Rose Cross (Rosicrucian) Puzzle on p. 173 of The Merchant of Venice
Please see the image below. It should be self-explanatory. If you have problems viewing the image, you can download it for easier viewing.
I will add some further remarks here because I could not cram everything in the margins of the image.
It is well-known, that the letters R.C. are the first letters of Rose Cross, so the letters are associated with the Rosicrucians. As discussed below, the number 173, broken up into the numbers 17 and 3 (Elizabethan alphabet Simple cipher) can symbolize the letters R.C.
Note: I have been in contact with Luís Gonçalves, the author of the Gematria Research Blogspot (see link below). He noticed that the letters in FAMA FRATERNITATIS, the first Rosicrucian manifesto, add up to 173 in Simple cipher. (Nice catch Luís!) This is yet another association with the number 173 with the Rosicrucians. Here is the link to Luís' blog: https://gematriaresearch.blogspot.com/ The link to his post on Baconian ciphers can be found here: https://gematriaresearch.blogspot.com/2021/03/history-of-ciphers-part-2-baconian.html
There appear to be three Rosie Cross (R.C.) messages on the page. The first is encoded in the page number -- 173 can be separated into 17 = R and 3 = C (R.C.) in Simple gematria of the Elizabethan alphabet. The second is at line 56-57 of the left-hand column. The word Iew (Jew) is the seventh, and last, appearance of the word "Jew" on the page. It is also the 17th word in the sentence. With the word "third" (line 2) falling just above the word "Jew," 17 = R and 3 = C (R.C.) is again encoded on the page. The third, and as far as I can determine, the final, R.C. is located on lines 2 and 3, at the top of the left hand column. It seems that the person who hid the message probably considered this the third hidden R.C. because of the words "a third cannot be matcht, unless the diuell [devil] himselfe turn Iew." This seems to refer to the fact that there is no obvious clue at lines 2 and 3 that would provide a number 17 (R) to match with the word "crosse," the first letter of which has the value 3. The word count of the nearby words "diuell" and "Iew" do not arrive at the number 17. The word "diuell," in line 2, is the 18th word of the page and the 8th word of the sentence. The word "Iew," in line 3, is 31st word on the page and the 21st word of the sentence. Therefore, it appears there is a "Cross" (initial letter C = 3), but no "Rose" (initial letter R = 17) to go with it. The solution is in the lines, "Here comes another of the Tribe, a third cannot / be matcht, vnlesse the diuell himselfe turne Iew." The instruction is to metaphorically turn the devil mentioned in line 2 into a Jew; that is, the word "diuell" in line 2 should be given the value 17, the sentence word count value of the word "Iew" in line 57. When this is done, the word "diuell" in line 2 takes on the value 17 (R = 17) and the third Rosie Cross message has its R.C. match.
As notes at the margins of the image describe, the fact that the instructions for solving the third R.C. message fall, in part, on line 57 may be significant. Alexander Waugh has posited that the number 1740 (Edward de Vere's earl and code number) represents Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. The number 1740 is derived from his earl number (17th earl) and code number. Waugh posits that Vere was known as "The Fourth T," that is hidden in a Triple Tau cross. The value 40 is also based on the fact that Edward de Vere was assigned the code number 40 in encrypted State correspondence. He also sometimes signed his letters as with a double "V," and the letter "V" has the value 20 in simple gematria of the Elizabethan alphabet, so a double "V" equals the value 40. Seventeen added to 40 equals 57 (17 + 40 = 57), so the fact that the key to this puzzle falls on line 57 points to a connection with Edward de Vere.
I should also note that the word "Iew" on line 57 is the 7th instance, and last, of the word on the page. Line 57 is the 10th line from the bottom of the page, so it may be possible to arrive at the value 17 by adding these values together. It is also possible to arrive at 17 by taking the sequence value of the first appearance of "Iew" (1st word Jew), on line 3, with the sequence value of the word "Iew" (7th appearance of the word) on line 57 -- the numerals 1 and 7 can be combined to make the numeral 17. However, these solutions are not consistent with the instruction provided that "the diuell himselfe turne Iew." It may be that these facts are mere coincidence, or they may be intentional additional clues to add confidence to the correctness of the ultimate solution.
Another intriguing possibility is that the word "Iew" itself is yet another clue pointing to Edward de Vere. The letters I.E.W. may encode "I E[dward] VV[ere]" (the double V being one of his methods of signing letters, see above). As a bastard, Edward de Vere must have seen himself as an outcast, like a Jew in Elizabethan times.
Of course, one implication of a three-part puzzle about a Jew and a cross could be that an allusion to Jesus Christ on the cross. In the account of the crucifixion, a sign reading "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews" was affixed to the cross of Jesus. It is strange that the devil is associated in the riddle with the cross. I do not know if or why the puzzle may be structured this way. Perhaps it has to do with John 3:14-15 --
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness: even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever beleeveth in him, should not perish, but have eternal life."
In the margin notes of the image, there are comments about Portia's lines in the right-hand column of the page, directly across from the lines "Here comes another of the Tribe, a third cannot / be matcht, vnlesse the diuell himselfe turne Iew." I won't repeat the entire speech here, but I encourage you to read the text. I think the lines allude, in part, to the way the Rosie Cross (R.C.) messages and clues are divided on the page. Some of the lines also seem to allude to "rights" being "barred": "O these naughtie times / Puts bars betweene the owners and their rights." I suspect this refers to a "bar sinister," a mark of bastardy. However, it is intriguing that another reference to the word "naughty," again spoken by Portia, can be found later in the play. The lines lead to the mention of "[a] substitute shines brightly as a King... ." This may allude to the name Shake-speare being a substitute, a mask, a pen name for the true author, a king who could never be acknowledged:
Por. That light we see is burning in my hall: How farre that little candell throwes his beames, So shines a good deed in a naughty world. Ner. When the moone shone we did not see the can (dle? Por. So doth the greater glory dim the lesse, A substitute shines brightly as a King Vntill a King be by, and then his state Empties it selfe, as doth an inland brooke Into the maine of waters: musique, harke. Musicke. Ner. It is your musicke Madame of the house. Por. Nothing is good I see without respect, Methinkes it sounds much sweeter then by day? Ner. Silence bestowes that vertue on it Madam. Por. The Crow doth sing as sweetly as the Larke When neither is attended…
The lines of page 173 discussed above are overlaid on each other in the image below. I have also show this method with pages from The Merchant of Venice in this post:
When the lines are matched-up (note the word "match" in used in the lines) several messages are revealed. First, the message "I would I might prove the end of his Tudor Tribe losses" emerges from the lines. There is also an alignment of letters that spell "rose" or "roses," so the message "I would I might prove the end of his Tudor Rose Tribe losses," or some variation of that message. The alignment of the letters spelling "rose" also falls near the word "third," so the message "R.C." (Rose Cross) is revealed by the initial letter of "rose" and the transformation of the word "third" through simple gematria into the letter "C" (3 = C). The when the value of the initial letter of "rose" (R) is combined with the value 3, then the number 173 is revealed once again. The word "rose" also falls near the word "crosse," so the words "rose crosse" can be found as well.
The following message concerning Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is also revealed:
"Here comes another of the [Tudor Rose] Tribe, a third cannot
be matcht, unlesse the divell himself turn [into Oxenford] Jew."
I think the idea here is that Oxford is a bit of a devil and also shares the characteristics of an outcast Jew, as Jews were in Elizabethan times, because he was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I and Thomas Seymour.
There is also an alignment of letters that spell "E. de Vere" near the line "Let me say Amen betimes least the divell [E. de Vere] crosse / my praier, for here he comes in the likeness of a [Oxenford] Jew."
The words "Rose Cross" and "Tuball" are shown in the left-hand margin of the image. Tubal-Cain is a person of significance in Freemasonry:
"Tubal-Cain is a person mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in Genesis 4:22. He was a descendent of Cain, the son of Lamech and Zillah, the brother of Naamah and half-brother of Jabal and Jubal.
Genesis 4:22 says that Tubal-Cain was the 'forger of all instruments of bronze and iron' (ESV) or an 'instructor of every artificer in brass and iron' (KJV). Although this may mean he was a metal smith, a comparison with verses 20 and 21 suggests that he may have been the very first artificer in brass and iron. T.C. Mitchell suggests that he 'discovered the possibilities of cold forging native copper and meteoric iron.' Tubal-Cain has even been described as the first chemist."
In the image below the line "Hath a Jew eyes?" (line 36, left-hand column of p. 173) is aligned with the line "iikeness of a Jew" (line 3, left-hand column of p. 173).
Another clue to the alignment of text shown below is found in the in the following lines, in the right-hand column, that are spoken by Shylocke about the search for his daughter and the money and jewels she absconded with--
[A]nd I know not how much is spent in the search: why thou losse vpon losse, the theefe gone with so much, and so much to finde the theefe, and no satisfa- ction, no reuenge, nor no ill luck stirring but what lights a my shoulders, no sighes but a my breathing, no teares but a my shedding.
The key words are "losse upon losse," a clue to align the word "losses" in line thirty-three of the left-hand column of page 173 on top of the word "losses" on line one of the left-hand column of page 173. These lines may allude to the Earl of Leicester taking, with Queen Elizabeth's approval, the wealth of House of Oxford (see message discussion below).
Several messages are revealed by this alignment. First, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, is named as the "enemy" of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I by Thomas Seymour. The line "Hath a Jew eyes?" and the line "iikeness of a Jew" (with its misspelling of "likeness" with double letter i's (ii)) allude to Elizabeth's nickname for Dudley -- "Eyes." Dudley often signed letters to Elizabeth with a symbol representing eyes -- ôô . Other lines state that Leicester "scorned my Nation, England," mocked Edward de Vere's illegitimacy (his Seymour bar), and generally squandered the assets that had belonged to the House of Oxford.