematical logic could be constructed solely on the basis of one and zero.  Boolean algebra enabled mathematicians to conduct mathematical operations supported by the mathematical rigor of the laws of pure thought.  But Boolean algebra gave a peculiar result.  George Cantor (between 1874 and 1807) went on to develop Boolean algebra as an important tool to deal with sets.  A set is a collection.  It's members can be anything all types of stones, or bones, or cabbages and kings.  Given a set we can always create a bigger set from it by forming the set which contains all the subsets of the first set.  Based on this it was found that all numbers could be created from nothing.  Start with the empty set of which the number of sets is exactly one.  Based on the empty set (zero), and the set of empty sets (1) all numbers can be derived from nothing.  

Euclid's geometry was the most impressive and powerful instrument wielded by mathematicians for  thousands of years.  His beautiful structure of axioms and deductions leading to truths labeled 'theorems'  not only gave the key to new knowledge about the motions of the planets, and new techniques for engineering, but the supreme insights of the great Newton himself was achieved by means of this geometry.  However, mathematicians, principally Georg Berhard Riemann (1826-66) discovered that Euclid's geometry of flat surfaces was not the one and only logically consistent geometry.  It was only one of many possible logically self-consistent systems of geometry.  And with these geometries it was possible to have, not just the two dimensions of a flat surface, but three, or four, or any number of dimensions you wished.  This mathematics gave Einstein the tool he needed for a mathematical exploration of the four dimensional reality of  his ideas on relativity.  Every solution of Einstein's field equations described an entire universe, and some of these were strange indeed, for they described the existence of entire universes, that were vacuum universes, containing absolutely NOTHING.  Of course, there is no proof such universes have ever existed, but more nothing was yet to come.

Enter Werner Heisenberg, the Uncertainty Principle, and Quantum Physics.   Quantum theory holds that probability, not absolutes, rules any physical system.  Instead of a Catch-22, this is a Catch-everything, for it means that something can materialize out of nothing.  In fact this materialization of something out of nothing does happen.  It happens constantly down at the root of materiality, and is witnessed repeatedly by scientist using high energy particle accelerators.  The acceleration of particles gives them greater mass, and this along with the use of cloud-chambers, or bubble-chambers (a device invented by Glaser in 1952 to observe the paths of subatomic particles with energies too high for a cloud chamber to be used) enables scientists to observe the elementary particles, always in partnership with their accompanying anti-particles, materializing and almost instantaneously disappearing.

The vacuum is subject to quantum uncertainties also.  Since it is all a matter of probabilities, this means something can materialize out of the nothing of the vacuum although it will tend to vanish back into nothing almost instantaneously.  Who needs God when you have Quantum Theory?  The quantum vacuum can be viewed as a sea composed of all the elementary particles and their antiparticles continually appearing and disappearing   Theoretically, anything, even a full grown rabbit, complete with its bunny tail could materialize out of nothing.  Probability, however, dictates that the pairs of subatomic particles one positive, one negative, so that conservations laws are not violated are by far the most likely creations, and that the duration of their existence will only be for the most infinitesimal period of time. 

At this point the stage was set, it only needed the right person to come along, to begin the next act, and along came Guth.  Alan Guth, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a decided disposition toward making leaps, and we may assume that includes mental leaps.  He was the champion long jumper at his high school in Highland Park, New Jersey, long before, in 1979 at the age of 32, he originated his theory that the universe was created from nothing.  And this theory has since vanquished every theoretical challenge and grown stronger with each new cosmological finding.  Guth's claim to fame is he was first to note that if a particular type of nothing erupted into existence in the beginning it could have accounted for the universe as we now know it, and for a whole array of specific features of this universe.  This particular type of nothing was a vacuum with a very strong repulsive gravitational field, one so strong in fact, that this particular brand of cosmic rabbit could multiply madly as rabbits tend to do, and in company with its progeny go hopping down the bunny trail to create the entire universe.  

The April, 2002, cover of "Discover Magazine" had the following blurb:

"The universe burst into SOMETHING from absolutely NOTHING-zero, nada. 
And even as it got bigger, it became filled with even more stuff that came from absolutely NOWHERE.
  How is that possible? 
Ask Alan Guth.
His theory of inflation helps explain everything."

Chalk up one for Francis Bacon.  He knew the universe came into existence from NOTHING 400 years before Guth came along.  Actually, chalk up two for Francis Bacon.  The cosmological allegory in "Much Ado About Nothing" indicates creation is continually being created from nothing.  So he knew also that the universe was not just created in the beginning from nothing, but that additional parts of the universe are continually being created from nothing.  Okay, chalk up three for Francis Bacon.  Standing tall there, right along side of the idea that the universe came from nothing ,is the idea that this materialization of something from nothing in this universe was a result of the breaking of symmetry.  The nothing that existed in the beginning was perfect symmetry.  There are die-hards around who still call that God.  Bacon was in on that one too.  A review of my article on "Measure for Measure" will demonstrate that Bacon was the first person to equate God as the fount of symmetry, and symmetry as the basic law of the universe..

But Bacon goes beyond this even.  You ain't seen nothing yet.  As Loren Eiseley notes of Bacon in his "The Man Who Saw Through Time", "He was truly a man for the ages and his insight soars beyond us still."  We have only to examine the face looking toward the future in "Much Ado About Nothing".  When we come to the end of the play and Beatrice and Hero are unmasked, what have we found?  They represent the totality of human knowledge what Bacon referred to as the two tribes of human knowledge.  And what has he shown at the root of all the drama involved with these two tribes of human knowledge?  He has shown that the foundation of it all is NOTHING.  This is the 'form' of all human knowledge as derived from the inquiry of his discovery device.  Here again, Bacon's perception aligns itself with the perception of the ancient Vedic Seers.  To them all was illusion, beneath and behind which existed NOTHING.  And this is the sense of that famous passage in The Tempest, where Prospero the Magus, personification of the pinnacle of all human knowledge, sums it all up:

"And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palances,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind.  We are such stuff

As dreams are made on"

_________

 

This, then, is the ultimate NOTHING of the play, and the form of all our knowledge.  


*****  

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