THE ESOTERIC SIGNIFICANCE OF CYMBELINE
Ms. Beryl C. Pogson, in her study ‘The Esoteric Significance of Cymbeline’, from the Baconiana archives (www.sirbacon.org/esotericcymbeline.htm), provides some telling insights into the mythic-symbolic background of this somewhat neglected member of the miraculous late group of plays. Yet, although she comes tantalisingly close on many occasions, and displays just the right sort of mind – not as common as you might think – to engage with this most important aspect of Sir Francis Bacon’s work, she must be judged in the end to have failed to carry off the prize. For the final goal, of the complete elucidation of the esoteric aspects of Cymbeline and the corpus as a whole, is certainly attainable. The central esoteric concern of the Shakespeare plays is, as Ms. Pogson, Peter Dawkins and others have noted, the transformation of the psyche: and the psyche in question is Will Shakspere’s.
I do not propose at this point to expand on the argument of my book Ugly Dick and the Goddess of Complete Being (2003), but rather to let it emerge naturally from the detailed exegesis of Cymbeline to follow. Briefly, I build on the work of the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes in his Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (faber, 1992), which conclusively showed the tragedies to be allegories of Will Shakspere’s submission to and recovery from a massive nervous breakdown, which had stricken him after he had been for some years in thrall to Puritanism. In 834 pages of close argument, I show the First Folio to be organised as a strict pesher, in which Bacon records Shakspere’s case history, and his successful treatment of him per medium of the written word. The First Folio (hereafter FF) is thus shown to form, as allegory, the hitherto presumed lost or abandoned Part IV of Bacon’s Instauratio Magna, in which he intended to apply his scientific method to the problem of the human mind.
UDGCB covers Cymbeline in précis form, but I will present here a detailed scene-by-scene analysis. The only way to prove a pesher is by drilling down to its lowest foundations, and putting the details to the severest question, to assess the strength and consistency of the whole. The final Act as allegory will be shown in particular to be, in its depiction of the genesis of FF in the author’s mind, perhaps the most striking and memorable in the corpus. Firstly, however, let us establish, as a map to guide us in this brave new world, the pesher values of the main characters.
As a pivotal point of departure from Ms. Pogson’s work, let us consider the following:
No derivation has been found for the name Imogen. Spelt Innogen it appears in another of the plays, but in its present form it is an annagram of i-gnome, which suggests a Greek equivalent of without name.
Bacon in fact formed the name ‘Imogen’ from the Latin imus, ‘the lowest’, or ‘the depths’, and the root of genero, ‘I beget’, whence ‘genus’, generation’, &c. Imogen was ‘born in the depths’, and is yet another of the many Goddesses of the Underworld, or Queens of Hell, in the plays, all of whom are also Grail Queens: for the wisdom derived from knowledge of the world that lies unseen below the surface of things is the Holy Grail of the hero’s questing. Bacon identified, in his Natural History (1622), the unseen world as the focus of his scientific interest:
The knowledge of man (hitherto) hath been determined by the view or sight; so that whatsoever is invisible, either in respect of the fineness of the body itself, or the smallness of the parts, or of the subtlety of the motion, is but little inquired. And yet these be the things that govern nature principally; and without which you cannot make any true analysis and indication of the proceedings of nature.
The invisible world was central to the philosophy of Plato, in which Bacon was steeped. In the realm of the mind, this unseen dimension is the unconscious: specifically, to use Jung’s term, the collective unconscious, which encompasses but does not wholly consist of, the instincts, or libido. (And we shall see that it is indeed Sir Francis Bacon, rather than Freud or Jung, who should be considered the father of Western depth psychology).
Now let us examine the name ‘Iachimo’, which Bacon derived from the Latin iaceo, ‘I cast down’, and imus, ‘the depths’. The fatal flaw of the Puritan – the villain of FF as allegory – is his denial, predicated on the suppression of the imagination, of this unseen world of nature, which yet will return, in a typical Freudian scenario, as the will-to-eros, to irrupt the conscious ego and plunge him into psychic crisis. Iachimo is this principle – is, in fact, the ‘boar’, which first bares his ugly tusks in Venus and Adonis (wherein Adonis is the first in a long series of Puritan figures), and appears explicitly or implicitly throughout the plays. ‘Iachimo’ is therefore closely related to ‘Othello’, which Bacon this time formed from the Greek otheo, ‘I cast away’, I thrust out’, and ‘hell’. The crucial scene in Imogen’s midnight chamber, where she lies sleeping with a taper burning, observed in secret by Iachimo, portrays, as we shall see, the moment when the Puritan allows his imagination to play on the written word, and recreate the Goddess therein, to bring the libido storming back in to fill the void. (There is much compelling evidence in the plays to suggest that the reference is to the graphically described seduction of Fotis by Lucius in Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, and Will Shakspere’s surrender to it aet. 23, as a hardened Puritan, to precipitate the breakdown, and his abandonment of his family and flight to London).
Ms. Pogson gives a plausible yet flawed scenario for the derivation of the name of the central character of Posthumus Leonatus:
Now the name Posthumus is derived from the Latin postumus which means final or ultimate. (The h in the spelling, by the way, has crept in accidentally through a misunderstanding of the derivation.) Thus Posthumus stands for the 'ultimate Man'---that is, the fully developed Man, Man as he might become if he developed spiritually. Then the secondary meaning of the name is equally significant--born after the father's death. Posthumus is therefore a Widow's Son, a recognized term for an Initiate, or one who has undergone spiritual re-birth. Thus he follows in the train of Perceval and a long line of Initiates in Esoteric Legend in the tradition of the Son of Isis. The surname Leo-natus suggests that his father had reached the Lion Degree of Mithraism--and this fits in with the traces of Mithraism which are to be found in the background of the play. After the Roman occupation there were centers of Mithraic worship in Britain.
Let us first deal with the patronymic. This ‘lion’ (leo-) plays a central role in the plays, appearing explicitly in the names Posthumus Leonatus, Leontes (The Winter’s Tale), Leonato (Much Ado About Nothing); as the lion of the play-within-a-play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; implicitly in ‘Titus Andronicus’ (from Pliny’s tale Andronicus the Lion); in the lion’s skin worn by the Archduke of Austria in King John; and so on. The FF allegory takes the form of a pesher, in which every character or place or thing is linked to its allegorical value at its every appearance without exception, both within the same play, and in the different plays in which it may appear. And so with respect to the lion, which bears in its every instance without exception the pesher value of the Puritan ego. Bacon’s source was almost certainly the tale of Samson’s vanquishing of the lion on his way to a tryst with the Philistine girl in Judges 14, to which he referred in a petition to the House of Lords:
… if any of you will do posterity good, if out of the carcass of a dead and rotten lion, there may honey gathered for the use of further times.
Here is the latter part of the story, from the King James Bible:
And after some days, returning to take her, he went aside to see the carcass of the lion, and, behold, there was a swarm of bees in the mouth of the lion and a honeycomb. And when he had taken it in his hands, he went on eating; and coming to his father and his mother, he gave them of it, and they ate. But he would not tell them, that he had taken the honey from the body of the lion.
Bacon used this story to refer to the death of Will Shakspere as Puritan (the breakdown), and the resurrection into Gnostic nobility which that fall enabled, with the honey in the mouth of the dead lion betokening, of course, the words of the FF. The last sentence of the tale as quoted above is particularly relevant, as suggesting the element of allegory and secrecy in the FF message’s transmission. (It is also fascinating to note that the hero’s vanquishing of a lion plays a central role in Wolfram’s Grail saga Parzival (undoubtedly a key source and inspiration for Bacon in his construction of the plays), and the Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh.)
Let us examine closely Posthumus’ background. His father is named as Sicilius Leonatus; and one thinks immediately of Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, whose country is Sicily. Scholars have puzzled over the transposition of Sicily and Bohemia in TWT, with respect to Greene’s Pandosto, its principal source; but the answer can readily be found in history, and it is of the highest allegorical importance. Polixenes in TWT, whose country is Bohemia, is a kind of Gnostic ideal, a Solomon/Alexander/Gnostic Christ figure; while Leontes is, as I have suggested, a Puritan analogue. Bohemia was from 1576-1612 the country of the inspirational Hermetist Rudolf II, the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor who had set up his court in its capital Prague. He fostered there all the activities which are associated with such exemplary Hermetic centres as 1C & 2C Alexandria and 13C Sicily: the establishment of vast libraries, the fostering of philosophers and artists, and translators of texts from Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and other key languages, the patronage of magi, and so on. Giordano Bruno visited Rudolf’s court, and also, remarkably, John Dee, whose own library was almost certainly the principal conduit of the Gnostic inheritance into Elizabethan England. Bohemia therefore provided the perfect home for Polixenes, the Gnostic ideal, in Bacon’s play of 1609. In a similar way was Sicily the perfect home for Leontes, in whom the Gnostic tradition is suppressed. For Palermo, Sicily’s capital, had been an even more perfect Hermetic centre under the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II, who commenced his reign in 1220. Like Rudolf II, Friedrich conflicted fiercely with Rome, which resulted in his excommunication in 1227. It was in Palermo, in the poetry contests he sponsored, that the sonnet was born. He established the University of Naples, one of the first universities in Europe, and his Salerno medical school was far ahead of its time. By Elizabethan times, however, the shadow of orthodoxy had once again fallen over Sicily. In the time of writing of TWT Bohemia therefore enshrined the Gnostic deal, while Sicily represented a cruel betrayal of it; and thus they lent themselves beautifully as the homes of Polixenes and Leontes respectively.
Sicilius Leonatus in Cymbeline is therefore a Leontes analogue, the Puritan figure of the play. So too is Cymbeline himself, like the rest of Bacon’s kings, and he establishes their identity by giving Sicilius two sons – they ‘in the wars o’ th’ time/Died with their swords in hand’ – who resonate with the two lost sons of Cymbeline. Cymbeline has lost two sons, like Sicilius, and will die, but on the psychic rather than literal plane: so that Ms. Pogson is quite right to emphasise the spiritual death and rebirth connotation of the name ‘Posthumus’. Cymbeline’s two lost sons bear, as we shall see, the pesher value of the highest Gnostic nobility and power, based on the wisdom and understanding derived from the written word; and this principle is also suggested by the swords held by Sicilius’ two sons, for the blade bears always in the plays – as a symbol of the phallos, an expression of the invisible world in the visible – the pesher value of the unseen world, and it is this dimension which is explored and celebrated in the Gnostic written word, but anathematised in the Puritan.
Posthumus is indeed a ‘Son of the Widow’, as Ms. Pogson acutely remarks; and further, significantly, he was ‘ripped’ from his mother’s womb, by what is now termed a Caesarean section. One recalls Macduff in Macbeth, who is likewise ‘not of woman born’ (i.e., ripped from his mother’s womb), and is therefore the fated killer of Macbeth (the ‘boar’). The same principle applies in both plays: that the transformation being described is not a physical process but a psychic one. Posthumus represents, like Cymbeline’s Queen, the world misconceived by the Puritan, as divorced from the dimension underlying it; or specifically here, the ego, as divorced from the collective unconscious: and when this dies, the initiate will come into his own.
Posthumus is an aspect of the initiate, namely, that part of the ego which makes the ‘Journey of the Hero’ to engage with the unseen world (Imogen) as idea rather than blind will, and thereby acquire for the initiate the quality of Gnostic nobility. Bacon uses this technique elsewhere in the plays, most notably in The Taming of the Shrew, where Petruccio makes the depth journey to marry Kate, a typical Queen of Hell and Imogen analogue, while Lucentio (< Latin lucens, ‘shining’) is that aspect of the same ego which now beholds the visible world (‘Bianca’, < Italian for ‘white’) in its true nature, as founded on the world underlying it. Lucentio and Petruccio are, if you like, king and priest respectively, in the way of the Gnostic Christ, whose revolutionary political act was to unite those two roles. Bacon’s model and inspiration for this technique can only have been Wolfram’s Parzival, wherein, after Parzival’s first unsuccessful encounter in the Grail castle Munsalvaesche, the journey splits in two, with Gawain (analogous to Posthumus) undertaking the specifically underworld component of the quest (see my Ugly Dick and the Goddess of Complete Being, Ch. 44).
This character appears in Holinshed, along with his two sons Guiderius and Arviragus; but his esoteric meaning is to be found by reference to Dr. Belario of Padua in The Merchant of Venus, who bears the pesher value of the broadly Gnostic written tradition. Bacon formed this name from bel and ario[a], ‘beautiful [musical] air’. Music is used always in the plays to connote the broadly Musical arts of reading and writing, memory and recitation, poetry and song, and so on – the key plank of Bacon’s therapeutic strategy vis-à-vis Will Shaspere. Bacon’s source for this was most plausibly the early pages of Plato’s Republic, where Socrates uses ‘music’ in precisely this broad sense. That the character of Autolycus in TWT is also likely to have been sourced from here increases the probability of the Republic being the source of both. Music bears precisely this pesher value in CYM, as we shall see.
‘Air’ further resonates in CYM with Imogen herself, as Ms. Pogson remarks. Here is the Soothsayer interpreting the oracle to Cymbeline in the final lines:
of tender air, thy virtuous daughter,
Which we call mollis aer; and mollis aer
We term is mulier : which mulier, I divine,
Is this most constant wife.
That is, it is engagement with the unseen world as idea rather than blind will that is the sine qua non of the Musical arts.
‘Guiderius’ is his given name. He is Belarius’ elder foster son, the true elder son of Cymbeline. Belarius states (III.iii, in the FF version) that he gave him the name ‘Paladour’, and shortly after directly addresses him as ‘Polidore’ (III.vii). The former is undoubtedly a contraction of the Spanish palabra, ‘word’, and oro, ‘gold’. It therefore is to be construed as ‘Words of gold’, and he represents the written word as vector of the Gnostic tradition. ‘Polidore’ is a reference to Holinshed, who states that one Polidore called Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brittaniae the ‘new history’, as opposed to Julius Caesar’s narrative of his conquest of Britain. Rome bears always in the plays the pesher value of Puritanism, the source being Virgil’s Aeneid, in which the founder of Rome is shown cruelly abandoning Dido (another Queen of Hell-Grail Queen, and Cleopatra analogue) en route. This is also its value in CYM, as we shall see. Guiderius therefore represents, in his double alias of Paladour-Polidore, the written word as perceived by the Gnostically enquiring ego: that is to say, the ego reasoning and vividly imagining, to the end of realising Platonic Ideas, at the bottom of which the unseen world may be known. The nobility accruing from this knowledge will be consequent on (younger than) the ego’s engagement with the word. Guiderius’ younger brother is therefore
whom Belarius consistently addresses as ‘Cadwal’/’Cadwall’. This is a reference to Monmouth, who describes King Cadwallo – the penultimate Pendragon, in the Cymbeline line – as nobilissimus … atque potentissimus … rex Britonum, ‘the most noble and powerful of the British kings’. Fascinatingly, Monmouth relates how Cadwallo, after being taken by a storm, allied himself with the Armorican King Salomon, after which he defeated the usurping tyrant Edwin, his half brother. The storm in FF represents always the ‘brainstorm’ of reason by which he subject defeats his demon the boar, the libido cast in negative mantle by Puritanism, coming surging, in a typically Freudian process, back into the ego to fill the void. We remember also the central role of King Solomon in FF as a type of the Gnostic ideal – he is sensed behind the several ‘foul and fair’ Goddesses, as reference to the lover in the Song of Solomon; and also in the numerous rings and diamonds, and other jewels, a reference to his famous ring, and precious jewel (Schamir). Further, ‘Edwin’ suggests ‘Edmund’, the ‘boar’ of King Lear. Bacon’s choice of the name ‘Cadwal’ was therefore exquisite and apt.
A ridiculous and contemptible character, he is the inverse of the Posthumus principle, namely, the Puritan ego in its vain and pathetic attempt to claim mastery over the invisible world of nature (Imogen). Bacon most plausibly derived his name from Cloten, a mid-7C king of Dyfed ‘who managed to secure for himself a lucrative marriage to Princess Ceindrych, the heiress of King Rhiwhallon ap Idwallon of Brycheiniog. The United Kingdom of Dyfed and Brycheiniog lasted for the next three generations.’ (http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/bios/clotedf.html) Just so will Clothen in CYM metamorphose into the Posthumus principle (this is the point of his being beheaded (psychically transformed) while dressed in Posthumus’ clothes), and the ego be enriched and stabilised by proper engagement with the unseen world.
‘Philario’ is formed from the Greek phileo, ‘I love’, and the Italian ario[a], ‘air’. He is the psychic principle that is in love with Imogen; and his sharing of the Italian stage with Posthumus-in-exile and Iachimo (the boar) indicates that this is carnal love, of the type which Bacon thought himself to have conquered, dualist as he was (see http://www.sirbacon.org/matherpig.htm). This interpretation is supported by Philario’s insistence that he and Sicilius Leonatus ‘were soldiers together, to whom I have often been bound for no less than my life.’ The point being made here is that the Puritan denies the underworld, and therefore can never transcend it. And Rome bears always, as I have said, the pesher value of the Puritan ego: so that Posthumus’ exile is a portrayal of the Puritan’s repudiation of engagement with the underworld. This is another way in which Bacon identifies Sicilius and Cymbeline (the ego of which Posthumus is an aspect). The Puritan’s nobility is therefore a sham, a too easily assumed imposture, which is doomed to come undone. The truly Gnostic noble, on the other hand, has, as Bacon understood it, succeeded in conquering the blind libido in himself. This principle is stated clearly in the ritual of the twenty-eighth (‘Knight of the Sun’) degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (of Freemasonry) with which Bacon would have been thoroughly familiar: ‘Ye who have not the power to subdue passion, flee from this place of truth.’ (Knight C. and Lomas R., The Second Messiah).
Bacon was thinking of Pisa’s famous tower, which he takes here as symbolic of the phallos, an expression of the unseen world in the seen (cf. Sir William de la Pole in Henry the Sixth Part 2; Polonius in Hamlet). Thus is Pisanio Posthumus’ servant, for engagement with the libido as idea, in the Gnostically noble way, ideally leads to mastery over it. Posthumus and Pisanio are separated for much of the play however, as the Puritan subject continues his denial of the unseen world; and Pisanio’s actions during this time are indefectibly consistent with his pesher value, as we shall see.
Now let us take a scene-by-scene tour of Cymbeline, drilling down to detail all the while, to observe the daedal magnificence of Bacon’s creation.
We have examined Posthumus’ lineage as detailed here. It only remains to note that his mother ‘deceast as he was borne’. Both his parents are therefore dead, but they live on of course as Cymbeline and his Queen, the Puritan and his false conception of the world, as divided from the unseen world underlying its surface. Posthumus’ rich education and wonderful gifts are described, as Bacon begins at square one (a familiar technique of his), to set the stage for the Puritan’s suppression of the Posthumus principle.
Let us outline the action of this scene, and then see how Bacon builds the allegory upon it.
The Queen is walking in the garden, in connivance at Posthumus’ and Imogen’s private tête-à-tête. She then returns, and determines to summon the king, hoping to profit from his displeasure, then exits. Cymbeline enters, and fulminates against the lovers. The Queen re-enters, and Cymbeline exits, having ordered Posthumus’ banishment and Imogen’s restraint. Pisanio enters, describing how his master Posthumus drew swords with Clothen, and toyed with him before sparing him. Pisanio tells how Posthumus would not let him accompany him to Milford Haven, and then shows the Queen letters from Posthumus describing how he (Pisanio) should be commanded, should the Queen wish to employ him.
Bacon always begins at square one, to enable the depiction of the contrast between health and sickness, or the reverse. The garden bears always in FF the pesher value of the world as contemplated by the Gnostic noble. Persephone, who was simultaneously Goddess of Spring and Queen of Hell (and therefore an Imogen analogue), as spending two thirds of the year in the underworld with her father Dis, is its presiding deity. Here is John Prest in his The Garden of Eden (Yale UP, 1981):
… the value of a botanic garden was that it conveyed a direct knowledge of God. Since each plant was a created thing, and God had revealed a part of himself in each thing that he created, a complete collection of all the things created by God must reveal God completely. Given the supposed relation between the macrocosm and the microcosm, the man who knew nature best knew most about himself.
The key word here is ‘knowledge’, like ‘noble’ and ‘Gnostic’ from the Greek gignosko, ‘I know’. We recall also the axiom ‘Know Thyself’, which was inscribed above the lintel of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, which plays such an important part in The Winter’s Tale and elsewhere, in plays that are allegories of psychic transformation. So that early in this scene we have the ideal scenario of the Gnostic enquirer engaging with the unseen world (dialogue of Posthumus and Imogen) as he contemplates the given world (Queen-garden).
The Queen’s volte-face vis-à-vis the lovers is distinctly odd, to say the least. One moment she is all kindly matchmaker, the next she is plotting their ruin so that she may be enriched by Cymbeline:
Queen If the king come, I shall incur, I know not
How much of his displeasure; yet Ile move him
To walke this way: I never do him wrong,
But he do’s buy my iniuries, to be Friends:
Payes deere for my offences.
This is an unusual state of affairs, and not wholly convincing. At least, that is, on the literal plane; but on the allegorical it is highly significant: for here we have the first appearance of the sham world as conceived by the Puritan, who is strengthening that conception in his mind all the time (Cymbeline’s enrichment of Queen: for money bears always in FF the pesher value of the empowerment of a principle).
Pisanio cannot of course accompany Posthumus in exile, for the libido is now no longer under the ego’s control. It is the ennobling effect of the written word which enables this control to be assumed:
Pisanio On his command: he would not suffer mee
To bring him to the haven: left these Notes
Of what commands I should be subject too,
When’t pleas’d you to employ me.
It is the Puritan’s misconception of the world that is directly responsible for his repudiation of engagement with its unseen dimension:
Imogen [to Queen] About some halfe houre hence,
Pray you speake with me:
You shall (at least) go see my Lord aboord.
For this time leave me.
The Lord bears always the pesher value of conceptualisation and higher judgement (which is the comparison of concepts). In this scene, one Lord takes Cloten at face value, while the other cannot disguise his contempt for him. This is an expression of the Puritan’s nagging self-contempt, especially as manifest by the young Will Shakspere. One recalls these lines of Richard’s in Richard the Third I.iii, which I have argued to be a study of aspects of Shakspere’s seduction of Anne Hathway (Lady Anne in this scene):
Richard My dukedome, to a Beggerly denier!
I do mistake my person all this while:
Upon my life she findes (although I cannot)
My selfe to be a marv’llous proper man.
This scene is a two-hander with Imogen and Pisanio. Their extended dialogue, while Posthumus is separated from them, indicates that the phallos has regressed to being influenced by the underworld as blind will. Pisanio is indeed now in Imogen’s service:
Imogen Those things I bid you do, get them dispatch’d,
I will attend the Queene.
Pisanio Madam, I shall.
Here Iachimo wagers Posthumus, with Philario significantly present (see above), that he will be able to seduce Imogen. Iachimo bets gold; Posthumus, his ring of gold, set with a diamond. This serves to emphasise the immense value of the ring. This yet another of the many rings in FF, the reference being to King Solomon’s Ring. Further, it is here identified with the diamond, a reference to the Schamir, his precious jewel. Solomon bears in FF, like Alexander the Great and the Gnostic Christ, the value of the Gnostic ideal. Sir Laurence Gardner describes in his Realm of the Ring Lords the identity of the Ring and Grail traditions, and FF is in truth a Grail saga, like Wolfram’s Parzival, one of Bacon’s chief inspirations and models, as I have shown. Fascinatingly, bacon was aware of this identity, as shown in All’s Well That Ends Well, whose first Act has a typical Grail theme of wounded king and ailing kingdom, while the remaining Acts form a Ring saga.
The key figure here is Cornelius, who gives the Queen the potion with which she plans to murder Imogen. He deceives her though, for, fearing her intent, he gives her a milder one, which will render the victim unconscious for a while, in a counterfeit of death, without actually killing her. Bacon’s grand plan peeps through in the origin of Doctor Cornelius, who is a reprise here of the character of the same name in Hamlet, as a reference in both cases to St. Luke, the ‘Beloved Physician’ of Jesus, whose personal name was Cornelius. His potion is the healing principle which will restore the unseen world to the ego’s world view, to effect his psychological recovery. One recalls the earlier Romeo and Juliet, where the potion which ‘kills’’ Juliet plays precisely the same literal and allegorical roles.
Let us get absolutely clear the scenario Bacon had in mind. There is abundant evidence in the plays that it was the graphically described seduction of Fotis by Lucius in Apuleius’ esoteric masterpiece The Golden Ass that was the instrument of Will Shakspere’s fall: that, after some eight years of enthralment by the Puritan world view, with its denial of the libido, he came upon this passage, and succumbed to an act of auto-erotism, which plunged him into acute psychological crisis. No doubt not a few Stratfordians and Baconists would regard this scenario as too fantastic to be true, but it is a commonplace of modern psychoanalytic literature, routine ground for the lucubrations of Freud, Jung, R.D. Laing, and so many others. Bacon was, in this as so much else, centuries ahead of his time; and it would behove the sceptics to remember his metaphor of the capacity of the sun to shine into the dirtiest places without itself being sullied. Even God was human at one stage.
In Romeo and Juliet, it is the below-ground tomb, wherein Juliet lies ‘dead’, that represents the principle of repression in the unconscious. In Cymbeline, it is Imogen’s chamber, wherein she lies confined on Cymbeline’s orders, ‘out of sight and out of mind’. And it is in Milford Haven – whither Imogen is to be liberated by Pisanio (unseen world as libido surging from unconscious), and where she herself will ‘die’ and be reborn – that the ego’s transformation and rebirth will be effected.
Oddly, because it seems to be dramatically superfluous, the Lady’s collection of flowers for the Queen’s chamber frames the scene. All becomes clear, however, when the plane of allegory is examined. Let us look closely at the opening lines:
Queen Whiles yet the dewe’s on ground,
Gather those flowers.
Make haste. Who ha’s the note of them?
Lady I Madam.
Now master Doctor, have you brought those drugges?
Cornelius Pleaseth your highness, I: here they are…
This last line clearly identifies the drug with the unseen world, by a favourite technique of Bacon’s, namely, the substitution of ‘I’ for the expected ‘Ay’, where the pronoun betokens the phallos, and hence the unseen world. Bacon always employs it with great precision and power. Its frequent occurrence in other non-Shakesperean plays of the period begs its own questions, but does not necessarily argue against the technique’s validity.
The Lady’s ‘I Madam’ also looks suspicious, although ‘I’ functions here as the customary pronoun. The oddness of the episode, and ample precedent from other plays, suggests that it is indeed allegorically significant, and that both the flowers and the drug are being identified with the unseen world. Further, ‘note’ suggests the written word, its customary vector in the plays. The point being made is that the unseen world will be immanent and ready to strike, in a classically Freudian way, in the Puritan’s false conception of the given world.
Here is another beautiful psycho-allegorical set piece, of a kind with which FF abounds. It is divisible into four passages: 1) Imogen alone in her chamber; 2) Imogen with Pisanio and Iachimo, reading a billet-doux from Posthumus; 3) Imogen alone with Iachimo, listening to his attempt at seduction; 4) Imogen repulsing him, and Iachimo forming the plan to smuggle himself into her chamber in a trunk.
Bacon sets the scene. Here is the Queen of Hell (1). The subject is contemplating her, and phallic tumescence (Pisanio) supervenes, offering the temptation of eros, and threatening to plunge him thereby into crisis (Iachimo: the ‘charge of the boar’). Posthumus’ letter to Imogen is another instance of the principle of referral, with the subject in this case writing rather than reading the Gnostic word, which always refers ultimately to the unseen world. Iachimo’s lengthy interlude is of the highest allegorical significance:
Iachimo Thanks fairest Lady.
What are men mad? Hath Nature given them eyes
To see this vaulted Arch, and the rich Crop
Of Sea and Land, which can distinguish ‘twixt
The firie Orbs above, and he twinn’d Stones
Upon the number’d Beach, and can we not
Partition make with Spectales so pretious
Twixt faire, and foule?
Imogen What makes your admiration?
– And so on, with Iachimo animadverting to himself on the grossness of erotic appetite. This portrays the subject’s feeling of disgust with himself, and his determination to ignore the temptation to carnality; and his success in this endeavour is betokened by the exit of Pisanio, to bring this stanza to a close (2). The libido tries its hardest to assert itself (Iachimo’s prolonged attempt to seduce Imogen), but to no avail for now, and tumescence is suppressed (Imogen’s thrice-repeated and unsuccessful ‘What hoa, Pisanio?’) (3). The libido will persist nevertheless in the unconscious (Iachimo in the trunk) (4). The trunk, as representing the repressive principle, is therefore cognate with the arrases in Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and King John.
In this Act we will study both the inner workings of the psyche, the microscopic changes in its organs, if you like (Iachimo in Imogen’s chamber), and the visible behaviour of the patient as the disease takes hold. It is essential to appreciate that Clothen and Posthumus in Italy are one: for Rome bears always in the plays the value of the Puritan world view, the reference being to Aeneas, who famously abandoned Dido, recognised in FF as a Cleopatra analogue, and herself therefore a Queen of Hell. Cymbeline represents the totality of the ego; Clothen and the exiled Posthumus, that part of it which denies the unseen world.
In this first scene, the Puritan contemplating the written erotic episode feels the first feint stirrings of the long-suppressed libido (Clothen being advised of Iachimo’s arrival in Britain). It is indeed the written word that is the instrument:
Clothen Leonatus? A banisht Rascall; and he’s another
whatsoever he be. Who told you of this stranger?
1 Lord One of your Lordships Pages.
– For the Page bears always in FF the value of just that, the written or printed page. Clothen is named by the second Lord as a ‘Foole’ and an ‘Asse’. This is an explicit reference to the ass journey of Lucius in Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, as we shall soon see.
Here is the crucial scene in Imogen’s chamber. Her lady is named as Helene: and Helen or Helene is always a Queen of Hell in the plays. Further, Helen was the sister of Castor and Pollux, of whom Bacon was arguably thinking when he elaborated the characters of the brothers Guiderius and Arviragus, who represent in Cymbeline the nobility and power to be gained from the Gnostic written word: and Imogen will become their honorary sister. This reinforces the sense of the written word being here both the trigger of the fall and the means to the glorious resurrection. The Golden Ass, a magical masterpiece of psychic transformation, could certainly be the latter, and almost certainly, in Shakspere’s case, the former. This resonance is also strengthened by the name given Guiderius by Belarius of ‘Paladour’, which I have argued above to mean ‘Words of gold’. These associations may be a little recherché, but they are plausible nonetheless.
Imogen now sleeps (unseen world suppressed from the written word) with the taper burning (visual imagination yet active). The libido is now aroused (Iachimo rising from the trunk), grows stronger (Iachimo carefully observing the room), and climaxes in intensity (Iachimo noting the mole beneath her breast). The choice of exactly three a.m. as the time of this last stage bears, like everything in FF, an allegorical significance: for three (p.m.) was the hour of Christ’s crucifixion. This is yet another portrayal in the plays of the moment, a fateful one for Western literature, of Will Shakspere’s breakdown, from which he would arise, with the help of Sir Francis Bacon, into glory.
Imogen has been reading the tale of Tereus and Philomele:
In Ovid's version, the Thracian king Tereus routed the enemies of Athens and married Procne, daughter of king Pandion of Athens. Procne went to live in Thrace and gave birth to a son, Itys. After five years, she asked Tereus to bring her sister Philomele from Athens to visit her. Tereus duly returned to Athens, but fell in love with Philomele. He escorted her to Thrace, where he put ashore in a deserted spot, raped her and cut out her tongue when she threatened to denounce him. Leaving her incarcerated in a cottage, Tereus returned to Procne and pretended that Philomele was dead. Meanwhile, Philomele wove a tapestry depicting her rape and mutilation by Tereus and sent it to Procne, who understood its message and began to plot revenge on Tereus. Participating in the triennial rites of Dionysus she sought out Philomele's place of imprisonment and brought her back to Tereus' palace. The two sisters killed Itys, son of Procne and Tereus, and cooked his flesh. Procne then tricked Tereus into eating the dish she had prepared. At the conclusion of the meal she revealed Philomele and produced Itys's severed head. Tereus tried to kill the sisters but they were transformed into birds, a swallow and a nightingale, while he himself turned into a hoopoe.
This myth is of course central to Titus Andronicus, one of the earliest plays, in which it is Lavinia, a typical Queen of Hell-Grail Queen, who has her tongue and hands severed by the rapists Chiron and Demetrius. This renders her yet another of the silent Goddesses of FF, joining Cordelia, Hero, and Hippolyta, the point of whose muteness is that the unseen world is not speaking to the Puritan, or rather, that she is screaming at him to listen, but he has closed his ears to her. And then of course we have the rape, with its echoes of Tarquin (explicitly named in Iachimo’s speech) in The Rape of Lucrece, which portrays just this event, of Will Shakspere’s surrender to eros, in the form of auto-erotism, on that fateful day. This all serves to indicate the precise value of Imogen asleep in her chamber: namely, the unseen world denied by the Puritan and suppressed from his consciousness.
It is dawn, and Clothen has the musicians play outside Imogen’s chamber, in the hope of bringing her out. The song is again to be interpreted as meaning music in its Socratic sense as the Musical arts centring around the word. The subject is reading the text descriptive of the Goddess – it could well be Fotis in The Golden Ass – and surrendering to libido. This is then the outer aspect of what we have just witnessed in the previous scene. The text could not be clearer as to the subject’s reaction:
Clothen Come on, tune; if you can penetrate her with your fin-
gering, so: wee’l try with tongue too: if none will do,
let her remaine: but Ile never give o’re.
In my copy of the Norton facsimile FF, and presumably throughout the print run, there is a typographical oddity which reinforces the point that it is the written word that is being referred to here. The second ‘e’ is left out of ‘penetrate’, and there is ample precedent to suggest that it was deliberate:
Clothen So get you gone: if this pen trate, I will consider your
Musicke the better.
In the midst of this scene Cymbeline and the Queen enter, and are informed of the arrival in Britain of Caius Lucius, who, like all the other Luciuses and Lucios without exception throughout the plays, is a reference to the hero of The Golden Ass, whose ass-phase journey in the world of the libido will be the basis and precondition for his later assumption of Gnostic nobility. His first name ‘Caius’ is to be pronounced just as Dr. Caius in The Merry Wives of Windsor (in which Falstaff’s escapades were undoubtedly modelled on Lucius’ in The Golden Ass), as ‘Keys’ – just as the Cambridge college is pronounced (and Bacon was of course a Cantabridgian): for this great fool holds the keys, like all the other fools in FF, to the kingdom of the underworld, and therefore of God.
In light of this, it is fascinating to see Clothen give gold to the lady at Imogen’s door, and Imogen to then appear from her inner chamber. Clothen, the erstwhile Puritan, is truly now, since the sudden access of will-to-eros, the ‘Golden Ass’, possessor of the keys to the kingdom.
Imogen shows nothing but contempt for Clothen; and this is an index to the Puritan’s unworthiness in the eyes of God: for Imogen’s Lady, and by association Imogen herself, is named as ‘Dorothy’, from the Greek doron theou, ‘gift of God’. Pisanio enters (tumescence consequent on access of libido). Posthumus ‘meanest garment’, with which Imogen taunts Clothen, is identified with the unseen world:
Clothen You have abus’d me:
His meanest garment?
Imogen I, I said so sir.
The import of this will become apparent in III.v, where Clothen dresses himself in Posthumus’ clothes, to make the allegorical identification between them: for the clothes will again there be identified with the ‘I’ principle.
Iachimo now discovers his ‘conquest’ of Imogen to Posthumus, who accepts it at face value. Here we have the typical ‘Shakespearean moment’, when the hero sees his lover as a whore. The boar has charged.
We move now straight into the phase of healing, corresponding to Will Shakspere in London, subject to the ministry of Sir Francis Bacon and the Gnostic tradition. The ‘charge of the boar’, with its intense emotional sequelae, has not been dwelt on here, in a way typical of the works predominantly from Bacon’s pen. On the other hand, we have the graphic intimacy of, for example, the beheading of Hastings and its aftermath in Richard the Third, for which we can only conclude Shakspere himself to have been responsible.
Caius Lucius presents himself to the British court, which refuses to continue the tribute that has been paid to Rome since Julius Caesar’s time (ego-in-transformation determining to stay no longer in thrall to Puritan world view.). In spite of the enmity of their nations, the warm feelings between Cymbeline and Lucius are plain to see. Bacon was faced with a technical problem here, in that Lucius is one of the ‘good guys’, so to speak, as yet another of the fools of FF; yet he is also of the Roman nation, which represents the Puritan world view. The explicit friendship of the two principals is one of the means by which Bacon solved this problem, and we shall shortly note some more.
Pisanio reads the letter from Posthumus detailing his plan that he (Pisanio) should murder Imogen in Milford Haven. This is another instance of the principle of referral: the ego in the very first stages of healing reading the written word, and considering the tumid phallos. The work he is meditating upon would be a Gnostic text: The Golden Ass, for example.
Pisanio now gives Imogen her letter from Posthumus, bidding her travel to Milford Haven to meet him. This is central to his plan to have her done away with. She reads it. What is going here? This is the second phase: the subject, still at his reading and contemplation, now perceiving the unseen dimension (Imogen) as denied by the Puritan to be at the root of his subjection to the libido. He has never engaged with it, and therefore can never have overcome it. This is a major step forward in his healing.
The transformation to be effected will entail the doing away with this false conception of the unseen world, and the re-institution of the truth in its place. Thus, Imogen will indeed be ‘murdered’ in Milford Haven, yet will rise again. And it is significant that Pisanio should be the medium of the potion: for it is the contemplation of his libidinousness as idea that will enable him to overcome it. It should be noted that Bacon has returned to square one here, in endowing Imogen with her original value – a common technique of his. She will now be re-activated as idea rather than blind will (as in Act II).
Whence exactly the name ‘Milford Haven’? ‘Haven’ is obvious. Richard’s landing at Milford in Richard the Third betokens the beginning of the subject’s resurrection. ‘Milford’ combines the symbolism of the mill, which turns the gross into refined, and the ford, which is opposed at all times as symbol throughout FF to the bridge. The crossing implied is of course the age-old mythic journey from the near shore of ignorance to the farther of enlightenment; but whereas the ford crosses through the substance of the river of life, the bridge avoids it: and so the former becomes in FF a symbol of the Gnostic world view, which engages nature, the latter of the Puritan, which does not, and is a counterfeit of nobility. Milford Haven therefore represents Will Shakspere’s ego-state in his healing (Melancholy Jacques) phase, which lasted ‘two years and more’ (as the final scene of Mr. Arden of Feversham tells us), and during which his reasoning imagination acted upon the ‘Musical’ arts, as directed by Bacon.
Belarius and his sons Guiderius and Argivarus are introduced (see above). They inhabit a cave in the Milford Haven environs. They represent the supreme power and nobility to be gained from the written word.
It is of the highest significance that Imogen and Pisanio have ridden part of the way by horse, and then dismounted to walk. For the horse or horse-and-rider bears always in FF the pesher value of the libido in action. The point being made here is that the unseen world and tumid phallos have been disengaged from the libido, which previously had flooded the ego to trigger the breakdown, and are now, in this new phase of healing, being considered by that same ego as idea. (Schopenhauer’s famous distinction between the world as will and idea is immensely useful in this context).
Pisanio hands Imogen the letter to him from Posthumus instructing him to kill her. This is a reprise of the progression to enlightenment we have noted in III.ii above. This time it results in Imogen assuming the guise of a (boy) Page (see above), to seek the employ of Lucius. It could not be clearer: the unseen world as described on the page will be the medium of the transformation.
Lucius parts with warm feelings, but declares that henceforth they will be enemies. His destination is, consistently, Milford Haven. The battle will in fact portray as allegory the ego-in-healing’s attempt to encounter and destroy the Puritan world-view as an active principle in his mind; and this will involve the elaboration of Puritanism – its swelling – on the printed page, as Will Shakspere makes his significant, albeit low-key, contribution to the plays of Shakespeare in his Orlando phase of creativity, which is adumbrated in the final lines of the play. This will be the point of Cymbeline’s otherwise puzzling decision to keep paying the tribute to his conquered enemy.
To emphasise once again: Clothen and Posthumus are to be identified as representing the same aspect of the Puritan ego groping toward enlightenment. Thus we have seen these lines before, in another guise:
Clothen All-worthy Villaine,
Discover where thy Mistris is, at once,
At the next word: no more of worthy Lord:
Speake, or thy silence on the instant, is
Thy condemnation, and thy death.
Pisanio Then Sir:
This paper is the historie of my knowledge
Touching her flight.
–Whereupon Clothen is pacified. This portrays, once again, the initiate contemplating as idea the unseen world examined on the page. Consistently, Clothen now adopts the clothes of Posthumus for his journey to Milford Haven, and they are identified with the unseen world:
Clothen Be those the Garments?
Pisanio I, my noble Lord.
Imogen now finds shelter in the brothers’ cave, and becomes an honorary brother (sister) to them, and son (daughter) to Belarius. Engagement with the unseen world as described in the Musical arts can bestow the highest power and nobility.
Here is an odd little scene:
Enter two Roman Senators, and Tribunes.
1. Sen. This is the tenor of the Emperor’s Writ;
That since the common men are now in Action
‘Gainst the Pannonians, and Dalmatians,
And that the legions now in Gallia, are
Full weake to undertake our Warres against
The falne-off Britaines, that we do incite
The gentry to this businesse. He creates
Lucius Pro-Consull: and to you the Tribunes
For this immediate Levy, he commands
His absolute Commission. Long live Cesar.
Tri. Is Lucius Generall of the Forces?
2. Sen I.
Tri. Remaining now in Gallia?
1. Sen With those legions
Which I have spoke of, whereunto your levie
Must be suppliant: the words of your Commission
Will tye you to the numbers, and the time
Of their dispatch.
Tri. We will discharge our duty.
This is then not the customary Roman force, as made up predominantly of common men, but an unusual force, the bulk of which is gentry. Bacon has found here an adroit way of indicating the different nature of Puritanism in this healing phase: for it does not now blindly dominate the ego, but is contemplated by that ego as idea. And it is the Lucius principle – the initiate-as-fool contemplating the unseen world, just as does ass-phase Lucius in The Golden Ass – which now has Puritanism in its command. We note that Lucius is in fact explicitly identified here with the unseen world (‘I’). (Fascinatingly, the Fool was the first stage in the Knights Templars’ psycho-transformative method, as is the hero of the early chapters of Wofram’s Parzival, a Templar text; and I have shown Parzival to have been undoubtedly one of Bacon’s chief models and inspirations for FF).
A final exquisite touch: the senator’s advice that ‘the words of your commission will tye you to the numbers’ signifies, again, that it is the written word as descriptive of the dazzling truth that will prompt Puritanism to swell as idea in the initiate’s mind, to enable its overthrow.
Clothen enters in Posthumus’ clothes, on the way to Milford Haven. Bacon makes a point of having him stress the identity of their physiques, and Imogen will reinforce this in the nest scene. Again, Clothen’s horse ‘is tied up safe’, for the libido as an active principle has been relinquished in this quest for enlightenment.
The lines of this Act are easy enough to follow, now that we have mastered the primer of Bacon’s allegorical language.
Arviragus’ observation that Imogen, now cooking for the family in their cave, ‘cut our Rootes in Charracters’, is another beautiful reference to the fact that it is the world that lies beneath the surface of things that shapes the Gnostic written word.
Now comes the episode of Clothen’s beheading by Guiderius, as Belarius and Arviragus leave him to do it alone. What is the point exactly of this choreography? For we know that in Bacon’s works there is nothing fanciful or adventitious. Let us look ahead a little, to where Belarius now stays behind to wait for Guiderius, as Arviragus goes to the cave, where he will find Imogen ‘dead’, and bring her out in tears. The name given to Guiderius by his father is, as we have seen above, ‘Paladour’/’Polidore’, which we may construe to mean ‘Words of gold of the new dispensation’. Engagement with the written word is the first step in the ego’s rebirth, and so it must be Guiderius who first strikes off Clothen’s head (which is also Posthumus’):: beheading bearing as always in FF the pesher value of psychic transformation. Consequent on this reading is the conception anew of the unseen world in the initiate’s mind, to foster his nobility and power: and this is the precisely the point of the subsequent discovery of Imogen by Arviragus, who is called by his father ‘Cadwal[l]’, which carries the connotation, as we have seen, of ‘The most noble and powerful of British kings’. It is all a beautiful piece of choreography.
Clothen’s carrying his dagger in his mouth means that the unseen world (the blade) is now the subject of the ego’s verbalisation. The name ‘Polidore’ (rather than ‘Paladour’) is mentioned no less than four times, some of them quite unnecessary, after the beheading; a clear indication that the new order has begun (see meaning of ‘Polidore’ above).
The association of Imogen and Belarius’ wife Euriphile (the boys’ foster-mother) is twice made. ‘Euriphile’ is formed from the Greek eurus, ‘wide’, and phileo, ‘I love’. The mediaeval Book of the Twenty-Four Philosophers is the source of the marvellous axiom that ‘God is an infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere’. The Gnostic transformation described in FF leads to a sense of the unity rather than diversity of humankind and nature, as based, all of it, on the common underlying world. Mather Walker informs us in a recent essay (http://www.sirbacon.org/matherpig.htm) that there is evidence that Bacon was connected to a religion called ‘The Family of Love’, whose emblem was a handshake within a flaming heart. ‘Euriphile’ indeed says much in its few letters.
Guiderius’ injunction to his brother that Clothen’s head must be laid towards the east needs no explanation, in the light of what has gone before. The song the family sings at the graveside of Imogen and (the headless) Clothen represents as always the Musical arts. The transformation is taking place; and Imogen’s re-awakening is its marker. She sees the body beside her, and identified it as Posthumus’, which it is on the allegorical plane, though not the literal. She curses Pisanio as the cause of his death; and, once again, this is perfectly correct with regard to the allegory, for it is the tumid phallos, and by extension the world of the unconscious underlying it, now contemplated as idea rather than surrendered to as blind will, which has, in the first instance, brought about the transformation.
Lucius now enters, and informs us that none other than Iachimo will be leading the Roman forces. This is as it should be, for the ‘boar’, the libido cast in negative mantle irrupting the complacent ego, is inextricably bound up with the Puritan ego: is its inevitable nemesis and Freudian consequence. The Captain bears always in FF the pesher value of Gnostic reason, with the visual imagination implied, and Lucius’ ‘Command our present numbers/ Be muster’d: bid the Captaines look too’t.’ is utterly consistent with this. Once again, this is Puritanism contemplated and controlled by the ego-in-transformation. The Soothsayer’s prediction is full of significance:
Sooth. I saw Iove’s Bird, the Roman Eagle wing’d
From the spungy South, to this part of the West,
There vanish’d in the Sun-beames, which portends
(Unlesse my sinnes abuse my Divination)
Successe to the Roman host.
This can only be the eagle of poetry which, associated with the sun of enlightenment, will bring success to the attempt to understand and control the Puritan error, and subdue the boar for good. Another interpretation could be that the representation of Puritanism in the plays of Shakespeare will make them a success, supplying the driving energy beneath the surface. Lucius explicitly identifies Imogen as a Page (written word). And the written word is again alluded to in Lucius’ ‘The Romane Emperour’s Letters/ Sent by a Consull to me, should not sooner/ Then thine owne worth preferre thee’. Imogen is again identified with the unseen world:
Imo. …And leaving so his service, follow you,
So please you entertaine mee.
Luc. I good youth…
The Lord (conceptualisation and higher judgement) now assures Cymbeline (the ego-in-transformation in toto) that Pisanio ‘shall performe/ All parts of his subiection loyally’. That is to say, the phallos-blind libido, new-stripped of its tyranny, will now be under control of the noble ego. Pisanio has received no letters from Posthumus, Imogen, or Clothen (initiate no longer referring written word to the external manifestation of the unseen world (phallos) but to that world itself).
Belarius and his sons determine to join the fight against the invading Romans. The unseen world is emphasised in two typographical oddities, which are only apparent in FF:
Guiderius Pray Sir, to th’Army:
I, and my brother are not known.
This is of course ‘I’ in its proper role as a pronoun; but the comma following it suggests that it is to be read otherwise. The compositor has been whipped by the critics for many an ‘error’ of this kind, but it is, on the contrary, remarkable how accurate he really was. The subtitle of my book could well have been The Compositor’s Revenge. And then we have:
Belarius That is my bed too (Lads) and there Ile lye.
Lead, lead; the time seems long…
Our attention is drawn to the two ‘L’s (I’ve put them in bold here). The upright arm of the second is emboldened in FF to suggest ‘I’, with the shorter arm feint, almost invisible. The first ‘L’, on other hand, appears totally normal. This latter is also superfluous on the literal plane; and this is not a lapse on Bacon’s part, but his employment of it rather to highlight the departure from the norm in the second.
In V.iii – V.iiv is presented perhaps the most beautiful and spectacular allegorical set piece in the whole of FF. The first two scenes lead into it.
In this first, Posthumus describes himself as part of the ‘Italian gentry’ of the invading force, and further describes his clothes as ‘Italian’, when in both cases we might have expected ‘Roman’. This is another of the ways Bacon found to distinguish this alternative type of Puritanism, namely, that considered and controlled by the Gnostic ego, from the more usual type, which signifies Puritanism in virulent mode, tyrannising over the ego, and is represented throughout FF by Rome. His assumption of new British attire is entirely consistent with his pesher value, of the principle of Gnostic inquiry of the underworld, now recovered by the ego-in-healing.
In this short conflict scene Posthumus disarms Iachimo (boar subdued), and helps Belarius and his foster-sons rescue Cymbeline, the allegorical import of which is clear. Lucius tells Imogen (disguised as Page) to flee the battle to save herself. Why exactly? For detail of this kind is never there without purpose in FF. The next, wonderful scene will tell us.
We remember that the Lord bears always in FF the pesher value of conceptualisation and higher judgement, which is the comparison of concepts. Posthumus’ long dialogue with the Lord indicates that the initiate has entered here upon this second phase, subsequent on his reading. He has the knowledge now, and has looked up from the page (hence Lucius’ injunction in the previous scene) to ponder and judge the given world. This is the point of Posthumus’ explicit accusation that the Lord had withdrawn from the battle (engagement with written word). As he says, ‘you [the Lord] are made/ Rather to wonder at the things you hear’. Posthumus’ many lines in this scene indicate the intensity and concentration of this process.
And now, armed with knowledge and the power of concepts, the initiate (specifically, Will Shakspere) quite naturally turns to creativity:
Post. For if hee’l do, as he is made to doo,
I know hee’l quickly flye my friendship too.
You have put me into Rime.
And now, most wonderfully, the corpus of plays begins to be adumbrated, whose dual theme will be an exploration of the nature of the Puritan tyranny, and the course of Will Shakspere’s Puritanism-induced illness, and its remediation by Sir Francis Bacon as minister of the Gnostic tradition. This is the point of Posthumus’ ‘Great the slaughter is/ Heere made by’h’Romane; great the Answer be/ Britaines must take.’
Now Posthumus is captured and confined in gaol; and one might think this to be another instance of Bacon’s technique of ‘returning to square one’ to enable the same point to made in a different way. However, that it is the British Captaines who take him must give us pause; for their pesher value is the faculty of reason, and they should be in the service of transformation rather than the status quo ante.
What is happening here is that Will Shakspere, now aware of his budding creativity, has stopped conceptualising and wondering at the given world (exit of Lord), and begun to turn his powers of reasoning toward the problem of the nature of Puritanism, and the devastating effect it has had on his life, with the intention of writing about it. The next scene, with its sleep and awakening motif, will portray nothing less than the birth of Shakspere as a contributor to the plays.
Let me clarify this last statement. Firstly, the pen of Bacon is unmistakeable. It is not so much a question of style, as of language and insight and especially metaphor, which is a direct index to the intellect: the richer and more precise the metaphor, the higher the author on the scale of wisdom and understanding. Archbishop Tenison put it best:
And those who have true skill in the Works of the Lord Verulam, like great Masters in Painting, can tell by the Design, the Strength, the way of Colouring, whether he was the Author of this or the other Piece, though his Name be not to it. [Tenison’s Baconiana, 1679, p.78]
Bacon was beyond any shadow of a doubt the author of V.iii and the first segment of V.iv: a scenario which is utterly consistent with their philosophical content. Who the author of the remainder of V.iv was we shall soon see.
A remarkable feature of the plays as allegory, as I have demonstrated exhaustively in UDGCB, is that the pen of Bacon always writes from the exterior, theoretical standpoint of the clinician-philosopher; while the deeply personal and intimate passages dealing with the interior life of Will Shakspere, which only he can have experienced, and which often describe the most painful and anguished emotion, are always in prose of a lower level of language and insight and metaphor, and sheer poetry, yet for all that highly accomplished in its own way. And these latter are frequent enough in FF.
Rev. Walter Begley, arguably the greatest of the earlier Baconists (Is It Shakespeare, 1903; Bacon’s Nova Resuscitatio, 1905), makes a persuasive argument for just this scenario, of Will Shakspere as a significant contributor to the plays, and more than that:
Shall we be thought absurd if we suppose that Shakespeare of Stratford was a good practical playwright, with a rough and ready trenchant humour, acceptable on traditional lines with the greater part of the less cultured among the audience, but an eyesore to the better-instructed university critics, who looked for classic art; and this Shakespeare wanted. But not only in the low-comedy scenes could Shakespeare insert his “shreds”; he was a veritable factotum, and could bombast out a bragging blank verse, as well, in his own opinion, as the best of his fellow-writers … But there is a not inconsiderable percentage of the matter of the Shakespeare plays which seems unworthy (if I may be pardoned the blasphemy) of that philosophic, aristocratic, and megalomanic genius, by whose wondrous alchemy words that were dead, blossomed into living pictures; and who, according to my contention, was the true original author of the immortal plays. But Shakespeare of Stratford edited them, gagged for them, arranged the stage machinery (though the true author was no novice at that business), produced them before the public, and very likely paid something for them, so they might well be called and esteemed Shakespeare’s Plays. [Is It Shakespeare? pp.28-9]
This seems it me to hit the nail right on the head, and it is utterly consistent with the scenario I have outlined in UDGCB. The first phase of Will Shakspere’s therapy was the reading of the written word (his Melancholy Jacques phase) which lasted ‘two years and more’ (given in the final scene of Mr. Arden of Feversham), to be followed by the second and lasting phase of creativity (Orlando phase). There was a life-and-death quality to all of this, as indicated especially in Troilus and Cressida, Henry the Eighth, and The Tempest: for it was his means of keeping the ‘boar’, and madness, at bay. This strategy is not unknown in the annals of literature. Many Baconists will no doubt find it hard to accept Prospero as a portrayal of Shakspere, but is what I have conclusively shown in UDGCB. Bacon was certainly not claiming here that Shakspere was an artist to rival himself, but rather that the nature of their magian psyches were the same. It is Shakspere, after all, who is the Hero of FF, while Bacon fills the role of Mentor; and all Mentors have been and continue to be themselves Heroes. There is a suggestion here also of the influence that Shakspere may have wielded by this late stage: with Bacon, now with much on his plate, happy to delegate as much as possible. The Will Shakspere story of tragedy to triumph, rags to riches, death to resurrection, is a wonderful one in itself, and arguably the greatest of the genre of the Journey of the Hero in world art.
Posthumus awakening in the prison cell represents the genesis of the plays, as we shall see: a beautiful touch in this last play of the FF, with The Tempest, the opening play, portraying their natural end. And it is not drawing too long a bow to equate this cell with Prospero’s, into which he invites the company in the final lines (Bacon inviting us to listen to the story of Shakspere’s life):
Prospero Sir, I invite your Highnesse, and your traine
To my poore Cell: where you shall take your rest
For this one night, which part of it, Ile waste
With such Discourse, as I not doubt, shall make it
Goe quicke away: The story of my life,
And the particular accidents, gon by
Since I came to the Isle.
The cell is the microcosm of Shakspere’s psyche. The unseen world will be his subject:
1 Gaoler So graze, as you finde pasture.
2 Gaoler I, or a stomacke.
Posthumus sleeps; and Bacon strongly equates this with a death:
Post. For Imogen’s dear life, take mine…
If you will take this Audit, take this life,
And cancell these cold bonds.
In a dream there now appear to him his father and mother and brothers (the Puritan ego; the false conception of the world on which it is based; the Musical arts, and the nobility and power derived therefrom, as suppressed by Puritanism). Shakspere reasons away at the central problem of the boar (Iachimo), the libido cast in negative mantle by Puritanism, which has wreaked such havoc in his life:
Sicilius Why did you suffer Iachimo, slight thing of Italy,
To taint his nobler hart & braine, with needlesse jelousy,
And to become the geek and scorne o’th’others vilany?
Now Jupiter descends on his eagle (eagle of poetry), and throws a thunderbolt (that age-old mythic symbol of enlightenment), and the family bows down before him (Puritanism and all its implications subdued and controlled by the written word). He leaves a book on Posthumus’ chest, in which he reads his destiny (adumbration of the FF).
At this point we can almost read the minds of Bacon (who has been responsible for the foregoing) and Shakspere: Would it not be a beautiful artistic touch to have Shakspere himself write the immediately sequent passage? For here now is the Shaksperean prose in abundance:
Gaoler A heavy reckoning for you Sir; But the comfort is you shall be called to no more payments, fear no more Tavern Bils, which are often the sadnesse of parting, as the procuring of mirth: you come in faint for want of meate, depart reeling with too much drinke: sorrie that you have payed too much, and sorrie that you are payed too much: Purse and Braine, both empty: the Brain the heavier, for being too light; the Purse too light, being drawne of heavinesse…
–And so on. Sub-Baconian in all respects, to be sure, but admirable nonetheless. Bacon could not have wished for a better outcome of his patient and pupil.
Iachimo has the most lines in this scene, the theme of which is understanding on Shakspere’s part, of the mechanism of his psychic collapse, which is, in truth, the Freudian mechanism of repression of the libido. The ‘boar’ (libido in negative aspect, storming back into the ego to fill the void) is the principal culprit, who must be understood to be defeated: hence Iachimo’s volubility in explanation of his treachery to Cymbeline. Yet Posthumus’ final word on Iachimo is ‘The power I have on you, is to spare you’: for the boar will live on in the plays of Shakespeare, every one of which without exception will examine in some way the course of Shakspere’s illness.
The Queen is dead, for the Puritan misconception of the given world – principally here the Self (ego + unconscious, as Jung defined it), as misjudged by the Puritan to be freed of the collective unconscious – is now effete. Shakspere is through his ‘fool’ or Golden Ass phase – the job has been done, the wisdom and understanding of the unseen world attained – hence Imogen’s uncharacteristic decision not to beg for Lucius’ life.
Bacon returns us briefly to square one to portray Imogen’s death and rebirth. It is Pisanio who raises her up, for the subject now understands the unseen world to be at the bottom of the phallos, the resurgence of which provided the other half of the Freudian equation, and precipitated the breakdown. Pisanio’s and Guiderius’ speeches explaining the fate of Clothen continues the theme of understanding.
The Soothsayer’s explanation of the prophecy to Posthumus signifies that, now that the psychological principles of the disease process are well understood, the precise nature of the plays is clear, and the great work can proceed. His name, ‘Philharmonus’, ‘lover of harmony’ was well chosen. Now harmony reigns in Shakspere’s ego as his psychological health is restored (though not quite indefeasibly; but more of that anon); and his story, arguably the greatest of all in the Journey of the Hero genre, can be told. Puritanism (Rome) lives on, but now controlled by him as the subject of his Gnostic reason and creativity (Britain). The word ‘Publish’ here is significant:
Cymbeline Publish we this Peace
To all our Subiects. Set we forward: Let
A Roman, and a Brittish Ensigne wave