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TitleWas Shakespeare a Freemason? - Masonic Symbolism in Macbeth
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Page 1

In 1933 Past Master Alfred
Dodd published a book that
purported to contain evidence
linking William Shakespeare with
the creation of Freemasonry… In
the book, Shakespeare: Creator
of Freemasonry, Dodd focuses
on the Masonic symbolism in
two plays, Love’s Labours Lost
and The Tempest. Except for
two brief references he ignores
Macbeth, an indispensable play
in establishing Shakespeare’s ties
to Freemasonry. The entire play
appears to have been written as
an allegory for the bloody murder
of Hiram Abiff, the core figure of
Masonic ritual.

…One might notice the un-
canny recurrence of the number
three in Masonic ritual… Not only
are there three original Grand
Masters, three assassins, and
a total of thirty-three degrees
of the Masonic hierarchy, but
there are also three principal
officers, three symbolic steps
“from this life to the source of
all knowledge,” three obliga-
tions, three lights upon the altar,
three “pillars” that support the
Lodge, and three knocks that
gain the candidate admission
into the Lodge, followed by three more
knocks to summon the Brethren. This
last example is paralleled in Macbeth,
Act Two, Scene Three, in which three
knocks are continually repeated until
the porter allows entrance to Macduff,
the future murderer of the “unworthy”
Macbeth.

Both the number three and the con-
cept of alchemy play an integral role
in the story of Macbeth’s downfall. In
Act One, Scene One, we are introduced
to three witches who utter the words
“fair is foul, foul is fair.” James Shelby
Downward has pointed out that this is a
well known principle of alchemy (where)

just as lead can be transformed into
gold, the ostensibly noble Macbeth and
his wife can be transformed into serial
murderers by greed and ambition… The
number three appears again in relation
to Hecate’s appearance in Act Three,
Scene Five… It’s interesting to note
that in classical mythology Hecate has
three roles — some of them infernal,
some of them divine… she is Diana on
Earth, Luna in Heaven, and Hecate in
Hell… The melding of the positive and
the negative are common elements of
both alchemy and the Brotherhood, as
Grand Commander Albert Pike has writ-
ten, “The conviction of all men that God

is good led to a belief in a Devil,
the fallen Lucifer or Lightbearer,
Shaitan the Adversary, Ahriman
and Tuphōn, as an attempt to
explain the existence of Evil, and
make it consistent with the Infinite
Power, Wisdom, and Benevolence
of God.” [Pike, Morals and Dogma,
p. 324.]

“Man is a free agent, though
Omnipotence is above and all
around him. To be free to do good,
he must be free to do evil. The Light
necessitates the Shadow.” [Ibid.,
p. 307.] In other words, “fair is
foul, foul is fair.” Macbeth can
easily be viewed as a mingling
of these forces. He is a bundle
of paradoxes: nobleman and
murderer, murderer and coward,
coward and warrior. He is the
perfect vessel for Shakespeare’s
retelling of the ritualistic killing
inherent in the third degree,
for the three “unworthy crafts-
men” possess many of the same
contradictory traits. In Act Two,
Scene One, Shakespeare presents
a subtle analogy to a fragment
of the Hiram story… Confusion
abounds when the noblemen
learn about the death of King
Duncan. In surprise, Macduff

yells “horror” three times in a row, fol-
lowed by these lines:
Confusion now hath made his master-

piece!
Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope
The Lord’s anointed temple and stole

thence
The life o’ the building.

The parallels between the Abiff
legend and these lines are obvious.
Shakespeare further extends the Abiff
metaphor only a few lines later when
Macbeth describes what the King looked
like in death… [and] uses an evocative
simile to describe Duncan’s wounds…

Was Shakespeare a Freemason? Masonic Symbolism in Macbeth
By Bro Robert Guffey
As published in the March 2008 Summons of Yellowknife Lodge No. 162 (Condensed and confidential passages deleted)

Vol. 73, No. 6

Editor: MWBro
Robert E. Juthner

June 2008

First Folio of Shakespeare’s works, with contemporary
woodcut portrait, published in 1623.

See Shakespeare, page 3.

Page 2

2

Provided to Freemasons of Alberta and the Northwest
Territories west of the 4th Meridian who are members of

The Grand Lodge of Alberta, A.F. & A.M.
330 – 12 Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta T2R 0H2

Tel 403-262-1140 — Fax 403-290-0671
www.freemasons.ab.ca

Grand Master-elect & Deputy Grand Master
RWBro John D. Hart
Senior Grand Warden RWBro Brian Shimmons
Junior Grand Warden RWBro Sam Moore
Grand Secretary RWBro Jerry W. Kopp

Published each month except July and August by

The Grand Lodge of Alberta, A.F. & A.M.

Editor: MWBro Robert E. Juthner
14103 Buena Vista Road NW, Edmonton, AB T5R 5S2

Tel 780-483-5124 — Fax 780-486-4512
e-mail: [email protected]

The Committee on the Grand Lodge Bulletin
MWBro Robert E. Juthner (Chairman);

RWBro George Tapley, Assoc. Ed.; WBro Garth
Cochran; WBro Loren Kline; Bro Trevor Morris;
Ex Officio: Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master

& Grand Secretary
Annual subscription rate for non-members of the GLA
is C$10.00 plus mailing costs. Republication rights are
granted to other Masonic Jurisdictions, but acknow-
ledgement of the source is requested. The Editor reserves
the right to accept, reject and re-write material submitted
for publication. Deadline for copy is the 1st day of the
month, two months prior to the month of issue.

In Lieu of an Editorial

Reflections — or a Swan Song
After twelve years of having been entrusted with the re-

sponsibility of editing, and on behalf of the Grand Lodge of
Alberta publishing its monthly communication to the Craft,
the time has come to pass that trust on into younger and
certainly at least equally capable hands. In doing so, I feel I
ought to pay tribute to the fine work done by the seven edi-
tors who came before me, who were:

December 1935–June 1944 MWBro Alexander M. Mitchell
September 1944–June 1957 MWBro Sam Harris
September 1957–June 1967 MWBro S. Carl Heckbert
September 1967–June 1984 MWBro W. Jack Collett
September 1984–June 1985 MWBro Robert L. Costigan
September 1985–June 1990 RWBro Norman J. Senn
September 1990–June 1991 WBro A. Kingsley Dean
September 1991–June 1996 RWBro Norman J. Senn

To which now can be added
September 1996–June 2008 MWBro Robert E. Juthner
September 2008–… RWBro George B. Tapley

In 1925, our Grand Lodge Research & Education Committee
had recommended that the Grand Lodge issue a quarterly
bulletin to its membership. MWBro Alexander M. Mitchell,
the 1928–29 Grand Master, picked up on this earlier recom-
mendation and suggested the publication of a quarterly
bulletin with information on the activities of Grand Lodge
and other material of interest. Thus was the Grand Lodge
Bulletin born.

In the Grand Lodge Proceedings of 1935, on page 32, we
read what we could consider the first mandate for the bul-
letin: That…
d) It contain any message or instruction desired by the Grand

Master to be conveyed to the Lodges.
e) It be devoid of �local� news.
f) The main portion be devoted to

quotation of interesting articles
or papers of more or less general
Masonic interest, to be obtained
from Masonic periodicals pub-
lished throughout the world, so
far as reprint of such may be
permitted by the publishers.

g) There be an editorial committee
of three or four who could, pos-
sibly, divide the duties in some manner so each would be
responsible for two or three issues.
The Grand Lodge Bulletin was first published in December

1935 with MWBro Alexander M. Mitchell, PGM, as its editor.
It appeared first in mimeographed form, four pages in length,
with two copies mailed to each Lodge Secretary. The first

printed issue was published in
September 1938 and continued
the four-page format until No-
vember 1986. From December
1986 until December 1998 is-
sues were of four or six pages,
alternating on an irregular basis,
and since 1994 the May issues
were increased to eight pages to
accommodate material relating
to the upcoming Grand Lodge
Communication in June. Since
January 1999 all issues have been
printed as six pages, except eight
pages in May, if required.

When MWBro Mitchell was incapacitated and unable to
continue with his excellent work, MWBro Sam Harris (Grand
Master 1940–41), on being appointed Editor pro tem in Septem-
ber 1944, expressed his desire to put a copy of the bulletin,
that year …in the hands of at least half of our membership and
in the near future attain the hope, long desired � a Bulletin
every month in the hands of every one of our members. The
cost is very small, only 20 cents per year per member. (Editor’s
Message, Bulletin, Sept. 1944.)

The outstanding work that MWBro Harris did with the
Grand Lodge Bulletin continued until June of 1957, when age
forced him into retirement after thirteen years of editorship.
It was then that MWBro S. Carl Heckbert (Grand Master
1955–56) took over the work of editing our Grand Lodge Bul-
letin in September of 1957. It appears that he was the first to
feature regular editorials, a practice which was not always
continued.

MWBro W. Jack Collett (Grand Master 1964–65) and a com-
mittee took over the publication in September 1967. Later the
committee ceased to exist and MWBro Collett continued as

Editor until he retired in June 1984, after seventeen
years of faithful service in this capacity. While the
search was on for a replacement, MWBro Robert
L. Costigan (Grand Master 1978–79) stepped into
the breach for the 1984–85 term. It was in 1985
that �the computer revolutionized the Grand Lodge
Bulletin, in that all articles were printed on the word
processor and assembled for further processing by
the printing company. Great studies have been made
to cut costs and review lodge requirements. (Bulletin
editor, June 1985.)

RWBro Norman J. Senn, PDDGM, Bulletin editor for ten
years (September 1985–June 1990 and September 1991–June
1996), held monthly meetings with his Calgary based com-
mittee members to whom he assigned specific functions. He
contributed greatly to making the bulletin a Masonic publica-
tion that has something for every taste and interest.

Page 3

3

Perhaps the most blatant parallel
between the death of Abiff and Shake-
speare’s tragedy occurs during the
next murder scene [when] Macbeth
hires a pair of assassins to exterminate
Banquo and his son Fleance… This pair
mysteriously transforms into a trio. To
the uninitiated this might seem like
a discrepancy. However, after all the
evidence presented so far it becomes
obvious that Shakespeare is purposely
waving a red flag in order to attract the
reader’s attention to this “irrelevant”
detail. For the Bard’s “fellows” it would
have been immediately obvious that the
three assassins were to be associated
with J….a, J….o, and j…...m.

The idea of Shakespeare having been
a Freemason will probably be a contro-
versial theory to literary scholars, but
then again anything not generally known
since before the Cretaceous Period [from
135 to 63 million years ago, Ed.] is contro-
versial to literary scholars. Meanwhile,
most mainstream historians believe that
Freemasonry was founded in 1717, long
after Shakespeare’s death. Other, more
esoteric authors trace the origins of the
Brotherhood all the way back to An-
cient Egypt. True or not, neither theory
erases the fact that obvious Masonic
symbolism is woven into the tragedy of
Macbeth, written over a hundred years
before traditional history says that such
symbolism ever existed.

Editor’s Commentary:
An extremely thoroughly thought-

through and well written essay — here
shortened because of space restric-
tions — it merits appreciation and
some words of reflection. In his clos-

ing paragraph, the author admits the
dilemma caused by the discrepancy in
time between the Bard’s life span and
Freemasonry as we know it. Here is Wil-
liam Shakespeare, 1564–1616, and there
is the period during which, we think,
the ritual was devised, early 18th or, at
best, late 17th century (the 3rd degree was
added later). There is also a multitude of
lists of so-called “famous” Freemasons,
which thankfully do not claim the Bard
as “one of us.” However, much of the
diction of (English) Masonic rituals is
reminiscent of Shakespeare’s style, so
it could be the other way around: that
our early wordsmiths were inspired by
Shakespeare. Here is an example:

Our Ancient York Rite Brethren are
familiar with the phrase occurring
in the Fellowcraft degree [emphasis
mine] — …ever remembering that we
are travelling on the level of time to that
undiscovered country from whose
bourne no traveller returns… (likely
of 18th century vintage). Compare this
with Shakespeare’s Hamlet’s Soliloquy:
(Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1)
…that the dread of something after

death,—
The undiscover’d country, from

whose bourn
No traveller returns,— puzzles the

will…
[both spellings, bourne and bourn are
acceptable — Oxford Dictionary] —
penned by Shakespeare about 1602.
Hardly a question of what came first
— the chicken or the egg!

Do you think that William Shake-
speare, writing in 1608, had your Editor
in mind when producing the play The
Merry Devil of Edmonton?

rej

For the 1990–91 term, the Grand
Master appointed WBro A. Kingsley
Dean, of Avon Glen Lodge No. 170, as
editor who, upon taking office, declared
his style and independence in the fol-
lowing words: Those Brethren who are
knowledgeable as to my feisty editorial
style in other publications will know
that “I am my own man” and that it has
to be “King’s way” or no way at all! For
those who have not been exposed to my
impetuosity, be forewarned and govern
yourselves accordingly. (Bulletin, Sept.
1990, p. 5). Kingsley Dean performed
exceptionally well for his one year in
office. His “farewell,” printed in the June
1991 editorial, perhaps shows a bit of
frustration, with these words: . . . for the
most part, material in the notices is not
worthy of duplication for the edification
of other members of the Craft… (Bulletin,
June 1991, p. 2.)

Following his second five-year term
as editor, RWBro Senn went into well
earned retirement as such in June 1996,
while still remaining active as President
of the Board of General Purposes and
chairing committees of Grand Lodge.
To succeed him, the Grand Master ap-
pointed me, MWBro Robert E. Juthner
(Grand Master 1987–88) Chairman of
the Committee on the Grand Lodge
Bulletin and its editor, commencing
duties with the September 1996 edition.
While building on the achievements of
my predecessors, I strove to expand
the variety of Masonic content and re-
sumed the practice of writing monthly
editorials dealing with the Craft’s con-
cerns of the day. During my tenure it
became apparent to me that articles
from our Alberta publication in other
North American and overseas Masonic
bulletins, sometimes translated into
other languages and usually giving due
credit to the source, the “Grand Lodge
Bulletin,” but leaving the reader in the
dark as to which Grand Lodge was the
originator. It was therefore, among other
considerations, that with the consent of
the Grand Master, the generic title was
replaced with the distinctive name The
Alberta Freemason, beginning with the
first issue in the new, the Third Millen-
nium, January 2001.

Another important decision was
reached by the committee, and ap-
proved by the Grand Master, that in
addition to making the hard copy of
the bulletin available to all Alberta
Freemasons and Grand Jurisdictions
in amity, starting with the November

2002 issue, The Alberta Freemason was
made available on the Grand Lodge’s
web site, www.freemasons.ab.ca. Thus
our bulletin has become the property
of worldwide readership, both Masonic
and profane. Needless to say that open-
ing up the publication to the uninitiated
put new restrictions on the editorial
committee, as well as on authors of
articles submitted for consideration.

The 32-page special high-gloss and
colour Centennial Edition, in celebration
of the Grand Lodge’s 100th Anniversary
in October 2005, was both a challenge
to the committee as well as an accom-
plishment in which the producers and
the readers can take pride. (There are
still a few copies available for those who
want it — contact the editor.)

In conclusion, as I retire as editor,
but have been invited to lend further
support in another role, I wish to thank
all those Brethren (and one great lady,
Judy Rivers) who during these twelve
years have made up the membership
on the Committee on the Grand Lodge
Bulletin, without whose tireless and
capable assistance the editor could
not have reached the goal of creating
a paper of value for our beloved Craft.
Thank you also to those who praised the
publication, orally or in writing — only
one was of the opposite opinion during
all these years.

May you all keep enjoying The Al-
berta Freemason for many, many more
years to come.

Robert E. Juthner

Shakespeare, from page 1.

Page 4

4

Redwood Lodge No. 193
The Grand Lodge of Alberta website

— www.freemasons.ab.ca — has been
updated, with a new look and more
features. One of these features is the
ability to print GLA forms. Have a look
at the new website and scroll down on
the left side to “Official Forms.” You can
print Form 103 — letter for potential
applicant [“Letter of Information,” Ed.],
and Form 106 – “Petition for Initiation”.
I will maintain a supply of “hard-copies”
of these forms for members.

Bro Don Kellner
Secretary-Treasurer

[It all starts with Form 101 — “Decla-
ration of Principles” freely distributable,
and Form 102 — “Freemasonry — Aims
and Objectives” to be given to men who
declared to become petitioners. Ed.]

The Emblems of Mortality Degree
Team was recently formed by Bros Mike
Johnson, Michael O’Mara, Chris Keown,
David Buckingham and Chris Woods, all
members of Baseline Lodge No. 198 in
Spruce Grove, Alberta. It is not a Baseline
degree team but a young Masons degree
team that confers the 3rd degree in the
Canadian Rite, anywhere in Alberta.

The team members are of the belief
that the traditions of Freemasonry need
to be upheld by the new generations of
Masons, and that shortcuts to make the
work easier or to do all three degrees in

The Emblems of Mortality Degree Team

one day are unacceptable. To become
a team member, one must be under
the age of 35, and be asked to join. The
team travels a lot and looks for young
Masons who are good in memory and
floor work.

RWBro John Slade, DDGM of Yellow-
head District for 2007–08, is currently
filling in as Master of the team until Bro
Mike Johnson, its “key architect” and
presently Senior Warden of Baseline
Lodge, becomes Worshipful Master.
WBro James Linton and RWBro Neil
Lonsbury have also served as mentors

and were made Honourary Members
of the team.

Lodges interested in inviting this team
for the conferral of the third degree are
asked to contact the team’s secretary,
Bro Michael O’Mara at 780-991-2576 or
by e-mail at [email protected]

The picture shows (l-r): Front Row
(seated): Chris Keown, David Bucking-
ham, John Slade, Mike Johnson, James
Linton; Back Row (standing): Chris
Woods, Dean Horsfield, Byron Menzies,
Tony Ebdon, Michael O’Mara, Benoit
Desvoyault

Acacia Lodge No. 11
When a man first becomes a Mason,

he goes from being called Mr. _____ to
being called Brother _____. When the
light of Freemasonry is revealed to a
newly obligated Brother, a whole new
world comes into view. This new world
is one in which the brotherhood of man
is established under God. This sense of
brotherhood is seen when we attend a
Lodge on a cruise ship (for example)
with total strangers who somehow
seem so familiar — like family. We feel
this sense of oneness when we travel to
other cities and have an opportunity to
visit other Lodges, or when we visit a
sister Lodge in our own building on a
different night than our regular one. Our
Brother Masons are just that — they are
our Brothers.

“Brotherly Love” — what does it

mean? Is it something that is valued and
practiced in our Lodge? Is it not really the
whole point of being a Mason? The three
principal rungs of Jacob’s Ladder are
Faith, Hope and Charity (Love), the last
of which is the pinnacle of our Masonic
endeavours… It is therefore important
that we constantly remind ourselves of
this cardinal virtue — Love — and try
to act accordingly. To act with empa-
thy towards our Masonic Brethren, to
forgive others when they fail to do so,
and especially to recognize when we
have failed to act with empathy, and to
ask for forgiveness. These are acts of
Brotherly Love and this is what it means
to be a Mason.

WBro Colin Safranovich, WM

Calgary Lodge No. 23
In the last few weeks I have encoun-

tered a few individuals that have asked
me why I do some of the things I do. My
answer is always the same, “because

Alberta Miscellany
Original thoughts from the summonses, selected by Bro Trevor Morris

Page 5

5

I can!” An author by the name of P. J.
O’Rourke wrote, that everybody wants
to save the world, nobody wants to help
Mom with the dishes. So much is made
of “big” causes and “major” issues,
and when combined with the cult of
celebrity, it’s very easy to become
overwhelmed and desensitized to the
smaller and more personal problems
around us. And that’s not really fair to
us, or our neighbours, is it?

In that vein, [this Spring] I put it out
to you all to take the opportunities that
this season of renewal offers by focusing
on those acts that ease the burden of
those around you in some way, and let
go of those that bring only discord and
negativity and show the world at large
what a Mason is!

The world will probably outlive us all,
but the dishes are really piling up.

WBro Barry Gurnsey, WM

Evergreen Lodge No. 166
Where is our commitment today? We

often justify our lack of commitment
with a full range of creative excuses,
or with blame, whether it be directed
at someone or something. Have we lost
some of our individual values, beliefs
and principles? Or have we fallen true
to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

According to Maslow, our first need
is a biological and physiological need
to basic life: air, food, drink, shelter,
warmth, sex, sleep, etc. Once this need
is satisfied, we move on to the need for
safety: protection, security, order, law,
limits, stability, etc. Being safe and se-
cure, with our stomachs full, we desire a
need for belongingness and love: family,
affection, relationship, work groups, etc.
At this point we begin to learn to social-
ize and establish social activities…

Today these needs appear to happen
automatically, without effort, and we are
falling victims to Maslow’s higher needs.
Our need for commitment is chang-
ing. Survival, security and belonging
are being set aside. Taking over is the
need for esteem, achievement, status,
responsibility and reputation. We begin
to lose touch with reality to fulfill our
own individual needs. Finally, we reach
a point of self-actualization, personal
growth and fulfillment… As Masons, let
us never lose sight of Brotherly Love,
Relief and Truth, and stay on the path of
Commitment in everything we do.

WBro Timothy Shewchuk, WM

Something New:

The Widow’s Sons
A Masonic Riders’ Association

The concept of the Widow’s Sons
Masonic Motorcycle Association was
conceived by WBro Carl Davenport in
Chicago, in 2000. He laid the foundation
for what would become an international
organization with over a thousand
members in North America and Europe
today. Well over thirty Master Masons
in Alberta, who ride a variety of bikes,
are proud to ride to visit Lodge and do
charity work together.

At the Edmonton motorcycle show in
January 2006, a group of Masons came
together for the first time to discuss
the first chapter of the Widow’s Sons in
Canada. On 10 March 2006 the Northern
Jurisdiction issued a charter for Alberta
and since then other Canadian Grand
Chapters have been started in Ontario,
Quebec and Manitoba.

The charity in which the Widow’s
Sons are involved here in Alberta
consists primarily of donating time
to society. Over the last two years we
have contributed time and labour to
the iHuman Youth Society, the Salvation
Army and the Blood Bank. This summer
a young girl, named Lydia, will receive
much needed medical equipment with
the support of the Widow’s Sons.

As an organization, our first priority
is with our Lodges — we’re Masons first.
By applying our compasses to our two
passions we have accomplished a lot in
our first two years and we continue to
make great plans for the future, both in
Lodge and on the road.

For more information visit our web-
site at www.widowssons.ca or contact
us at [email protected]

Widow’s Sons Alberta “Colours” were also
seen at the Masonic Spring Workshop.

The Use of White Gloves
From The Square, Lewis Masonic,
September 2007, p. 23.

To the ordinary English Mason, white
gloves signify nothing more beyond
correct clothing during Lodge meet-
ings. In the Middle Ages, according to
Oswald Wirth in the Livre de l’Apprenti,
the new Apprentice had to present a
pair of gloves to every member of the
Lodge. In modern French Masonry [and
throughout continental European juris-
dictions; Ed.], on the other hand, it is
the Apprentice himself who is presented

with two pairs of white gloves. One pair
is for his own use, and he has to avoid
sullying their whiteness, for the hands
of a Mason must always remain clean.
The other pair is for the Initiate to offer
to the woman he esteems the most. The
white gloves received on the day of his
initiation recall to the Mason a memory
of his obligation.

[Your editor and his wife still have
their white leather gloves, fifty-four
years after the fact.]

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