There are now over 4,000 distinct fields of study and analysis regarding Shakespeare and his literary works including in summary the text itself, its transmission, its performance, the elucidation, chronology, printing, textual analysis, dating, literary sources, biography, psychology, mentality, literary and linguistic techniques, syntax, musical and theatrical devices, punctuation, rhyme, versification, reading and grammar, vocabulary, poetic imagery and symbolism, comparison with other contemporaries, reputation, character, social background, education, fashions and trends, as well as controversial historical, political, and dramatic etc. This stream of scholarly interest actually began early with John Dryden (1631-1670) through to Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) in the early 17th to 18th century along with Malone’s accessing the 1685 Folio, followed on by Alexander Pope (1688-1744) then onwards to a “Shakespeare Restored” (2 editions 1726 & 1733). However, despite Theobald’s and Pope’s early degradations that pillaged and demolished the original canon, Dr. Johnson did little to improve matters although Charlotte Lennox (Shakespeare Illustrated 1753-4) certainly “cleaned up” many erroneous revisions and redactions from twenty two of the plays attributed to the Bard. In 1766 George Stevens reprinted twenty of the Quartos in four volumes without tampering with the original text or stage directions. Edward Capell (1713-81) is worth mentioning for his erudite and meticulous essays which although not published within his own lifetime laid the foundations for future scholars to elaborate on. In fact Stevens and Malone plagiarised his unpublished work to glorify their own name and status in Shakespearean Scholarship, in particular the actual dates of writing and the numerous literary sources. This should have been flagged up as an example of the moral and ethical principles of Shakespeare scholars who were always keen to profit from another’s labour and to deny any acknowledgement or credit to the original. This led to a number of Varioram Publications which tended to include not just the text but a whole cornucopia of additional material from other sources to build up in the reader a picture of Shakespeare’s England and the Elizabethan Stage. By 1756 Edward Capell’s “Principles & Construction Of Shakespeare’s Verse” was posthumously published and various biographies of Shakespeare were attempted by numerous “expert academics” as further incidental evidence emerged into the light. However, the scholars and academics were still under the mistaken impression that the Stratford Peasant Playwright (Shakspere) was none other than William Shaxper of Stratford-upon-Avon. Although much earlier doubts and controversial statements had been expressed by Ben Jonson (Every Man Out of his Humour), George Wither (The Great Assizes), Robert Greene (Upstart Crow) and Frances Mere’s (Palladis Tamia) these commentaries had been largely dismissed as being the result of envy rather than the vestiges of serious doubts over the Shakespearean Authorship itself.
The history of the source text of the plays, derived from bad quartos and promptbooks, or those pirated editions and anonymous texts implies numerous emendations, corrections of spelling, revisions of acts and scenes, the inclusion of stage directions and other changes and alterations over a period of some 200 years. The absence of the original hand-written manuscripts (excluding Sir Thomas More of course) is also problematic in terms of establishing any kind of “master text”. I am at pains to point out that no such master text exists, what we have has been literally “cobbled together” for the benefit of mankind from what was available in the 17th century. Additional plays or poems that might have been written by Shakespeare were occasionally added to the canon. Since, in any case the texts of Elizabethan plays was regularly altered and revised, either to suit an occasion or social and cultural setting, the absence of a master text would automatically rule out the accuracy of any supposed encrypted codes or anagrams hidden in the text at all. Nevertheless, there are still authors out there who insist on elaborating on the possibility of there being secret messages in the “Shakespeare Codes”. The only apparent and rational code that currently exists is that discovered and deciphered by Alexander Waugh in the “Sonnets Dedication” that clearly denotes “DE VERE LIES HERE”.
“Oh! But what’s in a name?” Thus wrote the Bard in Romeo & Juliet adding: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. But what other poet and playwright has had as many of his plays consistently performed, reviewed and exhaustively analysed or theorised by scholars and academics in the history of British literature? Shakespeare must surely hold the world record?
In “A Companion to Shakespeare Studies” the editors list the level and depth of research that has been done on Shakespeare’s literary sources, his personal life, social background and dramatic influences that has shaped his mind, that has unearthed a wealth of material and additional speculation from the 18th to the 20th century. Suffice to say, despite the accumulation of all this “information”, that renders the author of the poems and plays an immaculate literary and dramatic genius did any academic or scholar cast doubt or question the authenticity of the supposition that the Stratford “wool-brogger” wrote the 1623 Folio of plays and the poetry attributed to one William Shakespeare. On no occasion did Shaxpere employ the name Shakespeare in his own life, although those academics must have known and occasionally mention it was written in a variety of ways eg: Shakspere, Shagsper, Shakysper, or even Shakshafte. They either deliberately ignored the Glaring Disparities and anomalies between his character, background and history or were part of the conspiracy to evade the real story of the real author and his life. Preferring to support the widespread belief and legend of William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.
What may be of interest though is the choice of names that “Shakespeare” gave his various dramatic characters and would surely give us some insights into his mental and aesthetic “modus operandum”. Like many other playwrights who employed fanciful names to their dramatic characters, largely for effect, it does reveal much of the mind or perhaps minds that wrote the 1623 Folio of plays. A creative and ingenious mind that I daresay was at times amusing and playful, sometimes quite satirical, often tongue-in-cheek, and in many other instances intended to lampoon and ridicule by cryptic allusion some real-life character known to the author. The topical and personal allusions found in the plays and made by the author are in my view the real clues to understanding who Shakespeare was and why he was able to write so successfully for the stage. I have already pointed out in my book “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” that the name Romeo is an anagram of Moreo or Moore (alluding to Sir Thomas More). I have also drawn up certain numerical conclusions regarding the use of names in Shakespeare’s Codename. Using the precepts of Numerology as a cipher decryption method (ie: Alpha Numbers) we note several coincidental similarities in the choice and numerical value of a character’s name. For example, when Romeo in a peculiar conversation with Juliet’s nurse who remarks:
Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter?
Ay, nurse; what of that? both with an R.
Ah, mocker! that’s the dog’s name; R is for
the–No; I know it begins with some other
letter:–and she hath the prettiest sententious of
it, of you and rosemary, that it would do you good
to hear it.
I suggested the “dog’s name” could have been a veiled allusion to Sir Robert Dudley or even Robert Cecil, both of whom were long-term enemies of Edward de Vere. The reference to rosemary is also a veiled reference to Mary Queen of Scots, while ROSE is an Elizabethan euphemism for a street prostitute. From a purely numerical perspective ROMEO reduces to 66 (18+15+13+5+15 = 66), while JULIET (10+21+12+9+5+20 = 77). Taking stock of the word ROSEMARY we note that ROSE (18+15+19+5 = 57) and that MARY (13+1+18+25 = 57). The number 57 reduces to 12 or 3, something perhaps of a coincidence one could say but the coincidences appear to continue when we consider that if JULIET is a veiled reference to the month of July, and perhaps ELIZABETH (5+12+9+26+1+2+5+20+8 = 88). So let us take note of the two rival families Montague and Capulet, since they are not strictly speaking historically involved in family feuds during Shakespeare’s timeline. The name CAPULET (3+1+16+21+12+5+20 = 78), while the name MONTAGUE (13+15+14+20+1+7+21+5 = 96), so the coincidence here is that they both reduce to 15, which if we employ a Tarot Key to this conundrum we arrive at #The Devil. Meaning perhaps that the Devil is in the detail. In the Naples Arrangement the trump #15, the Devil is positioned below #6, The Lovers. We can discern from the text that Juliet is a mere 13 years old going on for 14 years old when she first meets Romeo:
She is not fourteen. How long is it now
A fortnight and odd days.
Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.
The festival of Lammas or Lughnasad, which means second flush of leaves, was celebrated from the 1st to 8th August which would bring the time of Juliet’s birth into the zodiacal sign of Leo, the Lion. However, let us not get carried away by a few coincidences and correspondences since if England still employed the Julian calendar then Juliet would have actually been born a Virgo. It was well known amongst astrologers of the age (Simon Forman and John Florio) that Queen Elizabeth, like her paramour, Robert Dudley; since they celebrated their birthdays on the same date that they were both born under the zodiac sign of the Virgin, hence she was celebrated as the “Virgin Queen”, while Robert Dudley was euphemistically known as the “Gypsy”, largely because of his Roman nose and love of horses. Therefore, like Queen Elizabeth Juliet would have been born a Virgo, even though in real life she was far from being one. Elizabeth would have had two illegitimate children from her liaison with Dudley which she managed to conceal from the populist eye by claiming that she had contracted smallpox, giving her the perfect excuse to escape public attention for at least six months of her pregnancy at Windsor Castle. Unfortunately, you can only contract smallpox once since the first infection would automatically make you immune from any further infections, but Elizabeth was not privy to that medical information at the time. It did however, scar her delicate and youthful complexion which she tried to cover up with an Italian cosmetic known as Venetian Ceruse that contained powdered lead and had probably yet surely led to her eventual death by poisoning.
In The Tempest, a play that makes reference to Alchemy several times Numerology is used again to veil some allusion to the real life characters. As many people are aware the name PROSPERO (16+18+15+19+16+5+18+15 = 122) which reduces to 5, the number of the pentagram employed in many magical rituals, while CALIBAN (3+1+12+9+2+1+14 = 42) which reduces to 6, the number of the Solomon Seal, again used in magical ritual. ARIEL (1+18+9+5+12 = 45) which reduces to 9, the last whole number and signifies the enneagram employed in tabulating the 9 Personality Types or Virtues defined by the Elizabethan occultist, Robert Fludd. From the Latin the name Prospero means literally the prosperous or successful person. Now many researchers have suggested that Prospero was modelled on the real life persona of Dr. John Dee, although he was not in any sense prosperous or successful particularly in his alchemical experiments to turn base lead into gold or his clairvoyant escapades. He did however assist numerous adventurers and navigators to sail to distant shores with the advanced mathematical and astrological knowledge at his disposal. More likely is that Prospero refers secretly to Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare’s supposed literary patron who in the same year that the Sonnets first appeared with a dedication to him by Shakespeare (1609), the Earl had set off on a voyage in the Edward Bonaventure (a ship owned by Edward de Vere) to found a colony in the Americas. The ship encountered delays and storms in the Bermudas before being captured and sunk by the Spanish. It also explains the phrase in the dedication which goes: “To the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets Mr. W.H…Wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth”. Like the Duke of Milan, Henry Wriothesley’s fortunes had taken a turn for the worst after being found guilty in supporting the Essex Rebellion (1601), he was imprisoned and threatened with execution. His release, it has been suggested by Charlton Ogburn as well as the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, was entirely due to the Earl of Oxford’s influence and intervention. At this point in his career as “Shakespeare”, the Earl of Oxford was obliged to give up any hope of being recognised as the author of the plays and poetry in return for the life of his “Fair Youth”, Henry Wriothesley. Whenever matters became intolerable, the Earl of Southampton had previously escaped to Europe, on this occasion he was not escaping the terror of imprisonment and execution but was intent on a modicum of commercial success, the like of which we can only dream of. However, his colonial dreams came to nothing and the play was probably written to celebrate his safe return, a wiser and more prudent fellow in the bosom of James’s England.
In the play “Twelfth Night” we find more numerological clues to unravel, for example turning to the Dramatis Personae we discover some unusual name choices. It should be noted that Shakespeare chose the names MALVOLIO (13+1+12+22+15+12+9+15 = 99), OLIVIA and VIOLA. While Malvolio gives us a double number, both Olivia and Viola reduce numerically to 5, they are numerological twins. The other significant character in the play is Sir Andrew Aguecheek, which from what I understand is a veiled reference to Sir Phillip Sidney who, judging from his portraits probably suffered from neuralgia which 16th century physicians identified as an ague. The name AGUECHEEK (1+7+21+5+3+8+10+11 = 66). Therefore, bearing in mind that double or triple letters or numbers are an indication of a Masonic influence or code. Then the double letters found at the end of the Sonnets dedication (eg: TT which some academics have identified as the initials of the publisher Thomas Thorpe) signify the zodiacal sign of Gemini, the Twins and the dolmen arch of the ancient Druids and evidence of these “twins” can be found on the introductory pages of the First Folio and in the plays Two Gentlemen of Verona and A Comedy of Errors.
With regard to the Masonic symbolism of the Twin Cherubs and the sign of Gemini in his book The Shakespeare Enigma, Peter Dawkins writes:
“The Twin Pillars, or Gemini, also symbolise spirit on the one hand (right) and mater on the other (left). Spirit is equated with the Logos or Word, which is the Spirit of Love. Matter is equated with the quintessential ‘aether’, which in its original state is chaos (ie: formless and void) until disposed into form by the vibration of the Word or Spirit of love. The Greeks referred to the Spirit of love as Eros (Latin, Cupidos) and to matter as Proteus. The ancient myth of Proteus, which Francis Bacon explains in his Wisdom of the Ancients, allegorises the process by which matter is brought together, constrained (or ‘chained’, as the myth describes) and disposed into form, and then successively transformed into many evolutionary stages of form, by the effect of love, until eventually truth is revealed.”
He then goes on to say that the play Two Gentlemen of Verona aptly illustrates this fundamental Masonic truth, wherein the main characters Valentine (ie: Eros) and Proteus (Chaos) represent the Twin Pillars. They represent the sublime qualities of the human soul, namely emotion and thought, the former being the motivation or desire, and the latter the substance of the human mind (meaning Wisdom & Knowledge). The planet Mercury is the ruler of Gemini, while its natural ruler is the planet Venus or Aphrodite, whose chariot is drawn by two swans, again symbolising the two sets of twins born of Leda (the wife of the Spartan King Tyndareos) and Zeus, who took the form of a swan, namely the “Heavenly Twins” Castor & Helen, and the “Earthly Twins”, Pollux and Clytemnestra. The latter went on to marry Agamemnon and then murder him, while Helen abducted by Paris went on to become the cause of the Trojan Wars. This event was recorded in the Kypria and was the subject of a play by Euripides (412 BC), entitled simply Helen. From this basic understanding Dr. John Dee developed his own metaphysical talisman and sigil for the Monad.
There is a clever cryptic reference to the science of encryption in Malvolio’s speech in Act 2 scene 5, when he tries to analyse the “false letters” from his Lady left by her maid Maria to deceive him into thinking that Olivia is enamoured of her servant Malvolio: First of all he recognises her handwriting:
By my life, this is my lady’s hand these be her
very C’s, her U’s and her T’s and thus makes she her
great P’s. It is, in contempt of question, her hand.
‘I may command where I adore.’ Why, she may command
me: I serve her; she is my lady. Why, this is
evident to any formal capacity; there is no
obstruction in this: and the end,–what should
that alphabetical position portend? If I could make
that resemble something in me,–Softly! M, O, A,
And realising that all of these letters coincidentally appear in his own name later speculates on the meaning and sequence of letters themselves:
M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and
yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for
every one of these letters are in my name. Soft!
here follows prose.
‘If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I am above thee;
but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.
Although some researchers have concluded that the character Malvolio is a veiled reference to Sir Christopher Hatton (nicknamed the “Sheep”), a rival courtier to Edward de Vere and then a favourite of Queen Elizabeth at court. Clearly, this reference also reveals Shakespeare’s knowledge and experience of devising codes and code-breaking while working as an playwright and spy in the theatre. The phrase “and yet to crush this a little” refers to the technique of folding a paper document in such a way as to reveal the hidden sequence of letters from an apparent random or jumbled arrangement of letters on it. While the term “revolve” originally meant to ponder or reflect, probably refers to the technique employed in determining all the different arrangements derived from those letters (Revolving Cipher such as the Vignere).
Finally, in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream we see the playful use of names such as Bottom, Snug, Flute, Snoot, and Quince, the so-called five rude mechanicals. It has been suggested that these five characters are synonymous with the 5 elements (fire, water, air, earth and aether) or 4 humours (choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic). We might speculate Bottom is earth, Flute is air, Snug is water, Snoot is fire and Quince is aether.
The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Pathenogenesis” are as follows: