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From Shake-speare

From Bacon “ Country hands reach forth “Now, because I am in the coun. milk, cream, fruits, or what they try, I will send you some of my have; and many nations (we have country fruits, which with me are heard) that had not gums and in- good meditations.” Letter to cense, obtained their request with Villiers (1616). a leavened cake. It was no fault to approach their Gods by what they could.” – Epistle Dedicatory to the Folio (1623).

The original of these passages may be found in the Dedication to Emperor Titus of Pliny's “Natural History,' translated into English in 1601:

“The gods reject not the humble prayers of poor country peasants, yea, and of many nations who offer nothing but milk unto them; and such as have no incense find grace and favor many times with the oblation of a plain cake, made only of meal and salt ; and never was any man blamed yet for his devotion to the gods, so he offered according to his ability, were the things never so simple."


“From the tables “Tables of the mind differ from Of my memory, I'll wipe away all common tables; . . . you will saws of books,

scarcely wipe out the former All trivial fond conceits

records unless you shall have inThat ever youth, or else observance scribed the new." Redargutio noted,

Philosophiarum (date unknown). And thy remembrance all alone shall sit.”

Hamlet, i. 5 (1603). In the second edition of “Hamlet' the above passage was revised, thus :

“From the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;

And thy commandment all alone shall live

Within the book and volume of my brain.” 1604. Hamlet says, he will erase all previous records from the table of his memory, and remember only his father's commandment; Bacon shows how this can be effected.

This metaphor was a favorite one with Æschylus.



From Shake-speare

From Bacon “So doth the greater glory dim “So we see when two lights do the less;

meet, the greater doth darken and A substitute shines brightly as à drown the less. And when a king,

smaller river runs into a greater, Until a king be by, and then his state it loseth both the name and Empties itself, as doth an inland stream." — Discourse on Union of brook,

the Kingdoms (1603). Into the main of waters.” Merchant of Venice, v. 1 (1600).

For this double parallelism of light and water, used in the same order and in illustration of the same idea, we are indebted to Judge Holmes.


MERCY AND JUSTICE “In the course of justice none of “Forasmuch as mercy and jusus

tice be the true supporters of our Should see salvation ; we do pray royal throne, ... and that our for mercy."

subjects, where their case deserveth Merchant of Venice, iv. 1 (1600). to be relieved in course of equity,

should not be abandoned and exposed to perish under the rigor and extremity of the law, therefore, etc.” - Decree on the Præmunire Question, drawn probably by Bacon

(1616). The above quotation, as from Bacon, is taken from a royal decree made in 1616, when Francis Bacon was Attorney-General, to settle a long and bitter controversy between the two systems of Law and Equity. This controversy, arising from the impossibility in those early days of providing by statute for all the exigencies of civil life that came before the courts, had been going on, as we learn from an official report made to King James, with ever-increasing severity, since the beginning of the reign of Henry VII. in 1485. It reached a crisis in 1616 that was simply intolerable, the judges at common law indicting the judges in equity for interference with their judgments. Francis Bacon stood for justice and equity; Sir Edward Coke, for the statutes just as they were, without much regard to extenuating circumstances. The Plays reflect this great dispute. That Shake-speare, as well as Bacon, knew not only the necessity at times for such interferences, but also the limitations of the power of a court of equity, as then understood and observed, appears as follows:


From Shake-speare

From Bacon There is no power in Venice “Equity is the dispenser of the Can alter a decree established.” king's conscience, following the

Ibid. law and justice, [but] not altering Lear. I'll see their trial first the law."11bid. [To Edgar.] Thou robed man of

justice, take thy place. [To the Fool.] And thou, his yoke

fellow of equity, Bench by his side. Edgar. Let us deal justly."

King Lear, iii. 6 (1608).

1 In the famous passage in ‘1 King Henry IV.' (ii. 2) —

“An the Prince and Poins be not arrant cowards, there's no equity stirring" the term equity is used in the popular sense, as synonymous with justice. Falstaff is seeking to secure for the persons named condemnation for coward. ice, a cause which, if actionable, would have clearly belonged to a court of law. It would have been in personam, whereas equitable procedure is, in ulterior effect, always in rem.

“An the Prince and Poins be not (condemned as) arrant cowards, there 's no (justice) stirring."

123 REPUDIATION OF AGENTS From Shake-speare

From Bacon King John. Thy hand hath mur- “These ministers, being by

der'd him ; I had a mighty nature cruel, and knowing well cause

enough what they are wanted for, To wish him dead, but thou hadst apply themselves to this kind of none to kill him.

work with wonderful diligence ; Hubert. Why, did you not pro- till for want of caution and from voke me?

over eagerness to ingratiate themK. John. It is the curse of kings selves, they at one time or another, to be attended

(taking a nod or an ambiguous By slaves that take their humors word of the prince for a warrant) for a warrant

perpetrate some execution that is To break within the bloody house odious and unpopular. Upon of life,

which the prince, not willing to And on the winking of authority take envy of it upon himself, To understand a law, to know the throws them overboard.” — Wismeaning

dom of the Ancients (1609). Of dangerous majesty, when per- ' “Kings hate, when uttered, the chance it frowns

very words they have ordered to More upon humor than advis'd be uttered.” — Promus (1594-96).

respect. Hub. Here is your hand and seal

for what I did.

K. John. But thou didst under

stand me by my signs, And didst in signs again parley

with sin. Out of my sight, and never see me


King John, iv. 2 (1623). We find another example of this trait of character, as described by Bacon, in the Shake-speare plays: Exton. Great king, within this coffin I present

Thy buried fear; herein all breathless lies
The mightiest of thy great enemies,

Richard of Bordeaux, by me hither brought.
Bolingbroke. Exton, I thank thee not ; for thou hast wrought

A deed of slander with thy fatal hand

Upon my head and all this famous land.
Exton. From your own mouth, my lord, did I this deed.
Bolingbroke. They love not poison that do poison need ;

Nor do I thee; though I did wish him dead,
I hate the murderer, love him murder 'd.
The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labor,
But neither my good word, nor princely favor.
With Cain go wander through the shade of night,
And never show thy head by day nor light.”

Richard II., v. 6 (1597).

These wicked agents act, - according to Shake-speare,“ on the winking of authority ;” according to Bacon,“on a nod or ambiguous word.”


From Shake-speare

From Bacon “ Let them pull all about mine “The highest pride lacks one ears; present me

element of vice, hypocrisy." — De Death on the wheel, or at wild Augmentis (1622).

horses' heels; Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian

rock, That the precipitation might down

Below the beam of sight; yet will

I still
Be thus to them.

Would you have me
False to my nature ?
Men. His nature is too noble for

the world.
He would not flatter Neptune for

his trident, Or Jove for 's power to thunder.”

Coriolanus, iii. 1 and 2 (1623).

The friends of Coriolanus are urging him to conceal his true sentiments until he shall safely be inducted into office. The play is a treatise on uncorrupted and incorruptible Pride.

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