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Donna N. Murphy
Why it Probably Wasn't Sir Francis Bacon

In some aspects Sir Francis Bacon (1562-1626) makes a far more plausible candidate as the author of the Shakespeare works than the Earl of Oxford. He possessed a brilliant mind and could certainly be termed a genius. His biographer William Rawley wrote, “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 [Bacon
].” [1]  In addition, Bacon thought virtue to be more important than money. He wrote in a 1597 letter to Lord Keeper Thomas Egerton, “Myself, in mine own industry, have rather referred and aspired to virtue than to gain.”  [2]
Bacon was, moreover, a secretive man, and Thomas Tenison maintained, “Those who have true skill in the Works of Lord Verulam [Bacon], like the Great Masters in Painting, can tell by the Design, the Strength, the way of the Colouring, whether he was the author of this or the other Piece, though his Name be not to it.” [3]  Tenison implied that Bacon’s name was not on all that he wrote, but that his authorship could be detected by certain attributes. Indeed, Bacon’s editor James Spedding proposed that Bacon was part-author of the Gray’s Inn entertainment Gesta Grayorum, as well as the author of an anonymous letter of advice to Queen Elizabeth in 1584, on the basis of style.

The fact is, though, that the writing styles of Bacon and Shakespeare are quite different. Spedding said, “I doubt whether there are five lines together which are to be found in Bacon which could be mistaken for Shakespeare, or five lines in Shakespeare which could be mistaken for Bacon with one who was familiar with the several styles, and practised in such observation.” [4] Spedding had an excellent ear for authorship. He was the first to suggest that Shakespeare co-authored Henry VIII with John Fletcher, an attribution which is now widely accepted.

In support of Spedding’s finding, while reading Bacon one is struck by his use of “mought,” which appears 156 times in eight works. Although he also employed the word “might,” “mought” was a word he sometimes chose throughout his life. By contrast, “mought” occurs only once in Shakespeare (III Henry VI), and for that matter, only once in Marlowe (Dido). Similarly, “holpen,” meaning “helped,” occurs 50 times in seven Bacon works, but not once in Shakespeare or Marlowe.

Moreover, Francis Bacon almost never spoke ill of people; it simply was not in his nature to do so. Various Shakespeare plays, however, make fun of characters within them. [5]

No, Bacon likely did not write Shakespeare.

[1] William Rawley, Resuscitatio (London: Sarah Griffin, 1657), Cr.

[2] The Works of Francis Bacon. Collected and edited by James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis and Douglas Denan Heath (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: F. Frommann Verlag G. Holzboog, 1961-63), vol. II, 61.

[3] Baconiana, or Certaine Genuine Remains of Sr. Francis Bacon, ed. T.T. (London: 1679), 79.

[4] From a letter in which Spedding addressed the issue of whether Bacon could have written Shakespeare, in Nathaniel Holmes, The Authorship of Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1894), Vol. II, 612-8. Moreover, Dr. Thomas Mendenhall performed research on frequency distribution of word lengths. Mendenhall found that the frequency of use of two-letter words, three-letter words, etc., was different in a comparison of Bacon and Shakespeare, but matched in a comparison of Marlowe and Shakespeare. See John Mitchell, Who Wrote Shakespeare? (London: Thomas and Hudson, Ltd., 1996), 228-30.

[5] In Resuscitatio William Rawley wrote, “He [Bacon] was free from malice which (as he himself said) he never bred or fed.” (Spedding, Vol. I, 14). A reading of Bacon’s works bears this out. The Works of Francis Bacon, vol. VIII, 4.

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Marlowe, Shakespeare and Religion
How Shakespeare Thought Like Marlowe
The Nature of Genius
Shakespeare's Knowledge of Italy
Shakespeare Was an Adept
Why it Probably Wasn't the Earl of Oxford
Why it Probably Wasn't Sir Francis Bacon
Why Marlowe's Death is Dubious
The Wise Man's Paradox
Christopher Marlowe's Writing
Marlowe-Shakespeare Similarities
Copyright 2017 by Donna N. Murphy