Was William Shakespeare a member of the Mijikenda communities? Did the great playwright pen at least some plays in Kiswahili?
That thought excited me greatly when I saw the following headline in the Saturday Nation: “Shakespeare’s Kiswahili play on tour of India.”
But the story below soon disabused me. The headline was a syntactical error. The sub-editor was referring only to Wanawake wa Heri wa Winsa, a Kiswahili translation of The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of the Bard’s most delightful comedies.
Yet the thought that the man reportedly born at England’s Stratford-upon-Avon might have been a native of Kenya’s mwambao may not be too far-fetched.
Culturally and linguistically, the Swahili are basically Bantu, consanguine with the Mijikenda, but with an imposing Hamito-Semitic — mostly Arabic — superstructure.
For, if East Africa’s Indian Ocean littoral has been literate for 10 centuries, it owes it to powerful and protracted cultural-linguistic currents from the fateful peninsula almost totally surrounded by the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
And one of the most remarkable facts about Shakespeare’s writing is its profound knowledge of the culture, history, language, legal systems and politics of that world region — southeastern Europe, northern Africa and southwestern Asia — knowledge which no other coeval European seems to possess.
Perhaps that is why certain Middle Easterners keep claiming Shakespeare for themselves. An interesting claim was made a few years ago by an Arab called Muammar Gaddafi, whose mother-tongue has powerfully influenced the thought content of Kiswahili, East Africa’s lingua franca.
In a fascinating statement, the Libyan leader informed the world that the name Shakespeare was an English corruption of Sheikh Zubair, the name — said he — of an Arab poet-playwright of classical antiquity.
The fact that I had never heard of Sheikh Zubair did not prove Gaddafi wrong, I thought.
For I had never heard of Ibn Sinna either. Only later did I learn that Ibn Sinna was the original form of Avicenna, the Greco-Latin corruption of the Arabic name of a Persian physician whom Europe has long ago appropriated as one of the founders of “European” medicine.
Thus, though I cannot stick my neck out on it, it is not impossible that the English name Shakespeare was a European corruption of the Arabic name Zubair with the honorific Sheikh prefixed to it. For Shakespeare played a leading role in introducing Western Europeans to important Nilo-Semitic words.
The plethora of such words that English subsequently “nationalised” includes Al Kohl (alcohol); Al Jibr (algebra); Al Sifr (cipher or zero, known in Kiswahili as sufuri); Amir-Al-Bahr, “lord of the sea” (admiral); and Al Khem, one of classical Egypt’s Afro-Semitic names (root of both alchemy and chemistry).
Alchemy was instigated along the Nile by Pharaoh Tutmosis III as a method of combining and recombining the atoms of various chemical elements to produce the elixir — the panacea known as “the philosopher’s stone,” whose latest form, nanotechnology, is poised to dramatically revolutionise medicine.
The alchemical tradition to which Shakespeare belonged was an aspect of the pursuit of knowledge known as Hermetic Gnosticism, which, in Europe, runs underground in opposition to the official Church and worships the ancient Nilotic pantheon of Isis, Osiris, Horus and Thoth.
For Shakespeare was a Rosicrucian, one of the subterranean movements.
That is why his sonnets — probably the most sublime poems ever written — are dedicated to a “Dark Lady.”
The Caucasian world’s own New-Agers agree that the “Dark Lady” is none other than Isis, the jet-black-skinned triple goddess of northern and eastern Africa.
Thus many powerful historical circumstances associate Shakespeare with that part of the world — the Middle East — to which we ourselves (the Kiswahili speakers) owe almost all of our higher thought content — in philosophy, science, mathematics and theosophy.
The fact remains, however, that Shakespeare was born in England. Yet, for centuries in England itself, a parallel intellectual tradition has asserted that Shakespeare was not the author of the plays, poems and other brilliant creative works that the world attributes to him.
One of the latest of such assertions is by Simon Cox in Decoding the Lost Symbol — a book on Dan Brown’s controversial fiction. Cox attributes that intellectual “imagineering” — to use a charming word coined by Walt Disney — to anybody else but Shakespeare.
His candidates include the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Derby and Christopher Marlowe. But Francis Bacon scores the highest marks. Of course, Bacon’s intellect was as brilliant and his knowledge as encyclopaedic as Shakespeare’s. And Bacon’s “certificates” quite outnumber Shakespeare’s.
How could Shakespeare, an untravelled semi-educated boy from a small town in an insular country — living far away from any world centre of culture and knowledge — possibly amass the profound alchemical, medical, astrophysical, geo-mathematical, politico-economic, civic, legal and historical knowledge that informs this work?
How had he acquired the art to pen the most tender poetry, to devise the most sophisticated plots and to create the most memorable characters in drama?
Even an inborn genius requires a certain level of culture to exploit that genius fully. Nobody nurtured only in an igloo can ever become a Darwin, a Fukui, a Hawking, a Paganini or a Picasso.
That, then, is what Bacon had over Shakespeare. Bacon had trained in literature, grammar, philosophy, law and science. He had also extensively toured Continental Europe and the Near East — the very societies that are the subject-matter of those poems and theatre pieces.
In addition, Ignatius Donnelly, the Minnesotan senator who dabbled in Egyptology and the Pythagorean magic of numbers, claimed, in his 1888 book The Great Cryptogram, that he had discovered a coded message disqualifying Shakespeare and Marlowe.
Cox reports that, in the words “Seas ill said that more low or shak’st spur never writ a word of them,” the words “more low” stand for “Marlowe” and “shak’st spur” for “Shakespeare.” In the claim to authorship, Marlowe is “more low” (than Bacon) and Shakespeare is simply shak-y and spur-ious!
It seems, then, that, for such a task, you need somebody mentally as porky as the carrier of bacon! But by what magic did Bacon score such a feat?
Listen to this. Shakespeare was 46 years old — Cox reports — when the Authorised Version of the Bible was completed in 1611.
From this, Cox draws our attention to the fact that, in Psalm 46, “shake” is the 46th word from the beginning and “spear” is the 46th word from the end. Cox’s question is: Are the four 46s merely coincidental?
Did Bacon conspire with the authors of the Authorised Version to include those facts as a coded message?
Cox comments: “It is delightful to think that Shakespeare’s ‘ghost writer’ could have inserted this little joke.” Yes, of course, it is delightful. But does it answer any question?
What significance did Bacon — if he was the “ghostwriter” — attach to this “joke”? Who received the rough end of the stick of irony? The question is as puzzling as the New Testament’s “Judas Thomas Didymus.”
Judas, we know, was a brother of Jesus. Yet neither “Thomas” nor “Didymus” is a name.
Indeed, the expression “Thomas Didymus” is completely nonsensical because both words mean the same thing — Teoma (the Aramaic original) and Didymos (the Hellenic Greek equivalent) both mean “twin.” Thus scholars now affirm that Judas Iscariot was Jesus’s identical twin.
Was Bacon Shakespeare’s identical twin? Was the story of Shakespeare’s birth at Stratford-upon-Avon invented to draw a permanent wedge between him and his “ghost writer”? What’s more, as we have seen, Shakespeare belonged to the Rosicrucian worshippers of an African pantheon.
Cox writes: “Robert Langdon (a hero of Dan Brown’s fiction) knows Bacon to have been a Rosicrucian … (It) suggests that Bacon may even have been the legendary Christian Rosenkreutz, founder of the Rosicrucian movement…”
Indeed, both words mean the same thing, Rosenkreutz being but German for Rosicrucian — both translating as “Red Cross” — the term by which a descendant of the movement is known today. This suggests that, intellectually, Shakespeare and Bacon were identical twins.
Intellectually, then, the controversy over who is who is totally futile. The name “Shakespeare” might have been invented merely as a nom de plume for Bacon — or perhaps vice versa. Yet, emotionally, “Shakespeare” himself is clearly wrong to assert that “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
That is why we — who have grown up to love William Shakespeare so profoundly — would protest vehemently if you changed his name to “Francis Bacon” (even if you didn’t remove a single comma from any of his inimitable works).