VERY LIKE A WHALE: Apophenia, Cultural Debasement and Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah

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Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?


By the mass, and ’tis like a camel, indeed.


Methinks it is like a weasel.


It is backed like a weasel.


Or like a whale?


Very like a whale.

Apophenia is the human tendency to imagine patterns and see meaning in random data. If you see a human face in a rocky cliff, for instance, that’s apophenia. If you see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in a stormy cloudscape, that’s apophenia.

And if you see nothing but a vast Jewish plot in the complete works of William Shakespeare? Joseph Atwill calls it typology, but don’t be fooled. This word is merely a mask for apophenia and rampant confirmation bias, unrestrained by any knowledge or understanding of the writer or the period.

In Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah, Joseph Atwill transplants his own theory from his book Caesar’s Messiah – The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus that the Christian Gospels encode the events of Titus Flavius’ victorious campaign in Judea and are therefore a Roman creation to mock the Messianic Jews and lure them into a pacifist religion. Now he finds the same code mirrored in Shakespeare for the reverse purpose, to create ‘Jewish revenge literature’, a ‘pie-in-the-face to the Gentiles’.

For him this is the secret and actual meaning of the entire works of Shakespeare, based on which he proceeds to dismiss the significance of the whole oeuvre and discourage anyone from ever reading it again.

In interviews, such as the one he gave to Red Ice Radio in 2014, Joseph Atwill makes no secret of the fact that before applying his ready-made theory to the works of Shakespeare, he had no interest in the writer and hadn’t read him. Indeed, couldn’t read him – he repeatedly calls the plays ‘boring and incomprehensible’. It is only in the light of his theory that they become comprehensible (or interesting) at all.

If you understand the gospels, if you understand the story of Jesus as a kind of prefiguration and a mockery of the Roman-Jewish war, then when you come to Shakespeare you have the correct interpretive framework to make sense of the plays […]

If you are familiar with the gospels typology then suddenly all of the Shakespearean plays which are so boring and incomprehensible become kind of funny and very easy to understand. I read Titus Andronicus and the reason that I actually was interested in that play is because the character Titus obviously evokes the character who is in back of the gospels, Titus Flavius …but more Andronicus, this caught my attention, I wasn’t really into Shakespeare, but there was something about the title that brought me into it.” 

People who read the book […] will see that the plays themselves are really quite interesting when you know what they’re really talking about.

So, the plays are incomprehensible except in the light of Atwill’s ‘Flavian Comic Code’. Joseph Atwill is the only person in four hundred years (apart from the Jews, obviously) to have understood the works of ‘William Shakespeare’ (according to Atwill, the pseudonym of a teenage Italian-Jewish courtesan who ‘was Shakespeare’ and therefore wrote Hamlet at the age of nineteen). Anything else you ever saw in it is merely an illusion, and Shakespeare a ‘pseudo-genius’, constructed with the intention of dominating all those poor Gentile souls who think his art actually means something.

But don’t worry: Shakespeare’s Messiah is here to save us from Shakespeare and to stop us from ever wanting to read ‘her’ again. Perhaps in time he plans to rescue us from literature in its entirety, since apparently he must destroy what he does not understand.

Atwill claims that the plays and poems were written by Emilia Bassano Lanier, a Marrano Jew from Venice who was the teenage mistress of the Lord Chamberlain, Baron Hunsdon, at the court of Elizabeth I for four years before falling pregnant and being married off to a cousin in 1592, by which time she was 23 and already the greatest (pseudo-)genius in English literary history.

Only she wasn’t. She was too young. (Perhaps someone should have said that to Lord Hunsdon, too.)

According to his theory, Lanier wrote the entire works of Shakespeare, including the sonnets in which she adopts a male persona and writes love poems to herself. Her purpose in creating the greatest poetic oeuvre in the English language, works which played a primary role in the unification, expansion and refinement of English into a literary language, was entirely to reverse the Flavian code and turn the Roman joke against the Gentiles.

One wonders why she would go to a lifetime’s trouble to do this – why write 38 plays, 154 sonnets and 3 narrative poems, rather than focusing your satire in a single play or poem? Lanier’s only published work was Salve Deus Rex Iudaeorum (1611) – would this not be the place to look for ‘Jewish revenge literature’? Why make Lanier the author of the plays and have her repeat the same trick ad infinitum like some kind of obsessive lunatic?

Ah, but it was easy, according to Atwill: “Given her background, the literature just came naturally out of her mind.”

And she couldn’t stop it, apparently.

Either way, the secret and actual message of the gospels, is “You stupid Jews, we beat you good, ha ha ha! And now we’re selling you this new religion to turn you into pacifists.”

The secret and actual message of Shakespeare is the reverse: “You filthy Goyim, we’re gonna get you in the end, ha ha ha! And now we’re creating the greatest literary works in the English language just to torture you with long boring plays which nobody understands!”

On the basis of this amazing interpretation, Atwill then dismisses the whole of Shakespeare not just as being without value but as something poisonous and degrading.

…and beyond that, frankly, I’m really not sure what value the Shakespearean literature has … I don’t think this literature is useful, I don’t think it makes better people, and I would compare it to the apocalyptic zombie cannibalism in our current genre, I mean it’s, it’s, sick!”


The problem with this is that if you approach the works of Shakespeare (or any other author) without any previous experience or knowledge, waving a piece of paper with the word ‘typology’ scrawled on it, which you regard as a license to see anything you like ‘coded’ into the vast complexity of the text, there is nothing to restrain a tendency to rampant apophenia and raging confirmation bias.

Atwill’s vaunted ‘typological’ method means basing interpretation on the random occurrence of key words, which are taken in isolation and given arbitrary new meanings in order to open the gate to an army of irrelevant hypotheses in the service of an astoundingly reductivist theory.

In simple words: just make up whatever the fuck you like.

Let’s have a look at what Atwill has written about one Shakespeare play, The Tempest, and consider his method in action. I read his essay ‘Shakespeare’s Apocalyptic Brave New World’, published on his own website.

His stated purpose is to elucidate the phrase ‘Brave New World’, so that we can better understand how it is used by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 novel of that title.

Early on in the essay, Atwill shares with us the fact that he was surprised to find that this play has a happy ending. According to his theory, all the Shakespeare plays should have endings in which the ‘Gentile’ characters are cannibalistically slaughtered, or better still, slaughter each other. If a play ends in marriage, the forgiveness of old feuds, the reunion of lost children and parents and brothers and friends, and the redemption of the self ‘when no man was his own’, we must ignore all this and find the Jewish revenge porn hidden within the text, which is the ‘actual’ ending.

The play, you see, only appears to be about forgiveness and to have a happy ending; in reality it enacts the usual Jewish revenge, evokes the Jewish apocalypse and has an ‘occulted outcome’ which is of course nasty, vengeful, and Jewish.

So why then would Lanier give her play this false ‘happy ending’? Ah, says Atwill, she was probably blackmailed into it – or replaced by another author.

The only reason I didn’t stop reading at this point was out of morbid curiosity.

No doubt this ad hoc ‘blackmail’ hypothesis or such like will have to be wheeled out many times, as Atwill eventually realizes that Shakespeare wrote rather a lot of plays with happy endings. They’re called comedies and romances.

Meanwhile, this charming entertainment for a daughter’s marriage, a romance incorporating a masque, is interpreted in the same way as Titus Andronicus, a substandard horror tragedy which Shakespeare (if he wrote it at all) never bothered to revise or publish in an authorized edition. It’s all the same to Atwill – there’s nothing in Shakespeare but endlessly repeated visions of dire and degrading punishments to be meted out to the Gentiles at the Apocalypse.

Here is what happens when Atwill applies his theory to Shakespeare’s magic-and-music-soaked text; get this. At the end of The Tempest what ‘really’ happens is that young Prince Ferdinand of Naples is castrated by his bride while he sleeps, then circumcised by a half-human monster, and finally his penis is cut off and eaten by his father, his uncle, and his bride’s uncle.

I kid you not:

Prospero’s ‘cell’ is where vengeance is delivered. First, Prospero describes his cell as a “court” – in other words where justice is delivered. Then he orders Ferdinand to sleep there. While he is asleep Miranda ‘severs’ Ferdinand – in other words castrates him. Then, Caliban is told to ‘trim it handsomely’ – meaning to circumcise Ferdinand’s castrated member. Finally, the Gentile nobility is told to spend a night inside the cell – to participate in a cannibal feast of the ‘trimmed’ member.

Sick enough for you?

The premises for this singularly diseased instance of apopheniac fantasy arise as follows:

1 Prospero, the deposed Duke of a powerful city-state, refers to his modest home as his ‘cell’ (i.e., like a monk’s bare room) or ironically as his ‘court’. Not understanding irony, Atwill chooses to think that ‘cell’ means a gaol and ‘court’ means a court of law, and therefore that this is where justice will be meted out to the enemies of the Jews.

2 Prospero sends Ferdinand to his cave to ‘repose [himself] a while’. Atwill thinks that ‘repose’ necessarily means ‘sleep’.

3 The word ‘severed’ has been used only by Alonso:

Is she [Miranda] the goddess that hath sever’d us,

And brought us thus together?

‘Sever’d’ obviously means ‘separated’ here, but the word calls to Mr Atwill’s mind the irresistible image of severed testicles.

4 Later, Caliban is sent to the ‘cell’ or cave to perform his normal menial duties of cleaning and tidying. Prospero’s phrase ‘make sure you trim it handsomely’ is taken by Atwill to mean ‘make sure you circumcise the sleeping Prince Ferdinand’s castrated penis. And do it handsomely.’

This despite the fact that Prospero has just revealed Ferdinand and Miranda alive, awake and as far as we can tell completely unmaimed, playing an innocent game of chess in Prospero’s cave.

5 Prospero tells the bemused company that they should get some rest and he will tell them the rest of the story over breakfast. Apparently that’s code for ‘we’ll have a cannibal feast and eat Ferdinand’s sever’d penis. (With some Flavian beans, no doubt.)

This for me was the highlight of this essay. Now I understand why Atwill calls it The Flavian Comic Code.

If you can bear it I’ll share a couple of other highlights from this festival of false readings. Let’s see what Atwill makes of two passages: Ariel’s famous song, “Where the bee sucks, there suck I”, which the spirit sings when Prospero releases him from his twelve years of servitude; and Prospero’s famous speech ‘Our revels now are ended’, which he addresses to his daughter and son-in-law ostensibly to calm them and and more importantly himself, after his abrupt termination of their betrothal masque.

First the song.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:

In a cowslip’s bell I lie;

There I couch when owls do cry.

On the bat’s back I do fly

After summer merrily.

Merrily, merrily shall I live now

Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

Now you and I might think that this is a grace-note to the conclusion of the drama, a lyrical anticipation of pastoral bliss, the end of toil and resumption of play for this mischievous spirit of nature.

But we’re just stupid goys, so what do we know? In fact things are about to get really bad for the Gentiles, because this innocent little song is an anticipation of the Apocalypse which is about to overtake them all, once they have been released from their dream-state.

“Compare to Isaiah 34:11 and 35:1-2:

34:11 But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.

35:1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. ….”

Slam dunk, innit? The poet says ‘owls’ and ‘blossoms’ to alert us to the occulted, encoded message. Presumably ‘she’ could just as well have used ‘cormorant’ and ‘wilderness’ or ‘glad’ and ‘rejoice’ or ‘rose’ and ‘solitary’, and it would have come to the same thing.

And it always does come to the same thing, believe me.

Finally then, to one of the greatest speeches in English poetry, Prospero’s requiem for the great illusion of life, the end of worlds and the striking of theatre sets.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep. 

Is there anything much lovelier in English poetry? So inward, yet so resonant, so limpidly clear even while contemplating the deep mystery of reality itself.

Except that’s not what it’s ‘really’ about, of course. Atwill describes the speech as:

the most important in the play, in which the enraged Prospero gives a description of the coming Apocalypse of the Gentiles envisioned by Isaiah. Prospero’s use of the term ‘dissolve’ … is one of the two keys needed to understand the passage and he is using the term in the same context as Isaiah does in 34:2-4, describing the slaughter of all the nations, the stink of their carcasses, and the melting of mountains with their blood […] 

Thus, in the first part of the passage, when Prospero indicates that actors are “the stuff that dreams are made of”, he is actually saying that the actors are part of the dream that Isaiah foresaw which leads to the apocalypse of the nations.”

Prospero’s speech is a spiritual exercise he uses to get control of his emotions as the climax of his plot approaches. The mood is not anger, but acceptance. He’s calming himself by looking at it all sub specie eternitate. But this great speech and the character development it embodies is of no interest to Joseph Atwill except in its use of just two isolated words. It’s not clear what the second one is, but these two words apparently tell us what the speech is ‘really’ about – the approaching Apocalypse and the fiendish Zionist plot to put the Gentiles into an MK-ULTRA dream-state through their construction of the pseudo-genius ‘Shakespeare’, whose magnificent works will prove to be as much an illusion as the spirit masque just witnessed by Miranda and Ferdinand.

Given the depiction of the ‘Globe’ as an element in the dream state that leads to the Apocalypse of the Christian world, it is hard not engage in paranoid wondering of to what extent Jewish influence in the media is related to the ‘dream state’ for Gentiles described in the Tempest. Or as John Lennon stated – hopefully tongue in cheek –“show business is an extension of the Jewish religion.”

And so you will sleep, and while you sleep you will dream, and while you dream…

the Jews are gonna sneak in and cut your dick off, ha ha ha! 

And then the world will end and there’ll be nothing left but owls and blossoms.

And Jews, obviously.


Read it for yourself if you don’t believe me. Read it, before accusing me of creating straw men or any such thing. See if you can get through it without laughing, before criticizing me for my constant appeal to ridicule. There are absurdities, manifest errors and blurrings in every point made. If you want to see cultural debasement in action, you’ll find it here in its most toxic, reductivist form. If on the other hand you want anything that even qualifies as an interpretation, forget it.

I don’t know what motives lie behind this nonsense. I can’t express how bad it is. I feel like John Savage, wandering alienated through the abject society of Brave New World; lost for words, I find that all I can do is quote Shakespeare.

Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of

me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know

my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my

mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to

the top of my compass: and there is much music,

excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot

you make it speak. ‘Sblood, do you think I am

easier to be played on than a pipe?

Related: The ‘Whole Turd’ Fallacy

10 thoughts on “VERY LIKE A WHALE: Apophenia, Cultural Debasement and Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah

  1. Hi Paul,

    Could there be a design in the lead photograph? At the very least, the photographer waited a long time for the shapes of horsemen to appear in the sky. I do see the horsemen, don’t you?

    Here’s another pattern: time and time again, Atwill’s critics focus in on the most speculative and controversial aspects of the theory, and evaluate the entire body of work on that basis, usually without understanding much of it.

    Or is it me that’s jumping to conclusions here? Paul, do you see any merit to Atwill’s theory that the Gospel is a veiled allegory of Titus Flavius? Or, that The Tempest is built around Isaiah 29 thru 35? Atwill is far from the first scholar to notice that Ariel is a character from Isaiah.

    Anyhow, thanks for visiting postflaviana and posting your views.

  2. Hi Jerry, I don’t have an opinion on Mr Atwill’s theory about the Gospels, because I haven’t read it, but having read his essay on The Tempest I would not have any confidence in this author whatsoever. Just to make it clear – I think this is absolute toxic trash, and if he is getting attacked ‘time and time again’, I’m happy to hear it: maybe there is some sanity left in the world. Sorry to be extreme, but I’m amazed that anybody can take this stuff seriously.

    1. Hi Paul, obviously I do see some validity in Atwill’s approach, otherwise I wouldn’t be prominently featuring his material on my website. But I’m also interested in troubleshooting why people have this extreme negative reaction to his work.

      In all honesty, I don’t believe your issue is with apophenia or confirmation bias. You didn’t deny that there are horsemen easily visible in your lead photograph, or that Tempest contains references to Isaiah’s apocalypse. Is there something deeper that’s bothering you?

      The thing about Ferdinand’s castration in Prospero’s bed chamber might be in Joe’s imagination, and nothing Shakespeare ever intended. But then again, Prospero had no real reason to be so nice to Ferdinand, son of his hated enemy. If this had been a tragedy (or imagine this scenario unfolding in real life), Ferdinand would have been dead for sure.

      At any rate — it’s one thing to disagree with Atwill about this interpretation, but why the passion?

      Since you’ve mentioned Jan Irvin’s view of MK-ULTRA at this site, I am curious if you believe that MK-ULTRA was indeed carrying out a plot against the American people? And is the ‘toxic’ aspect of Atwill’s work, the suggestion that this plot is so ancient, and so specifically Zionist or Jewish in nature? Do you see this as anti-Semitic?

      You also mention that you find it disturbing that Atwill compares Shakespeare to “apocalyptic zombie cannibal” movies. Atwill sees these modern films as harmful propaganda spewing from the corporate machine, and ultimately he’s saying Shakespeare is no different. So which is more disturbing: the idea that Shakespeare might be propaganda? Or, does it bother you that Atwill doesn’t see why Shakespeare is better than Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

      My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that there are multiple layers of meaning in Shakespeare, more than just what Atwill sees. That is: if Shakespeare is indeed propaganda, it’s really good propaganda. But, I’m not convinced it’s propaganda at all. But it does contain many cryptic references, including some on the edge of detectability, where reasonable people can disagree about what the author intended.

      In the same way, the Wachowski films (such as Matrix and Cloud Atlas) may be CIA vetted propaganda, and they certainly contain tons of “illuminati symbolism” — but even if so, I’m not going to stop enjoying them as they come out.

      1. Shakespeare’s writing is indeed multi-layered, and his development as an artist is fascinating. I’m afraid Atwill has nothing to add to the conversation, because his interpretation is so reductive, so culturally debased and debasing. It’s pure fantasy, wrong on every level, as I believe I’ve shown in my article. Time to move on. CALIBAN: Let it alone, thou fool. It is but trash.

  3. Mr Dunbar, may I humbly suggest that you read this book and tell us what you think of it?
    “Shakespeare’s Dark Lady: Amelia Bassano Lanier the woman behind Shakespeare’s plays?” by John Hudson.

    I would also suggest that you actually read Joe Atwill’s book, not just the article on “The Tempest”.

  4. I find Sir Francis Bacon in a room with other authors, collectively creating these pieces much more palatable.

  5. Yes, and I don’t dismiss that at all. BUT there is a dominating voice, intense, personal, passionate, human, that runs through the great comedies and tragedies. Great art like this cannot be produced by a program or project, only by an individual. So we have to look to Bacon’s relative and contemporary, a man noted for his plays and for his intimate lifelong connection with the London stage, the man who published the first ‘Shakespearean’ sonnet under his own name as a teenager, but all of whose adult work has simply disappeared – de Vere. I believe he was supported and enabled by Bacon’s scriptorium – and sure, there may be other pens involved – but the voice of ‘Shakespeare’, I am convinced, is the voice of de Vere.

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