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TOPIC: Bacon, Shakespeare and the Anti-Machiavel of 1576

Bacon, Shakespeare and the Anti-Machiavel of 1576 1 month 2 weeks ago #7468

  • Ryan Murtha
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As for the Anti-Machiavel, this, I think, is the most compelling part, bear with me. Machiavelli is mentioned three times in Shakespeare, two of which are anachronistic - and it has been said that anachronism never means nothing in Shakespeare. In I Henry VI, "Alencon! That notorious Machiavel!" - Machiavelli was not yet born, and the first edition of the Anti-Machiavel was dedicated to the titular descendant of this said Alencon. (Later editions were dedicated to Francis Hastings and Edward Bacon, half-brother of Francis Bacon.)

Again, in III Henry VI,

​I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.

This line is said by Richard III, and is taken from the True Tragedy of Richard III, definitely one of Shakespeare's sources for his play Richard III. Only in the True Tragedy, instead of "murderous Machiavel" it reads "aspiring Catilin" - the Roman conspirator. Now follow me.

The Anti-Machiavel reads: "as soon as the prince shall clothe himself with Proteus’ garments, and has no hold nor certitude of his word, nor in his actions, men may well say that his malady is incurable, and that in all vices he has taken the nature of the chameleon."

So you have Machiavelli, Proteus and chameleon in both. But it gets much better. Bacon's Advancement of Learning:

As for evil arts, if a man would set down for himself that principle of Machiavel, “That a man seek not to attain virtue itself, but the appearance only thereof; because the credit of virtue is a help, but the use of it is cumber”: or that other of his principles, “That he presuppose that men are not fitly to be wrought otherwise but by fear; and therefore that he seek to have every man obnoxious, low, and in straits,” which the Italians call seminar spine, to sow thorns: or that other principle, contained in the verse which Cicero citeth, Cadant amici, dummodo inimici intercidant, as the triumvirs, which sold every one to other the lives of their friends for the deaths of their enemies: or that other protestation of L. Catilina, to set on fire and trouble states, to the end to fish in droumy waters, and to unwrap their fortunes

Anti-Machiavel: As for peace, these people never like it, for they always fish in troubled water, gathering riches and heaps of the treasures of the realm while it is in trouble and confusion.

The Anti-Machiavel relates the story of "Catiline, who with his companions went about to destroy his country with fire and sword"; uses the line fish in troubled waters twice, and also tells the story about Cicero being traded to Antony.... "Antony, to have his enemy Cicero (whom Octavian favored as his friend), was content to deliver in exchange Lucius Caesar, his own uncle on his mother’s side; so that the one was exchanged for the other, and they both died." Anti-Mach talks about keeping subjects poor, and Bacon notes, incredulous, that Machiavelli claims Caesar would have been worse than Catiline if his ambition had been checked.

So the convergence of parallels here is certainly intentional, if somewhat confusing. It's interesting, the Anti-Mach lay in obscurity when Edward Meyer published (in German) Machiavelli and the Elizabethan Drama (1879). Some scholars know about this, but are wary of saying too much.

Nigel Bawcutt, “The Myth of Gentillet Reconsidered,” Modern Language Review:

That Gentillet had an effect on the Elizabethan response to Machiavelli can no longer be disputed. It would be helpful if readers of texts from the last quarter of the sixteenth century were to keep alert for more signs of his influence, so that we can estimate that effect more precisely… I am convinced that there are many more allusions waiting to be discovered by scholars who know what to look for.

Alis Zaharia hints in “Circulating Texts in the Renaissance: Simon Patericke’s translation of Anti-Machiavel and the Fortunes of Gentillet in England”: “It may not have been mere coincidence that in his account of the Essex trial… Francis Bacon echoes Gentillet in his conclusion that ambition engenders treason and treason finally brings the complete ruin of the traitor.”

So, nobody has brought out a new edition of the Anti-Mach, but some people know about it.
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