Over the centuries, some people have believed that just about anybody but William Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays. People have credited the plays to Ben Johnson, Christopher Marlowe, and Sir Walter Raleigh, but the most famous theory is that the plays were really written by Francis Bacon. Today, while visiting the International Spy Museum, I discovered that some theorists believe that Bacon hid ciphers within Shakespeare’s plays, revealing he was the true author and that he was also the secret son of Queen Elizabeth.
Leave it to a husband and wife cryptography team to blow this theory out of the water.
In 1957, William and Elizabeth Friedman showed that the ciphers, supposedly discovered by Bacon backers, were not valid. William Friedman certainly had the credentials to know. Friedman led the team that broke Japan’s famous PURPLE code during World War II, allowing the Allies to read Japan’s coded messages.
In fact, breaking the PURPLE code made it possible to intercept a Japanese message to Japan’s embassy to break off negotiations with the United States. This message was sent on the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, which is why some conspiracy theorists believe Americans had foreknowledge of the attack.
But perhaps it was William Shakespeare who actually sent the message to the Japanese embassy. Or was it Sir Walter Raleigh? I lay odds on Francis Bacon.
By Doug Peterson