Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pylius, Socrates and Maro by Peter Farey

As most regular readers of this blog probably know, some years ago I came up with an interpretation of the poem on Shakespeare's monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon, which gave it a distinctly Marlovian slant. But for those who haven't heard of this, the latest version of my interpretation, and the reasons why I claim that it must have been intentional, can be found on the IMSS website.  What I have not done so far, however, other than in online discussion, is to consider the two lines of Latin which precede the poem. In Latin our "U" and "V" were the same letter, so for ease of reading I have shown all of the "V"s in the original as "U"s:
This might be translated word for word as:
In judgement a Pylius, in inspiration a Socrates, in art a Maro, 
The earth covers, the people mourn, Olympus holds
The "Pylius" refers to Nestor of Gerenia, who in Greek mythology was the king of Pylos, Socrates is of course the well-known Greek philosopher, and "Maro" was the surname of the Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro, better known to us as Virgil.

It is also worth pointing out that the versions "Pylium", "Socratem" and "Maronem" are in the accusative case, and are therefore the objects of the verbs "tegit", "mæret" and "habet". As we in English normally put the verb before its object, it might be a bit clearer if we also switch the two lines, giving us:
The earth covers, the people mourn, Olympus holds 
A Nestor in judgement, a Socrates in inspiration, a Virgil in art.
What is not clear is whether each verb corresponds with one of the names, or whether all three relate to all three names. We can see this when we compare Park Honan's translation with Katherine Duncan-Jones's. He has:
"The earth covers one who is a Nestor in judgement;
The people mourn for a Socrates in genius; 
 Olympus has a Virgil in art"1
where Katherine Duncan-Jones prefers: 
"The earth covers, the people mourn, Olympus holds [a man who was] a Pylius [=Nestor] in judgement, a Socrates in wisdom, a Virgil in literary skill"2
I'm not sure that it matters much, but having discussed this with some Latinists I feel slightly more comfortable with the Duncan-Jones version.

In my interpretation of the poem which follows this Latin couplet, however, I argued that there was an overt meaning which the author intended most people to think was meant, and a covert one recognizing what most of us here think of as being the more likely scenario. The latter told us that Christopher Marlowe was somehow "in" the monument with Shakespeare. Could there also be some hidden reference to Marlowe in these two lines?

First of all, let's consider "Terra tegit". Although the obvious, and clearly intentional, overt meaning is "the earth covers," can it be seen differently? I think so. The Vulgate Bible (Jeremiah 13.10) includes the words Quia adulteris repleta est terra quia a facie maledictionis luxit terra, which in the King James version was translated as "For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth". So "Terra" could be interpreted as "land", meaning either the country itself or the people of that country. And "tegit"? As I said, "covers" (or perhaps "buries") him would be the obvious meaning. On the other hand it is certainly possible to interpret the word as "hides" or "conceals". I think that most Marlovians would assume that by the 1620s Marlowe must have returned to England and be living in hiding, his identity concealed by at least some of the people, even the leading representatives, of the country. In other words, the land or country hides him.

"Populus mæret" (the people mourn). I wouldn't want to make too much of this one, but even five or six years after Shakespeare's death, and despite Marlowe's unsavoury reputation, there had still been more evidence of mourning over the apparent death of our Christopher than there had been over William.

For an inscription in an English church, the reference to the polytheistic Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek gods, rather than the Christian Heaven – or even the home of the Muses, Mount Parnassus – might be thought somewhat strange. If it is Marlowe we are talking about, however, a home among the heathen gods might be considered a better option than the Christian alternative! As George Peele put it, "Marley, the Muses darling for thy verse; / Fitte to write passions for the soules below" / If any wretched soules in passion speake."3 Would this mean that Marlowe must be dead, though? Not necessarily. The gods of Olympus might "have" him in similar way to how Satan "has" Doctor Faustus for twenty-four years.

If any Shakespearian scholar has discussed the choice of Nestor, Socrates and Virgil as exemplars, I have been unable to find it. Yet they all seem rather odd choices if it is the generally accepted Shakespeare they are supposed to refer to.

For a start, the use of Nestor is a bit of a back-handed compliment to him of all people. It is perhaps worth quoting what David Bevington says about the character as he is portrayed in Shakespeare's own Troilus and Cressida.4
"Nestor is [...] a tedious and senile old man, ready at a moment's notice to recall when 'I have seen the time' and to ramble on through sententious truisms about shallow boats giving way before 'ruffian Boreas' and the like as though he were actually adding something to what his fellow generals have already said. Their polite condescension suits his role as one who never has an idea of his own and is all too willingly led by the nose by someone as clever as Ulysses."
So what else do we know about him? What Nestor really stands out for is being a survivor. When Heracles attacked Pylos, Nestor's father and all eleven of his siblings were slaughtered; but not Nestor, who was away at the time. As a young man he survived battles with the Arcadians, the Eleians, and the Centaurs. He was apparently one of the Argonauts, who accompanied Jason on his search for the golden fleece, and lived to tell the tale. When the Calydonian boar attacked him and his fellow boar-hunters he escaped death by using his spear to pole-vault up into a tree! At Troy, when about to be killed, his son Antilochus came to his aid and was himself killed, thus providing a replacement corpse for the gods. Finally, Nestor's good judgement allowed him – almost alone among the Achaean generals at Troy – to return home in safety from overseas. And having done so he went on, some say, to survive until he was three hundred years old.5 He should have been dead long ago, but in fact survived. Sound familiar?

The comparison with the philosopher Socrates is also a bit strained for a poet and playwright. On the other hand, in 399 AD Socrates was accused of impiety, as not believing in the gods recognized by the city (Athens), and corrupting its youth – in fact teaching them to judge both public and private morality by the light of reason. Again, sound familiar? The penalty proposed was death, and it was assumed that he would leave Athens, but he surprised everyone by remaining. All of his words were, of course, presented by someone else (Plato), as we claim that Marlowe's words were presented by Shakespeare. He was also (probably wrongly) accused of pederasty, particularly with Alcibiades.

Why Virgil? The poet usually associated with Shakespeare (and Marlowe) was Ovid, so can Virgil's biography, as believed at that time, give us a clue? Exiled at an early age, he lost everything, and reflected this situation in the first poem of the Eclogues, called The Dispossessed. He nevertheless had the support of Maecenas, the chief adviser to the ruler, and even of the ruler himself, Augustus. He was employed by them, being paid from public funds, to present propaganda on their behalf in the form of poetry – e.g. the Aeneid. Could this actually be telling us something about the relationship between a surviving Marlowe and the establishment in the form not only of members of the Privy Council, such as the Cecils, but also of the sovereign? The Aeneid was the work upon which Marlowe's earliest known play, Dido Queen of Carthage, was based, and Virgil was also thought to have dabbled in magic.

Now that brings us to an interesting point. The use of the names "Pylius" and "Maro" for Nestor and Virgil was really very unusual. I have discussed this essay with Anthony Kellett and Ros Barber – for whose input I am extremely grateful, it having provided and stimulated several ideas which would never have occurred to me otherwise. Ros has searched Early English Books Online and found very few examples of these names being used rather than the more familiar versions. Furthermore, as far as I can discover (and I would be most grateful if anyone can prove me wrong), there is in fact just one author who has used all three of the monument's names – "Pylius", "Socrates" and "Maro" – in his works. That author is Christopher Marlowe.

"Pylius" appears in his translation of Ovid's Amores – Book 3, Elegy 6 (the one where he finds himself unable to "perform" for his mistress). "Yet might her touch make youthful Pylius fire,6  / And Tithon7 livelier than his years require." What he, faithfully following Ovid, is saying is that she could even get the most ancient of men, like Nestor and Tithonus, going. This fits in very well with the idea of Nestor (like Marlowe, who should also have been dead long ago) being a survivor.

Socrates is mentioned in Edward II, when (1.4) Mortimer Senior is arguing that Edward should be allowed his minions: "The Roman Tully loved Octavius, / Grave Socrates wild Alcibiades." Most of Mortimer Senior's examples do seem to be a bit wide of the mark, and Socrates was probably unjustly accused of pederasty, so one cannot help recalling Baines's "quotation" from Marlowe that "All they that love not tobacco and boys are fools."

"Maro" appears in Doctor Faustus (3.1), when his travels with Mephistopheles are being described.
Then up to Naples, rich Campania, 
Whose buildings fair and gorgeous to the eye, 
The streets straight forth and paved with finest brick, 
Quarter the town in four equivalents. 
There saw we learned Maro's golden tomb. 
The way he cut, an English mile in length, 
Thorough a rock of stone in one night's space.
In Roma Gill's Mermaid edition, she provides the following footnote: "The poet Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) was buried in Naples in 19 B.C., and posthumously acquired some reputation as a magician. His tomb stands at the end of the promontory of Posilippo between Naples and Pozzuoli; legend ascribes the tunnel running through this promontory to his magic art." So could the "arte Maronem" of the monument in fact be the sort of art referred to by the Evil Angel: "Go forward, Faustus, in that famous art / Wherein all nature's treasury is contained"?  That Marlowe was inevitably associated with his characters' enthusiasms should go without saying.  He was also known as Merlin at Cambridge, and was referred to by Gabriel Harvey as one of two "such mad and scoffing poets, that haue propheticall spirits as bred of Merlins race..."8

The main author of the works of Shakespeare, whoever he was, could indeed be reasonably described as having had the judgement of Nestor at his best, the inspiration of Socrates, and the literary art of Virgil. However, there is no obvious reason why these three names – and in particular those two specific forms, Maro and Pylius – should be chosen as in any way relevant to Shakespeare. No rationale. It's inexplicable. And it feels like that, like empty eulogizing. On the other hand (to sum up), if the referent is Marlowe there are very strong reasons for choosing those particular names (and forms of names) – biographical resonance, and the leaving of hints that when tracked down and put together (who used all three names?) points only in one direction.  

© Peter Farey, November 2013 

1Honan, Park (1999). Shakespeare: A Life. Oxford University Press. p.403.
2Duncan-Jones, Katherine (2001). Ungentle Shakespeare. The Arden Shakespeare. p.272.
3Peele, George (1593). The Honour of the Garter. 
4Bevington, David (1998). ed. Troilus and Cressida. The Arden Shakespeare. pp.23–4.
5Graves, Robert (1955, 2011). The Greek Myths. 139.f.  Penguin. p.546.
6In other words, she could make (old) Pylius's "fire" youthful.
7Tithonus was given immortality, but not eternal youth.
8 Harvey, Gabriel (1588). Introduction to Perimedes The Blacke-Smith, pp.A3-A3v. 

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Friday, November 1, 2013

The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum

It's been several years in the making, but well worth the wait. Donna N. Murphy's new book is out: The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, and the Authorship of Early Shakespeare and Anonymous Plays.  Inspired by Hoffman’s list of linguistic similarities between Marlowe and Shakespeare, Murphy refined the technique and became a specialist on the attribution of authorship of English Renaissance works, publishing a series of articles in Notes & Queries. 

When she co-won the Hoffman Prize in 2010 for her entry on Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and anonymous plays, she said her submission was a work in progress, and she needed to further investigate Marlowe’s friend, Thomas Nashe. She has finally published her path-forging work, which develops a vast web of linguistic interconnections indicating Marlowe, sometimes with Thomas Nashe, wrote certain Shakespeare and anonymous plays. Let’s ask her about it.

Q:  You’ve said that The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum takes the Shakespeare authorship question directly to the doorsteps of Stratfordian scholars. What do you mean by this?

DM:  My approach is scholarly. I make my case using linguistic Matches, Near Matches, Rare Scattered Word Clusters, Image Clusters, Logic, Biographical Connections and other similarities. I indicate when language similarities are due to deliberate parody as in the cases, I believe, of Marlowe and Nashe’s The Taming of a Shrew and Thomas Kyd’s Soliman and Perseda, as opposed to when they help flag authorship. Some Stratfordians claim that stylometrics or computational stylistics show that Marlowe didn’t “become” Shakespeare. I find that Marlowe co-authored certain Shakespeare plays with Thomas Nashe, so that works scholars have been using as “pure Shakespeare” to determine Shakespeareian attributes are actually by two authors. With these kinds of studies, you have to compare apples and apples. They’ve been comparing apples and oranges.

Q:  Why do you call it a “Continuum”?

DM:  “Both” Marlowe’s and Shakespeare’s styles changed over time, and Eliot Slater found that in Shakespeare, uncommon words tended to cluster chronologically, so I think chronology is quite important. I present clues that point to Marlowe’s Edward II and the first versions of II Henry VI and III Henry VI all being composed c. 1590, and then show that linguistically and stylistically, they are amazingly similar. But with the first version of II Henry VI, you also have to factor in co-authorship by Thomas Nashe of the Jack Cade scenes.

Q:  The “Thomas Nashe” angle is something new for Marlovians. Why do you keep raising him?

DM:  Because Nashe is a key piece in the Shakespeare authorship puzzle, plus I want to give him his due. Nashe was an incredibly funny author who possessed a bottomless vocabulary. Here are two excerpts from I Henry IV, written c. 1596-7, one Marlovian, the other Nasheian. In The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum, I go into detail about how I attribute authorship, but you can hear the difference:

King Henry IV. So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children’s blood.
Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flow’rets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces. Those opposèd eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery. (I.i.1-13)


Falstaff. Bardolph, am I not fallen away vilely since this last
action? do I not bate? do I not dwindle? Why my
skin hangs about me like an like an old lady's loose
gown; I am withered like an old apple-john. Well,
I'll repent, and that suddenly, while I am in some
liking; I shall be out of heart shortly, and then I
shall have no strength to repent. An I have not
forgotten what the inside of a church is made of, I
am a peppercorn, a brewer's horse: the inside of a
church! Company, villanous company, hath been the
spoil of me.  (III.iii.1-12)

Q:  So one person didn’t write everything in the Shakespeare canon?

DM:  No, although Marlowe wrote the lion’s share of it. Co-authorship of plays was common at the time, and in Shakespeare, Co-Author, Brian Vickers provided ample linguistic evidence of co-authorship in Shakespeare’s I Henry VI (with Thomas Nashe), Titus Andronicus (with George Peele), Pericles (with George Wilkins), Timon of Athens (with Thomas Middleton), and Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen (both with John Fletcher). What scholars haven’t been able to do is break out a play between Marlowe and Shakespeare, because the “two” sound so much alike.

In the “Shakespeare” portion of Titus Andronicus, I present intriguing evidence of the presence of Marlowe and the presence of the author of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, i.e., “Shakespeare.” For example, regarding Christopher Marlowe, we know that he read the first three books of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (FQ) at least three years prior to their publication in 1590 (the rest of FQ appeared in 1596). The language of FQ heavily influenced I and II Tamburlaine, c. 1587. The 1590 edition of FQ was 18,081 lines long (606 pages), not counting dedications.

So far as I can determine, the earliest occurrence of the phrase “distressed plight” was in the FQ manuscript Marlowe read, where it appears twice: “Into most deadly danger and distressed plight” (II.12.11), and “To comfort me in my distressed plight” (III.5.35). Marlowe's I Tamburlaine picked up the last half of FQ’s III.5.35: “Ah, shepherd, pity my distressèd plight” (I.ii.7).

In the "Shakespeare" portion of Titus Andronicus, c. 1591-3, we find: “And rather comfort his distressèd plight” (IV.iv.32). Titus Andronicus did not take this language from I Tamburlaine, but rather directly from the line I Tamburlaine echoed in FQ, stitching on the word “comfort” from FQ III.5.35. It is not logical that two separate authors would remember the same line from Spenser’s 18,081-line poem.

Q:  Wow, that’s incredible! I can see that The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum has the potential to be a real game changer for the Shakespeare authorship debate.  You can read more about Donna’s book and order a copy at

Donna Murphy is also the author of The Mysterious Connection between Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker and T. M.: An English Renaissance Deception? Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012. 

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, November 2013