Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Significance of Sir Oliver Mar-text in As You Like It by Maureen Duff

Sir Oliver Mar-text1 is a minor character in the play As You Like It. He appears in Act III, sc. iii and is mentioned in Act V, sc. i. He has only three lines of dialogue. As there is already a major character called "Oliver" in the play, it is odd that there is also a minor one with the same first name. 2

In the first of the two scenes Touchstone, the clown, attempts to marry Audrey within the Forest of Arden. Sir Oliver Mar-text, a vicar summoned to marry them, is exposed by a witness, Jaques, as not being up to the task.  As a result, the marriage is halted until a more suitable vicar and place are found. In the second scene, Touchstone refers to Sir Oliver as "a most wicked Sir Oliver" and "a most vile Mar-text" before he turns his attention to seeing off a romantic rival, William, a "countryman," who lives in the Forest.

Some of those interested in the Shakespeare authorship question have wondered if Sir Oliver Mar-textʼs highly unusual name has a special significance. For example, Daryl Pinksen and Sam Blumenfeld both point out that "Marlo" can be read within the name. Blumenfeld goes further and wonders if "Mar-text" is a shortened form of "Marlowe's text," as does Calvin Hoffman and A.D. Wraight.3 "Marlo" is a known variant of the name "Marlowe."4

In the second of the two scenes, Touchstone and William compete for Audreyʼs hand. It has been suggested that a dim-witted character such as Audrey is an allegorical figure standing for the "auditors" or audience.5 Itʼs easy to guess who William might be. Touchstone dismisses William as vulgar and unlearned, and therefore unfit to marry Audrey. However, Touchstone (a pseudonym for Marlowe?) emphasizes his own fitness for the position of husband in classical form, viz ipse = he himself.6

I was struck by the introduction into the text of the Latin ipse and further by the description of Sir Oliver Mar-text as "wicked" and "vile" and therefore needing to be changed in some way – as an anagram, for example? As the two scenes are connected, this seemed to suggest that the name "Sir Oliver Mar-text" might hold a cryptic message in Latin. My knowledge of Latin is elementary, but I quickly saw that moving one of the two "iʼs" in the name into "text" made "texit" (3rd person, present tense) from texere = to compose.

I now had "Marlowe composes"; but what about the remaining six letters: s i r and v e r ? If this was a Latin anagram, the phrase must make sense and the grammar must fit exactly. At that point, I had a brief conversation with my uncle, Dr. William Anderson, research chemist and Latin scholar. It shortly became clear to us both that "Sir Oliver Mar-text" resolves into a straightforward Latin sentence with a meaningful English translation:

MARLO VIR RES TEXIT and the basic English translation:

So, why is a Latin anagram here at all? Who was it for? In 1598 William Shakespeare was identified in print for the first time as the author of the plays.8 Marloweʼs own name placed cryptically among the characters of As You Like It would serve as consolation for the real playwright. At least he would know it was there, even if no one else did.

I therefore suggest that the significance of Sir Oliver Mar-text is that it represents Christopher Marloweʼs claim to authorship of As You Like It - and possibly some of the other works attributed to Shakespeare.

© Maureen Duff, October 2010

Post-Script, October 2011

Appendix B of David Mateer's publication, "New Sightings of Christopher Marlowe in London," is a transcript, in the original Latin, of the charges brought against Christopher Marlowe by James Wheatley for the non-return of a horse. In it, "Marlowe" is twice spelled "Marlo." This shows that in 1589, "Marlo" was already a known Latin form of the poet's last name. (David Mateer, New Sightings of Christopher Marlowe in London, Early Theatre 11.2 [2008]: Article 2)

Thanks to Dr. W. Anderson and Peter Farey for their invaluable comments.

Maureen Duff was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was educated at the University of Glasgow (MA, English Literature and Philosophy). She has worked in the entertainment industry for many years, first as a theatrical agent, then as a casting director in films and television. She worked for Director Richard Attenborough on Closing the Ring and Director Danny Boyle on several films, including The Beach and 28 Days Later. Her filmography can be found on the imdb. She has won or been a finalist in several UK national magazine writing competitions, notably winning a trip for two to Hawaii for a short story entitled "Krakatoa, East of Java." She once cast As You Like It for the Northcott Theatre, Exeter. She lives and works in London.

1 In the First Folio, 1623, Sir Oliver Mar-text was hyphenated and "Oliver" was spelled "Oliuer." At this time, "u" and "v" were the same letter but were sometimes written differently depending on position in a word.
2Oliver de Boys, son of Sir Rowland de Boys.
3Pinksen, Daryl. 2008. Marlowe's Ghost. p. 125.
Blumenfeld, Samuel. 2008. The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection. p. 295.
Hoffman, Calvin. 1955. The Man Who Was Shakespeare. p. 176.
Wraight, A.D. The Story That the Sonnets Tell. p. 342.
4Farey, Peter. 2002. "The Spelling of Marloweʼs Name." "Marlo" appears on the original title page of one of his plays (The Jew of Malta).
5Ben Jonson refers in "On Poet-Ape" to the "sluggish gaping auditor." A.D. Wraight: The Story That the Sonnets Tell, p. 341. Daryl Pinksen's Marloweʼs Ghost, pp. 118-121.
6Act V, sc. i
Touchstone: Give me your hand. Art thou learned?
William: No, sir.
Touchstone: Then learn this of me: to have, is to have; for it is a figure in rhetoric that drink, being poured out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other; for all your writers do consent that ipse is he: now you are not ipse, for I am he.
7According to Lewis & Shortʼs Latin Dictionary (1879, Impression of 1958, Clarendon Press, Oxford):
VIR (noun, nom, or voc, sing) = man, brave man, man of principle, hero, husband.
RES (noun, accus, plu), = things, facts, truths, subject matter; (in a literary context) events, acts, stories, histories.
TEXIT (verb, 3rd person, present) = he weaves; makes; (in a literary context) contrives, composes.
Collins Gem Latin Dictionary (1996) also lists these English meanings of the Latin words, showing their common usage.
8Loveʼs Labourʼs Lost was the first play to be published under the name "William Shakespeare" in 1598. As You Like It was written between late 1598 and early 1600 but "staied" from publication at the Stationers Register in May 1600. It was not seen in print until the First Folio, 1623.
For the first time in print, an independent author, Francis Meres, in Palladis Tamia (1598), named William Shakespeare as the "honey-tongued" author of twelve plays, two poems and a collection of "sugared" sonnets.
Daryl Pinksenʼs Marloweʼs Ghost (pp. 65-67) gives a list of the plays and dates of their publication.  Who wrote Shakespeare? Emmerich Anonymous
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Heinrich23 said...


JMagnuson said...

"ipse" has always struck me as code of some kind.

Dov said...

As You Like It overflows with Marlowe references, and you don't really have to dig deep. It's the play that converted me into believing that Marlowe may have had a hand in a lot of the Shakes. plays.

Isabel Gortazar said...

Hi Maureen: Welcome to the Club.

My own, less learned, interpretation of these scenes is as follows:

Oliver is, as we know, the name of the bag guy in the play. Mar-text, like the pseudonym "Mar-prelate", (to injure the prelate) is using the verb "to mar" as meaning to harm, injure, disfigure, ruin, etc. (OED) So Oliver Mar-text is someone who mars/ruins texts, as befits his name of Oliver -the bad guy.

In V, 1 Touchstone refers to him as "A most wicked Sir Oliver, a most vile Martext". These expressions are telling us what Marlowe thinks of the job that is being done by whoever manipulates his plays for the stage and/or the printers. Moreover, if Marlowe were using the name Martext to introduce part of his name, he would hardly had called it vile.

In III, 3, it seems that Touchstone would rather be married even by Mar-text than not married at all; this is easily understood in Marlovian terms. in V 1, he briefly considers William of Arden's pretensions to Audrey's hand, until is told that William is not "learned".

In the event, Touchstone decides to send William packing because he is not "ipse" ( I, the one, myself): "I, -says Touchstone- am ipse. (I am) he, sir, that must marry this woman".

I honestly don't think we need Latin anagrams to translate the Marlovian meaning of all this.

These are two of the scenes that, in my opinion, were written after the accession of King James, when Marlowe had high hopes that he would be allowed to come back to life and acknowledge the works as his.

But whether written in 1599 or later, Latin codes with vital clues would have been useless, as they absolutely depended on the play being printed, which was by no means to be taken for granted. I think Marlowe had better ways of making his presence felt. Everyone in the audience would have known the meaning of the verb "to mar", while very few would have been able to pick up a Latin anagram, even in print.

Sorry, Maureen, I don't buy,

Anonymous said...

If we accept that Marlowe was in hiding, certainly we can entertain the possibility that this Latin scholar - Marlowe - was dropping clues in his plays . . . even anagrams.

daver852 said...

This is certainly an intriguing scene. But might there not be a simpler solution? The word "ipse" is pronounced "ip-say." It is an anagram of "spie" (spy). Rearrange the spoken syllables a little, and you have "a spy." Assuming Marlowe was still in the service of the Englsh intelligence network when the play was written, you have something that makes perfect sense.

"All your writers do consent that a spy is he; now, you are not a spy, for I am he."

Anthony Kellett said...

I will take a little time to think about your proposal, Isabel. That said I think one point you make is worthy of an immediate response. I too wonder what use are anagrams (never mind Latin ones) in a spoken play.

I could argue that some authors would be content that the anagram is there, irrespective of whether anyone ever realises it. I suppose it depends on how petty-minded (or easily pleased) we think Marlowe may have been.

However, if anyone seriously believes that Marlowe was trying to call out from the ‘grave’, then anagrams of spoken words are not the way to do so, in my opinion. Time and time again, in this place and others, we read how the spelling of names (and other words) are of little relevance or consequence. I am reminded of the statement, “Spelling, by contrast, and as we all know, was in a near-constant state of flux”.

I suppose I could counter that by suggesting ‘Oliver Martext’ was a difficult name to spell another way; but I am still unconvinced.

I am persuaded that the absence of any other meaningful anagrams (which can be constructed from this name in either English or Latin) helps to support Ms. Duff’s interpretation; as long as one can accept that any anagram was intended at all. Additionally, one would also need to accept that Marlowe expressed his name as ‘Marlo’; a form first seen (as far as I am aware) in 1598 when it was used by Petowe in his ‘Second Part’ of Hero and Leander. I have not seen the original of this occurrence. However, in the next appearance of which I’m aware (in a ‘The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta’ in 1633) the name was written as ‘Christopher Marlo..’; the first of the two full-stops (larger and bolder, on the quarto) seems to indicate that this is an abbreviation, rather than a spelling variation. Therefore, I think it is a bit of a stretch to claim, “’Marlo’ is a known variant of the name 'Marlowe’."

Maybe Marlowe was upset by Petowe’s impertinence, so he used the form ‘Marlo’, specifically to allude to this. I am not persuaded by that argument either; particularly when Marlowe is trying to identify the real author, in Ms. Duff’s interpretation. Moreover, the fact that Petowe used ‘Marlo’ in his publication leads me to suppose that Marlowe may have specifically avoided that variation.

Notwithstanding all of the above, I am more than open to being persuaded otherwise, if anyone can negate my doubts (or correct my misunderstanding of any ‘facts’ I state).

Kindest regards

isabel Gortazar said...

In my study of the Marlowe and Shakespeare plays, I have come to the conclusion that names are usually meaningful, unless, of course, they are historical.

For example, the name of Bassanio, in The Merchant, is probably an intended adaptation of the Greek word "basanos", which means "touchstone". As none of the sources for the Merchant has this name, we must assume that Shakespeare gave it on purpose to the man who will be able to choose the right metal casket.

Ref:(Basanos (in G. Liddell and R. Scott: A Greek-English Lexicon): 1. the touch-stone, Lat. Lapis Lydius, (...). 2. generally, a test, trial whether a thing be genuine or real).

So, without any need for Latin anagrams, we know that Touchstone, because of his name, is someone who can tell who is the genuine author. If "Touchstone" says he is IPSE (I, the one) we should know what he is saying.

As for Mar-text. It is difficult to believe that the relation to "Mar-prelate" may be coincidental. Since the Mar-prelate texts were injurious to Archbishop Whitgift, I think we can assume that the name Mar-prelate was intending to describe the intention of such texts: "to injure the prelate".

Since Mar-prelate texts triggered off the witch-hunt that led to Marlowe's arrest, he had every reason to remember the name and its meaning.

So, if Marlowe is using AYLI to drop hints about the authorship, particularly in the Touchstone scenes, it would be reasonable to suppose that a vicar, described as "a most vile Mar-text", could be read almost literally, in plain English, as a meaningful name given to someone who "marries the author to the audience" by means of marred texts.

And if anyone is prepared to see hidden latin anagrams here, all the more reason to read "ipse" straight for what it means: "I, myself, the one."

Marlowe had plenty of Latin and as much Greek, but when he could leave his clues in plain English he did so.

Peter Farey said...

The reactions of Isabel and Anthony to Maureen's suggestion (which is all it is) are interesting, but hardly damaging to it.

For example, I can see no reason at all why this explanation of the name "Sir Oliver Mar-text" couldn't have been intended alongside any others, unless one were taking our varying theories as some sort of competition as to who is right. It's just an observation about the name, and says nothing at all about the rest of the scene, after all. Simply claiming that Marlowe wouldn't have used an anagram to convey such a message, let alone one in Latin, without providing any supporting evidence is just an assertion based upon one's own pre-existing answer.

That the name would have to appear in print to be of any relevance is hardly a stopper either, since we have no evidence that any such name had been used before it appeared in print anyway.

The spelling "Marlo" not having appeared by this date is in my view irrelevant. What we find hard to comprehend these days is that there was no "correct" spelling, so all we need to know is whether "Marlo" would have been considered an acceptable spelling at that time, whether it had been actually published in that form or not. And - subject to any seismic shift in the way words were pronounced at that time - we do.

Finally, Isabel wrote: And if anyone is prepared to see hidden latin anagrams here, all the more reason to read "ipse" straight for what it means: "I, myself, the one." Marlowe had plenty of Latin and as much Greek, but when he could leave his clues in plain English he did so.

Non sequitur?

Peter Farey

Anthony Kellett said...


I completely agree that Marlowe may have employed half a dozen clues, anagrams or other devices, implying his authorship. I never suggested Marlowe “wouldn’t have used an anagram”; I merely said I do not believe it would have been very successful (unless he knew it would be printed); so I have doubts about it, for that reason, since it seems pointless. I even put forward an argument that Marlowe might have done it anyway; unconcerned if anyone ever noticed it. If you are suggesting that the name was possibly invented for print, then great; I am willing to accept that (and would be more disposed to accept Maureen’s observation, in that case), if you have any basis for thinking it to be so.

However, your assertion that these observations are, “interesting, but hardly damaging” is a strange defence; though undeniably true. I agree that I can offer no evidence to contradict it. However, I cannot offer any evidence to contradict the theory that Marlowe was Philip Sydney’s page or William Herbert’s father; but I am not persuaded to believe those theories either. Since when have you (of all people) considered ‘no evidence to the contrary’ as a test of validity?

At the end of the day (and as you point out), it is “Maureen’s suggestion (which is all it is)”, so perhaps I am being unfair; and should really wait until it is more than ‘just a suggestion’, before I try to analyse it. It is certainly a commendable and very clever suggestion.

Peter Farey said...

Anthony wrote: However, your assertion that these observations are, "interesting, but hardly damaging" is a strange defence; though undeniably true.

My words were intended to be an introduction to the rest of my post in which I explained why I thought this, and were certainly not themselves intended to be any sort of defence. How on earth could they be? And where do you get the idea that I have implied that "no evidence to the contrary" would be a test of validity? Evidence which supports the argument that Maureen's suggestion must be wrong, however, would be helpful, should anyone care to come up with it. I've seen none so far.

On the other hand, that it is as you say "certainly a commendable and very clever suggestion", is perhaps worth remembering.

Peter Farey

Alex said...

In the spirit of the play’s title and theme on the relativity of truth, I feel we are each free to accept or reject Maureen’s Latin anagram as we like. Whether Kit intended it or not, I’m sure he would approve.

As for Martext, it glances most directly at the Marprelate affair that saturates the play. There is the repeated use of the verb “mar” throughout As You Like It. There are two likely puns on John Penry, the alleged mastermind of the affair, who was hanged the day before Marlowe’s rendezvous in Deptford (and whose body may have substituted for his):

Orlando. What prodigal portion have I spent that I should come to such
penury? (1.1.32-33)

Rosalind. With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout; for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study,and the other lives merrily because he lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other
knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These Time ambles withal.

Orlando. Who doth he gallop withal?

Rosalind. With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.(3.2.286-94)

Note the cluster: “a priest that lacks Latin” alluding to Martin Marpelate and Mar-text, the “burden of heavy tedious penury,” and “thief to the gallows.”

Mar-text is short for Marprelate’s text. The sense of the Martext wedding scene is that Marlowe/Touchstone doesn’t want to get married, or be too closely wed, to the Marprelate literature or Penry, even though he sympathizes with them.

Further, the use of “grease” or “greasy” several times in As You Like It echoes Marprelate’s witty epithet for the unctuous archbishop as “my Lords grease.”

Adding a little further atmosphere, the song “O sweet Oliver” in the play was popular in the mid 1580s during the Marprelate affair.

Rosalind’s animal imagery—“I will be more jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his hen, more clamorous than a parrot against rain, more new-fangled than an ape, more giddy in my desires than a monkey” (4.1.124-27)—glances at the Marprelate literature, especially its use of “parrot” and “ape.”

These are just a few of the references to Marprelate in As You Like It (composed against the backdrop of the Bishops' Bonfire and the glowing embers of Kit's rendition of Ovid's Elegies) that similarly echo throughout the Shakespearean canon from The Comedy of Errors, the Falstaffian plays, and climax with the depiction of Yorick in Hamlet (whose First Quarto incidentally was printed by Valentine Simmes, one of the printers imprisoned and racked by Archbishop Whitgift’s minions for his role in the Marprelate affair).

Alex Jack

Anthony Kellett said...


You say, “My words were intended to be an introduction to the rest of my post in which I explained why I thought this”.

First, whether the theory is “damaged” or not is (to some degree) subjective. For you, obviously not, but it damages it for me.

Notwithstanding the above, it was also to the explanation that accompanied this statement, about which I was expressing confusion. Your rebuttal seemed to be: There could be multiple puzzles; you can’t prove Marlowe didn’t use a Latin anagram; we can’t prove Sir Oliver Mar-text wasn’t created for print; it doesn’t matter that no-one used ‘Marlo’. This is why I saw this as, "no evidence to the contrary would be a test of validity?” Did I misunderstand?

There are so many hypotheses in this whole subject that cannot be disproven. Therefore, when someone makes ‘just a suggestion’, I feel it is incumbent upon them to do the convincing, with more than just “you can make an anagram of this” (however clever it may be). Compare this to your treatment of the Stratford Memorial. There are multiple clues, multiple solutions and corruptions in the text that are straightened by those solutions. That is convincing; since the probability is too vast to contemplate.

My concerns about the effectiveness of this anagram are somewhat irrelevant, as I’ve already said (and I think Maureen said too, if memory serves). It is perfectly acceptable to me that Marlowe might satisfy himself by inserting clues whose discovery was of no importance. He knowing of their existence could have sated his need for justice. However, just because it is possible, I cannot see why it should not simply be piled atop all the other ‘possible but unproven’ suggestions.

You ask others to provide evidence to contradict the theory, but where is the evidence to support it; apart from one very short anagram? Yes the “vile” and “wicked” could point to an intended anagram (and is possibly the only persuasive and relevant evidence) but it is still only a ‘could’, as far as I am concerned. That Marlowe wanted to allude to his authorship, because Shakespeare’s name appeared in 1598, is not relevant to the anagram. Moreover, though it could well have been the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’, one could equally argue that Meres was aware of a whole host of ‘Shakespeare plays’ by 1598, so the publication of LLL seems somewhat erroneous; and why not Richard II or Richard III (both of which appeared with his name attached in 1598 too, I believe). The rest of the ‘evidence’ (it seems to me) has nothing specifically to do with the anagram either, but merely a possible allusion to Marlowe. This is not new. That there seems to be only one possible (meaningful) solution is curious, to be sure. However, with so few letters (and the need to use ’Marlo’) I remain unpersuaded. Does this matter? It probably doesn’t, particularly in view of all the other numerous points being raised by others in this discussion.

Anthony Kellett said...

Peter, you suggest, “Evidence which supports the argument that Maureen's suggestion must be wrong, however, would be helpful, should anyone care to come up with it. I've seen none so far.”

Obviously, it would indeed be helpful. However, I cannot recall seeing any proof that Marlowe was not Sidney’s page; that the Sweet Swan of Avon is not obviously Mary Sidney; why “thy Stratford Moniment” is not Mary Sidney’s crumbling Old Sarum Hill fort at Stratford sub Castle, situated in a meander of the River Avon. Are you suggesting that any of these things has to be proven to be wrong? I know full well you do not; so can you explain the difference to me? Perhaps my confusion here is simply because I do not understand what you are asking me to believe. If it is merely that an intentional anagram is a possibility, then of course, I would be foolish to deny that. It works and also supports what many have proposed by other reasoning; so it is certainly possible. It is only the claim that is ‘most probably intentional’ with which I have difficulty; and is that not what we are trying to debate? Let me put it this way, I would happily stand in front of a group of sceptics and use your solution for the Stratford Memorial inscription; but I would be far less comfortable doing so with this theory. There are too few ‘moving parts’ for my liking, if that makes sense; and the use of ‘Marlo’ suggests one or two cogs are missing some teeth (to continue the analogy).

Finally, you say, “On the other hand, that it is as you say "certainly a commendable and very clever suggestion", is perhaps worth remembering.”

Absolutely, and I will remember that Maureen is clever. However, if ‘cleverness’ was the only requirement for a theory too hold true, then I would currently believe Shakespeare’s works were a collaboration between Bacon, Oxford, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Sidney, Florio and Greville. All of them have some supporters with clever ideas. Cleverness persuades me to respect the proposer; not the proposal. As such, I will pay careful attention to every proposal made by Maureen, since it is my opinion that she is talented and worthy of respect. Moreover, there is no-one here whose opinions, on these things, are more respected by me than yours, but I still can’t bring myself to accept this anagram was most probably intentional.

If only it had been ‘Oliver Wiser Mar-text’ I could have more easily climbed on board, perhaps.

Cynthia Morgan said...

All the above! Marlowe/Shakespeare was the master of ambiguity. Is this not how he wove his story into his plays and sonnets? I applaud you Maureen for your research, which stands on its own merits despite the criticism voiced here at the blog. As for the Marlo being discussed, it seems to me that the great poet used it for its sound, which of course was "Marlowe". As for the abbreviation of his name on an earlier work, whether an abbreviation or not, Marlowe himself knew that his name had been brought to the public "Marlo".

Anthony Kellett said...

Inexplicably, I cannot seem to find a question for Peter which, I am certain I typed. Forgive me for repeating it, if it appears elsewhere.

Peter, why do you think the author separates “Sir Oliver” and “Mar-Text” in calling them “vile” and “wicked”? It would imply to me that each of these sections is to be solved in isolation and then combined, but I am no great puzzle-solver; so I wondered what your opinion of this strange segmentation is.

Isabel Gortazar said...

"Wicked Oliver" is the wicked brother in the play.
So, the fact that Oliver is wicked may be intended to colour the "vile Mar-text", in that "the vicar" -or middleman- between Touchstone and the Audience, is not only a lousy editor of the plays and possibly responsible for the bad quartos, but also that he may be doing a bad job because (as perhaps Marlowe believes) he is wicked and envious, as well as clumsy.

Here is Prospero complaining of just the same thing. He is referring to his "brother", Antonio, the man who usurps his Dukedom: ( Act I, 2)

(...) new created
The creatures that were mine, I say, or changed 'em,/ Or else new form'd 'em; having both the key
Of officer and office, set all hearts i' the state
To what tune pleased his ear; that now he was
The ivy which had hid my princely trunk,
And suck'd my verdure out on't. "Etc

"The creatures that were mine" were apparently "changed" or "new formed" by this "ivy" that had hidden Marlowe's "princely trunk, and sucked his "verdure". Do we need ciphers or anagrams to read the meaning of this?

As Ros said once, we all see what we want to see, but we have all seen so many anagrams and ciphers, many of which in Latin, hailed by Baconians and Oxfordians, that I tend to look for logical explanations in the context of the scenes in question, and what specific information they appear to be telling us, rather than look for general anagrams unrelated to the rest of the scene.

A "wicked, vile, Mar-lo" is not what I would call a logical clue.

Maureen's anagram is clever, yes, but so is the one "translating" the Baconian meaning of the long word in LLL: "honorificabilitudinitatibus". iI have heard that at least one other, non-Baconian, "translation" has already been found for it.

To finish, and at the risk of being accused of writing "non sequiturs", why use Latin anagrams when you can make your meaning easy to understand by your "listening" audience, in English?

Peter Farey said...

Anthony wrote: The rest of the 'evidence' (it seems to me) has nothing specifically to do with the anagram either, but merely a possible allusion to Marlowe.

There are several things about it which seem a bit strange to me, not all of which are related to the Marlowe name. However, they all in my opinion add to my reason for thinking that there might be something in the anagram, given that we already know how improbable it is to be able to find one which is both relevant and grammatical from those few letters.

First, one can't help wondering why such a very minor character is given a name in the first place. The clergymen who officiate at the non-marriage of Claudio and Hero, the wedding of Orsino and Olivia and the burial of Ophelia are all nameless, despite having far more to say than Sir Oliver does. Friar Laurence is of course a major character in his own right (and in any case needs to be distinguished from Friar John). There are also two Friars in Measure for Measure, but only one is named and he too is a quite important character. The reason for Sir Hugh Evans possessing a name is equally obvious.

Second, if he is to be identified, why would the Christian name be exactly the same as one of the major characters? Isabel suggests that it is because Oliver is a bad guy, and a bad guy mars texts, which far too abstruse for me. But the name Oliver itself must nevertheless be *necessary* to the solution, mustn't it?

Third, we know that making anagrams from people's names was a popular pastime, and something with which most readers of the playtext would have been very familiar.

Fourth, as Maureen says, the use of Latin has already been brought into consciousness by Touchstone's entirely unnecessary introduction of the word "ipse".

Fifth, we have agreed I think that Touchstone's referring to him as "A most wicked Sir Oliver" and "a most vile Martext" might indeed be the indication that a change (such as the reordering of the letters of the name) is needed. That any name at all is used here (let alone the whole name) is strange, and I would say that splitting it in the way he does adds emphasis to whatever is meant, and (if it means anything) shows that the "Sir Oliver" bit of the name is just as important as the "Mar-text" bit. It is perhaps also worth noting that this appears right at the beginning of the scene, contradicts Touchstone's song at the end of his previous appearance, and has nothing whatever to do with the scene to come.

Touchstone being the one who gives this indication (if that is what it is) is interesting too. Did you realise that the poem/riddle on the Statford monument is inscribed in gold on a slab of touchstone?

From these observations, I would say that the balance is on the side of the anagram having been created deliberately rather than it having occurred just by chance. When I ask for evidence against this I am therefore not asking for proof of course, but for reasons which might shift the balance the other way. I have explained why I don't think that those offered so far do. Where theories about Marlowe having been a page of Sir Philip Sidney are concerned, I am not really aware of anything which I would regard as evidence being offered in support anyway. I am fairly sure that I nevertheless recall providing a good argument as why it would have been unlikely, based upon just who were and who were not employed as pages at that time. As far as the idea of "Sweet swan of Avon" being Mary Sidney or "Thy Stratford Moniment" her ruined castle is concerned, I tend to assume that any answer which is within the context of the Marlovian theory (if in other respects no worse) would trump them. In this case the answer does support the Marlovian theory and is contradicted (I think) by no other part of it. That's the difference.


Ros Barber said...

Firstly, welcome Maureen. I appreciate your interesting contribution.

To answer others here, questions have been raised about whether the text was intended for print (since any anagram would be unlikely to be picked up in theatrical performance). As mentioned in Maureen's notes, we know "As You Like It" was entered into the Stationers Registered in 1600, and then 'stayed'... so although it was not printed until the Folio in 1623 the printing of it certainly seems to have been intended.

This doesn't prove the name is an anagram, but shows there was originally an intention to provide people with the means by which they could read it as one (if that way inclined).

Cynthia Morgan said...

Thank you, Peter. for informing us the words on the Stratford monument are inscribed in gold on a piece of touchstone. Surely this reinforces your interpretation of the words on the monument. Fascinating.

Anthony Kellett said...

You raise some good points here Peter, on which I will need to dwell for some time.

I have also been considering the character’s name and, in consideration of other points raised here and elsewhere, I am convinced that “Mar-Text” was essential to it; and not merely forced by the need for an anagram. Therefore (if we are to accept an anagram) then I believe “Sir Oliver” must be the compromise. This would explain your point about two characters named Oliver (since there are not likely to be many real names available whilst trying to satisfy a Latin phrase). I would add to this that I am surprised “the vicar of the next village” is a knight of the realm. Obviously, this is quite possible, but I still find it curious.

You say, “As far as the idea of "Sweet swan of Avon" being Mary Sidney or "Thy Stratford Moniment" her ruined castle is concerned, I tend to assume that any answer which is within the context of the Marlovian theory (if in other respects no worse) would trump them.”

Can you please elaborate on this because I don’t understand exactly what you are saying? I don’t wish to divert this discussion (and we can pursue it elsewhere if necessary) but I would just like to know why you seem to imply this is contrary to “Marlovian Theory” (whatever that is…is Marlovian Theory so well-defined?).

I had to smile at your comment that Shakespeare’s Stratford Monument incorporates a slab of “touchstone” (and more so at the unquestioning conclusions drawn from this revelation). What exactly is “touchstone”, in your opinion? My understanding is that a touchstone is the name of the tool used to assay precious metals (most effectively, gold). However, if one is to extend that name to the material, it would include any black chert. I will concede that black jasper and black slate are most commonly used as “touchstones”; so if it is made of either of those, then you may have a point. However, their use is due to availability and, therefore, I question how remarkable this is, actually; particularly since black slate is frequently used as a gravestone material.

Maureen Duff said...

I'm honoured that you've all taken so much time and trouble to post your comments, both supportive and challenging. There is so much scholarship in some of your comments, I'm overwhelmed. Peter has already answered several points I was going to make. I'll therefore mention some things that have not been covered.

Anthony says, "I am persuaded that the absence of any other meaningful anagrams (which can be constructed from this name in either English or Latin) helps to support Ms. Duff’s interpretation; as long as one can accept that any anagram was intended at all."

It is really quite simple. The only possible translation of the Latin anagram into English says that Christopher Marlowe is the writer of the play(s). Luckily for Marlowe the printers got the spelling of "Sir Oliver Mar-text' right. Anthony, thank you for pointing out the use of "Marlo" in Petowe's "Second Part" of Hero and Leander. I'd missed that one.

Anthony said, '"If you are suggesting that the name was possibly invented for print, then great; I am willing to accept that (and would be more disposed to accept Maureen’s observation, in that case), if you have any basis for thinking it to be so."

Although I never suggested in my post that the anagram was intended for any purpose other than Marlowe's personal consolation, I believe that it could also have been inserted to alert his quick witted Latin-speaking friends and that it could perhaps have been intended for posterity.

The printer Richard Jones at the front of Marlowe's Tamburlaine (printed in 1590 - before Marlowe's 1593 disappearance) starts his dedication..... "To the gentlemen readers and others that take pleasure in reading history...." Clearly the printer believed he was printing this play for a 'readership'. This makes perfect sense. How else would the printers make a living except by selling as many copies as possible? I imagine that most people buying plays at this time intended to read them rather than act them out.

Maureen Duff said...

Anthony said '"I could argue that some authors would be content that the anagram is there, irrespective of whether anyone ever realises it. I suppose it depends on how petty-minded (or easily pleased) we think Marlowe may have been."

I don't think that an author wanting his name on his life's works is 'petty'. If Marlowe had become aware that the name of William Shakespeare, his play-broker (1), would be on title page of the plays for posterity, this would clearly be a blow especially if the real author had been hoping at some point to be accepted back into English society. Elizabethan and Jacobean authors were not famous for their meek willingness to let others take credit for their work. Thomas Heywood objected strongly that Shakespeare's name was erroneously attributed to nine of his poems in the 1612 edition of The Passionate Pilgrim. As a result, he received an apology from Jaggard the publisher and some of the offending copies were recalled. However, for a writer in hiding for his life, a public objection was not an option. A secret claim to authorship within the work itself might well be the best that could be managed under difficult circumstances.

To answer Isabel's Mar-prelate / Mar-text points. I don't see a problem with a double intent. Why not have Mar-Text as Mar-Prelate for the auditors and the Latin anagram within the name as Marlowe's consolation? One interpretation does not cancel out the other. It may be a Marlovian double-whammy - or as Marlo might have put it - Non Solum Sed Etiam. (2)

At least we all seem to agree that Christopher Marlowe wrote the plays which I suppose is also what the Latin anagram is saying. "Marlo Vir Res Texit' seems to be confirmation that we are all probably right. Thank you for welcoming me to the club!
* * *
Note 1. Anthony Kellett: "William Shakespeare, Businessman - Forgotten Genius" Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, July 2009. This is a brilliant post outlining a entirely plausible method by which W. Shakespeare, "play-broker'" may have ended up with his name at the front of the plays.
Note 2. Not only but also.

Maureen Duff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anthony Kellett said...

Hi Maureen,

Thanks for the response. First, I just want to emphasise that I have acknowledged your proposal is most certainly possible. My questioning is simply aimed at trying to see if I can promote it (in my mind) to a strong possibility. The points you raise in your article (and above) are the reasons I acknowledge that possibility. As I said previously, I will take some time to consider the points both you and Peter make.

However, I do want to clarify my point about Marlowe possibly being “petty”. I was not suggesting this simply because he wished to highlight his authorship. My point would only apply in the event that the anagram would not be printed; so that it remained known only to Marlowe. In that case, and since Marlowe would be the only person aware of its existence, I would consider that petty-minded.

I agree that printers will print. The only thing I was questioning is whether or not the author would assume his play would be printed, at the time he is writing it. Of the 36 plays in the FF, I believe only 18 were printed before 1623 (twelve (I think) of those with Shakespeare’s name on them); so it was not a foregone conclusion. However, it also occurred to me that Marlowe may have taken the attitude, “print and be damned”; knowing that IF the work was printed (and, most likely, another’s name attached to it, thereby ‘wronging’ Marlowe), only then would the anagram be revealed, to set the record straight.

Kindest regards

Peter Farey said...

Anthony wrote: You say, "As far as the idea of "Sweet swan of Avon" being Mary Sidney or "Thy Stratford Moniment" her ruined castle is concerned, I tend to assume that any answer which is within the context of the Marlovian theory (if in other respects no worse) would trump them." Can you please elaborate on this because I don’t understand exactly what you are saying?

I'm having trouble posting here at the moment (I select "Publish", and it asks whether I really want to "navigate way from this page", whereupon - whichever option I choose - I'm thrown back to Explorer telling me that contact has been lost). Because the first of mine had therefore apparently disappeared into the ether I reposted it, but not before clarifying that what I meant by "Marlovian theory" was that Marlowe survived to write much of what we think of as Shakespeare's works. However, the first version won. My point is that whereas Maureen's theory does directly support that hypothesis, those two do not. In fact it would seem to me that they are precisely what Robin Williams's "Mary Sidney" authorship theory is based on.

Anthony wrote: I will concede that black jasper and black slate are most commonly used as "touchstones"; so if it is made of either of those, then you may have a point. However, their use is due to availability and, therefore, I question how remarkable this is, actually; particularly since black slate is frequently used as a gravestone material.

The information about the slab bearing the inscription comes from M. H. Spielmann's "Shakespeare's Portraiture," in *Studies in the
First Folio* (Oxford University Press, 1924) as quoted on Terry Ross and Dave Kathman's Shakespeare Authorship website. He said: "The material of which the monument is composed is white marble, with black touchstone inlaid in slabs".

Of course we have no way of knowing from this which of the following OED "touchstone"s he meant:

1. A very smooth, fine-grained, black or dark-coloured variety of quartz or jasper (also called BASANITE), used for testing the quality of gold and silver alloys by the colour of the streak produced by rubbing them upon it; a piece of such stone used for this purpose.

2. Applied to other stones of similar texture and colour, as black marble or basalt.

It proves nothing about the monument which we haven't - I believe - already determined in far more reliable ways, but this combination of gold and what was called "touchstone" at the time (whatever the material really is) has to be of of some possible relevance doesn't it? In other words:

1. b. fig. That which serves to test or try the genuineness or value of anything; a test, criterion.

Incidentally, I still have as a valued possession a piece of touchstone (together with some material to test) which Dr. Wolfgang Deninger gave out at a lecture he gave to the Marlowe Society on the subject of Touchstone's "ipse". It works.

Peter Farey

Anthony Kellett said...

Hi Peter,


A very smooth, fine-grained, black or dark-coloured variety of quartz or jasper (also called BASANITE), used for testing the quality of gold and silver alloys by the colour of the streak produced by rubbing them upon it; a piece of such stone used for this purpose.

Far be it for me to contradict the OED, but if you asked a geologist to give you some basanite, I guarantee it would not work as a touchstone. Basanite is an igneous rock, formed from solidifying molten lava. Slate is metamorphic (from sedimentary rock) and jasper is a form of chert, which is sedimentary. They are not basanite. However, since the OED seems to think jasper is called basanite, it is somewhat difficult to argue that anyone could not mean jasper, when they say basanite. I am fighting a losing battle here; just as surely as if I tried to argue that a ‘gay man’ was certainly a happy male.

Notwithstanding the above, as you say, we cannot tell what stone it actually is from the quoted passage; and it is probably somewhat irrelevant to this discussion. Moreover, since the OED also says that it was: “Applied to other stones of similar texture and colour, as black marble or basalt”, we don’t actually know that it was really ‘touchstone’ at all. All we do know is that some early 20th century Stratfordian decided to call it ‘touchstone’; and two later ones decided it was a good idea to repeat him. Anyway, I don’t agree that this “reinforces your interpretation”, when it does no such thing (not as if your interpretation requires yet more reinforcement). I am sure Stratfordians would argue that it refers to AYLI (if it is ‘touchstone’) just as strongly as any Marlovian would; it is only ‘the truth’ trying to be conveyed, about which we would disagree.

I understand what you say about the Mary Sidney scenario. I don’t agree that it necessarily contradicts Marlovian theory; unless one leaped to Williams’ conclusion. Moreover, it could (still a big 'could') explain the FF introductory material (perhaps Marlovians’ biggest problem outside Deptford); but we can do that at another time and place.

Carol L said...

Just a thought but if you can drop an 'R' then you have 'MARLO VERIS TEXIT', that is to say 'Marlow in truth created (this)'

Adwello said...

Quite astonishing - probably just Marlowe in Faustian mode back from the dead spirit writing through Shakespeare's hand - allusion to "The Man Marlowe Who Writes The Things" is Marlowe flattering himself he is still a man, possibly robed in Shakespeare's body? Did Shakespeare dip into occultic practise to help him gain some much needed inspiration and call upon Marlowe's spirit to help him out? If Marlowe really faked his own death and was Shakespeare all along what happened to Shakespeare who is clearly recorded at Stratford Upon Avon and why would someone as notorious as Marlowe masquerade as someone in the limelight - a contemporary London playwright? Too risky even if he had done away with Shakespeare. And all their acquaintance would have known! Or was Marlowe hiding up in the country and delivering the plays (ghostwritten) to Shakespeare? Were they both connected in some bizarre Faustian plot? I think it seems to me more likely the latin coding is indeed there but Shakespeare is simply playing out a little fancy to himself in a moment of emotional memory to his contemporary. A Faustian joke he believes no one but himself and the spirit of the deceased Marlowe will enjoy.

Adwello said...

If Marlowe was a busy and well paid Government spy as all the evidence suggests why on earth would he waste good drinking time ghost writing plays to be passed off as William Shakespeare's? A writer ghost writes only when they are poor and needy. Even if Marlowe's death had been faked and he was down on his luck and in hiding and did ghost write a play, his violent nature would have ensured he came to light later and trouble ensue. You couldn't keep a character like Marlowe down except by knifing him clean through the right eye.

Adwello said...

I like daver852's comment of Oct 18, for this makes it clear to me that Shakespeare is in his cups whilst writing this and wants to have a joke on all of us - past present and future: that is, those passed (Marlowe and Walsingham), his audience, and his future audiences for he would have the ego to believe his work would endure, just as the Greek works had endured to his day (and now ours).

Shakespeare may even have worried a little lest anyone picked up on his flippancy, but if anyone did, they kept quiet, no doubt enjoying a little bawd humour to themselves with a sly grin and a ready understanding.

In my New English Book Of English Verse Marlowe's Passionate Shepherd is followed immediately by Raleigh's flippant take "The Nymph's Reply" - what is As You Like It if not Shakespeare's own parody on such a popular poem of the day, a pastoral? Marlowe's death set Shakespeare in the forefront of dramatic writers, so, feeling himself now taking on Marlowe's mantle he responds with a ready wit and produces this tremendous comedy founded on the chiding foolishness of the Passionate Shepherd, complete with full bawdry which would have been a big snoop at Raleigh who saw himself as the Queen's man and foremost wit of the day. Here Shakespeare states plainly his claim to be understood the Maestro of Irony!

The only thing that troubles me is that so many of your commenters seem quite happy to accept that the very dead Marlowe was ghost writing plays for a talented contemporary from Warwickshire. Why do we all assume a man born in Stratford Upon Avon to be intellectually inferior to a bawdy violent spy born in Canterbury? Let Kit Marlowe lie dead and Shakespeare write to his content: at least my bard of Avon didn't presume to dabble in espionage whilst anxiously climbing the ladder of Globe-l dramatic success (pun intended). He was good enough for our Queen Bess and I'm sure he's good enough for me - to William Shakespeare: hats off, gentlemen, a genius!

(And I know Samuel Pepys agrees with me, and he's been recognised as no mean writer and a King's man himself!).

Anthony Clews said...

Congratulations, Adwello, on being widely read, yet retaining such a narrow mind.

However, may I suggest that understanding the words is far more rewarding than merely consuming them?

Peter Farey said...

Adwello said: Or was Marlowe hiding up in the country and delivering the plays (ghostwritten) to Shakespeare?

Most of us hereabouts are pretty much sold on the idea that - whether "in the country" or not - Marlowe was the actual writer behind Shakespeare's works, which our William presented as his own. We have all sorts of reasons for believing this, with which I assume you are not really familiar. Most of them can be found by using the link to the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society in the right hand-column. Your opinions on our arguments will be most welcome should you ever examine them.

Adwello said: Why do we all assume a man born in Stratford Upon Avon to be intellectually inferior to a bawdy violent spy born in Canterbury?

Your words suggest that Marlowe was bawdy whereas Shakespeare wasn't, which indicates that you may need to take a look a Eric Partridge's "Shakespeare's Bawdy" at ! That Marlowe was "violent" is mostly rejected by his more recent biographers, and you presumably realise that the Privy Councillors did select its spies from among the intellectually brighter people of the time? That Marlowe, after grammar school, studied at Cambridge for six and half years for his BA and MA degrees would, one think, give him some sort of intellectual advantage over a man with (if we are generous) a limited time at grammar school only, don't you think?

Peter Farey

P.S. All of my grandparents having lived at Hastings when I was a child, I was devastated to read of the pier's recent destruction. I suspect someone from St. Leonards, the remains of whose pier (and whose splendid outdoor pool) I also remember well.

Sam Blumenfeld said...

I am delighted that Maureen Duff's good piece on Mar-text has elicited so much comment. In my book, I took the Martext reference at its face value as Marlowe’s way of informing the reader that he had written the play. His entrance in Act 3, Scene 3, is straightforward, with no additional innuendo. Incidentally, in the text I read, the name was not hyphenated.

In Act 5, Scene 1, Touchstone refers to Martext as vile and wicked. That’s what Marlowe was called by Puritans after the lurid news of his murder reached London. There were no investigative reporters in those days to find out what really happened at Deptford. So rumors were the chief source of information, and Marlowe’s reputation was sullied by fictitious accounts of his demise.

In reading all thirty-six plays in the First Folio, I came across many clues that Marlowe had inserted in the texts. I’m sure I must have missed some that were not as obvious as the ones that glared right out of the pages. What I realized is that unless you have read all of Marlowe you will miss many of the clues that refer to his previous works. Of course, Stratfordians will claim that those references only indicate that Shakespeare was well acquainted with and greatly influenced by Marlowe’s works and often mentioned them.

Peter Farey said...

Sam wrote: "Incidentally, in the text I read, the name was not hyphenated".

Hi Sam. The only source for the text of this play is The First Folio which, as Maureen pointed out in her first note, gives "Sir Oliuer Mar-text" (3 times) as the only version of the name.

Peter Farey

daver852 said...

I am no scholar, but I recall there is a passage in the play Sir Thomas More (Part 2, Scene 1) where the word "ipse" is used.

More: Why, sure, this is not he.

Faulkner: And your lordship will, the barber shall give you a sample of my head: I am he in faith, my lord, I am ipse.

More: Why, now thy face is like an honest man's; Thou hast played well at this new cut and won.

Faulkner: No, my lord. Lost all that ever God sent me.

Some say that Sir Thomas More was written, at least partially by Shakespeare. Any significance in this? Just thought I'd mention it.

Isabel Gortazar said...

Well spotted daver852.
This is very interesting.

Whether the exchange you quote belongs to the scenes that have been "identified" as written by Shakespeare or not, it may mean that using "ipse" for "the real man; myself" was perhaps normal among Elizabethan and Jacobean persons whose Latin was fluent, in the same way that people of every nationality will use today English words and expressions, because they find them precise and useful.

Two points I have been thinking about, Maureen. As Anthony has pointed out, the vicar would not have been a Sir, while Oliver de Boys was a nobleman; so perhaps "wicked Sir Oliver" was a direct reference to the character.

However, you need the word "sir" to make "vir". But why do you want "vir" at all?

As opposed to what? MARLO THE CAT?. Of course he was a man; the word VIR is totally redundant, so hardly justifies the unlikely SIR, unless the SIR is pointing at Oliver de Boys.

Then RES TEXIT: OK, it could be construed as "COMPOSES (the) THING, but that does not necessarily explain what thing. The Latin sentence, if I am not mistaken, can also mean THE MAN MARLO WEAVES (a) THING, which is too far-fetched.

As for the anagram being justified because the play was meant to be printed, in a population of under four million people (no other countries had an English-speaking population), of which maybe ten percent were able to read at all, let alone in Latin, the resulting copies may have been worth printing, but was it worth leaving cryptic anagrams -and not very good ones at that- ON TOP of the very obvious English meaning of the scene?
Just a thought.

In any case, Maureen, I think you have the record for comments to a piece since this blog was started. Well done!

Peter Farey said...

A couple of points in response to Anthony K. and Isabel.

First, for both of you, there is no reason to assume Martext to have been a knight of the realm. The title 'Sir' (according to the OED) was placed before the Christian name of ordinary priests, with the title (at least by the end of the sixteenth century) "clearly used in contrast to Master, and denoted that the priest had not graduated in a university."

Second, for Isabel, and as Maureen points out in her notes, Lewis & Shortʼs Latin Dictionary says that "RES = ...(in a literary context) events, acts, stories, histories," and I would take a play by Shakespeare as providing "a literary context".

Furthermore, I find it helpful that it speaks of a "man" MARLO rather than a "cadaver" MARLO!

Peter Farey

Isabel Gortazar said...

Thanks Peter for clarifying the use of "Sir" for priests; that is interesting.

However, it is still a fact that the author might have made Sir Oliver a Friar or a Master. As his role in the play does not require such specification, it was up to Marlowe to choose what treatment to give him.

According to what you say, he seems to have chosen to make him a simple, uneducated village priest, which suggests to me that he is emphasizing his ignorance, as befits a "vile MAR-TEXT", while perhaps retaining his connection to "SIR wicked OLIVER". It is a clever combination, as one might expect of our author.

My problem is that, according to Maureen's anagram, the specification SIR was required to create the VIR, and not to qualify the character.

You say: "I find it helpful that it speaks of a "man" MARLO rather than a "cadaver" MARLO!"

Well, if you find it helpful, Peter, perhaps other people do too. However, as MARLO could not have TEXIT this RES if he had died in 1593, I must insist that I find the word VIR unnecessary.

As for "RES""(in a literary context) events, acts, stories, histories," and I would take a play by Shakespeare as providing "a literary context".

Yes, Peter, but if you invent a name in order to make an anagram with it, perhaps you don't choose one which obliges you to use "TEXIT RES" instead of a clearer "wrote this play" however that may be said in Latin?

What I am trying to say is that, had Marlowe had in mind to create a Latin anagram out of the name of a character, he was free to invent such name including any letters he might need for his purpose. Surely a creative linguist such as Marlowe might have done a better job.

Just a thought.

Jim said...

Hi Everyone,

This scene has four roles. If an anagram combines the name and description of a role, then any person can be assigned to any role in the FF. Marlowe is everywhere by this method, like Touchstone here, and Oliver Mar-text will be Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Some charts may show better,


Daryl Pinksen said...

Hi All,

The translation of the Latin sentence is rather flat, but that shouldn't be considered a reflection on the playwright. I think, as Isabel suggested, that if Marlowe's intent were to create an anagram for the occasion, he would have imagined a more artful, more compelling translation of the Latin.

I plugged the phrase VIR RES TEXIT into an online Latin translator, and what came back was interesting:

vir N 2 3 NOM S M
vir N 2 3 VOC S M
vir, viri N (2nd) M [XXXAX]
man; husband; hero; person of courage, honor, and nobility; N 5 1 NOM S F N 5 1 VOC S F N 5 1 NOM P F N 5 1 VOC P F N 5 1 ACC P F
res, rei N (5th) F [XXXAX]
thing; event/affair/business; fact; cause; property; [~ familiaris => property]
res N 9 9 X X N
res, undeclined N N [DEQEW] Late uncommon
res; (20th letter of Hebrew alphabet); (transliterate as R);
tego, tegere, texi, tectus V (3rd) [XXXAX]
cover, protect; defend; hide; V 3 1 PRES ACTIVE IND 3 S
texo, texere, texui, textus V (3rd) [XXXBX]
weave; plait (together); construct with elaborate care

Some sleight of hand, and liberty with the various possible interpretations, and one could defend the sentence:

"The noble Marlowe's work, hidden with great care."

There is likely some problem with the liberties I've taken, but something more like this makes a greater impact, and falls more in line with the intentions of a brilliant poetic mind.

That is, IF, in fact, the anagram in question was the author's intent.


Isabel Gortazar said...

That is fascinating, Daryl.
But the fact that your have worked out yet another anagram which is even better than Maureen's, may prove just how futile it is to pursue the "ciphers and anagrams" path.

Let us remember that there is an Oxfordian wizard, whose name I can't remember, who has "deciphered" the Essex rebellion from the sonnets; apparently it doesn't matter if the sonnets do not have any relation to Oxford's life, because their real purpose was to hide Oxford's thoughts on the Essex affair. The Baconians are even worse, as we all know.

So, I am sure that specially with the aid of a computer, clever people like Maureen, Daryl and Peter, can work out ingenious and even logical anagrams. But, can we believe they are really meaningful?

If the question is: Could we work out a Marlovian anagram from the name of Sir Oliver Mar-text? The answer is: Yes, and more than one. Both Maureen and Daryl have already done that.

But, if the question is: Would Marlowe invent a name for a character in order to hide such a phrase in Latin? I'm afraid my answer would be, I don't think so.

But, of course, there are no gospels telling us what is right or wrong in this business.

Peter Farey said...


Maureen's anagram was MARLO VIR RES TEXIT and so was Daryl's, which is in fact the only anagram offered so far. He has not "worked out yet another anagram". What he has done is to suggest what he thinks would be a better translation of the Latin, given the many possible translations of each word.

However, I find his translation less satisfactory than Maureen's. For example, "noble" had a fairly clear meaning at the time that would not apply to Marlowe, although person "of courage" or "of honour" would be fine. I'm not sure that "work" is supported by the dictionary whereas "stories" is, and I'm not all that happy with the combining of "hidden" from one meaning with the "with great care" of another! As Daryl himself admitted that he took liberties, and I'm inclined to agree. I suppose my best attempt would go something like "The man Marlowe composes the stories", but it's still the same anagram.

Peter Farey

Isabel Gortazar said...

OOPS! Sorry folks.

Where I said last night to Daryl:
"But the fact that your have worked out yet another anagram which is even better than Maureen's etc", of course I meant you have found another translation for Maureen's anagram, which is even better than hers.

That clarified, with my apologies, the rest of my argument remains the same.

Maureen Duff said...

HI Daryl,

Before I wrote my original post I had been alerted by Peter Farey that the 3rd person, perfect indicative of tegere (to hide) was a homonym for 3rd person, present indicative of texere (to compose). Using tegere the literal translation of "Marlo vir res texit" would be "The man Marlowe has hidden the things" which makes little sense as the "things" or stories are visible, not hidden. I therefore concluded that texit from texere (to compose) is the intended verb. I believe therefore that there is only one Latin anagram here and, no matter how free we are in translation, one English meaning.

Best wishes,


Maureen Duff said...

Hi Isabel,

"Vir" was commonly used in classical literature for emphasis, to denote a man of some status, eg a brave man, a man of character, fame or renown, a worthy or honourable man, as in "Caesar vir..." or "Cicero vir....".

Originally I was tempted to provide a less flat English translation of the Latin but decided that the basic one carries the meaning well enough. If a more poetic translation is required we could correctly say "The honourable Marlowe composes the stories".

For fun, and only for fun, we could go further and note that Hamlet (in Act II, sc ii) says "the play's the thing". With some liberty we might translate as "The honourable Marlowe is the writer of the plays".

However my preferred translation is the literal one, "The man Marlowe composes the things" because, however basic, it carries the meaning loud and clear.

Best wishes


Peter Farey said...

Re the Latin word "tegere" (to cover, protect, defend, hide). Although I am aware that not all of you agree, I think Marlowe, whilst still in hiding, was still alive when the Stratford monument was completed in around 1622. This is why I would interpret the TERRA TEGIT inscribed on it as saying that "the world hides" him (i.e. Marlowe), rather than that "the earth covers" him (i.e. Shakespeare) as it is usually translated.

Peter Farey

Isabel Gortazar said...

Hi Maureen:
You've come into our lives with a vengeance! But this is the fun of it all.

As I have repeatedly said, my problem is not so much with the anagram itself but with the fact that I don't think an anagram would have been intended, and also that one might possibly work out hundreds of anagrams from the plays, each defeating each other's purpose, according whether they are Baconian, Oxfordian, etc.

You see the necessity of VIR, so be it; I find justification for that SIR in the fact, indicated by Peter, that it pins down "vile Martext" as an ignorant village priest.

Nor can I go along with your interpretation of "the play's the thing". Hamlet is looking for some action, something that will tell him whether Claudius is guilty or not. The play is such a thing; he might have invented any other "thing" to trigger off Claudius' reaction. He is not, in my understanding, equalling the word "thing" to the word "play".

Anyway, I repeat, welcome to the club!

Maureen Duff said...

"Sir Oliver Mar-Text" holds within it a succinct anagram in plain classical Latin which resolves into meaningful English. It is a world away from Baconian and Oxfordian anagrams which can easily be confounded by irregular spelling or the idiosyncrasies of printers and their typefaces.

Thinking up witty (Latin) anagrams was a common pastime among the intelligentsia in Roman times. The Elizabethan and Jacobean literati copied much from the classical poets and they considered their own Latin anagrams to be the height of wit.

In the 16th Century at a time of persecution of those involved in controversial scientific and other intellectual pursuits, renaissance figures such as Galileo (and others) commonly used veiled Latin anagrams as future proof of authorship against theft by their colleagues and competitors while keeping themselves out of view of church or state authorities who might condemn them to imprisonment or death for their unorthodox views.

Isabel said “ [Hamlet] is not, in my understanding, equalling the word “thing” to the word “play”.

My last reference to Hamlet was meant as a piece of fun - and of course, Isabel, in the phrase “the play’s the thing” you are right about the word "thing". It means "method" or a similar word. However here is a more serious point. "Hamlet" is an anagram of "Amleth", whose story by Saxo Grammaticus was an important source for that play. "Caliban" is an anagram of "Canibal", Spanish for the English word "Cannibal". This shows that the author of Hamlet and The Tempest did not shy away from using anagrams (and foreign language ones at that) in the names of some of the characters in the plays.

Putting all this together, I don't think it was beyond the multi-linguistic skills of the humanist renaissance author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare to come up with a veiled but grammatically correct Latin anagram in a character's name in a play that is filled with hints about the true author of that play.

Despite the challenges above, I stand by my opinion that the Latin anagram to be found in the name "Sir Oliver Mar-Text" (Marlo Vir Res Texit) served as claim for true authorship. Banished for life and suffering in silence, Marlowe had a sound motive for not speaking out or writing in plain English - fear of the ultimate punishment. However, hoping perhaps that he might be pardoned in the future and allowed to return to English society, an anagram within a character's clearly synthetic name describing his claim to authorship, hidden but still accessible, might create an insurance policy - in case he needed to prove one day that he had truly written the plays.

Maureen Duff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Isabel Gortazar said...

It's taken me a bit to find this.
Here is the Bacon anagram in LLL:

Hic ludi F Baconis nati, tutti, orbi"

For a long time Baconians were "sure" they had found the "touchstone" for their case and the anagram appeared in all the Baconian stuff.

I believe it was one of them who dared offer a hefty sum to whoever would come up with another translation of the long Latin word. He soon lost his money and the "proof" was removed from the "sirbacon" website and sustituted for a Rosicrucian number. (see link below)

This example has given me a very good excuse to stay off anagrams and ciphers (of which I am incapable anyway), with the possible exception of Peter's interpretation of the Epitaph, although, as I wrote in an essay for the Marlowe Soc long ago, I would change the last line.

So shall any of you, clever marlovians, try to find a Marlowe anagram for


Peter Farey said...

Isabel said "So shall any of you, clever marlovians, try to find a Marlowe anagram for


Now your turn with

Peter Farey

Isabel Gortazar said...

Come on, Peter, I am sure you can do better than that!

What on earth do you mean by
I can see what you are trying to say, but...FICTITIOUS ALIBI!

Besides, it should be in Latin, shouldn't it?

That said, I could not have come up with anything like that to save my life.

Believe me, I did try with Sir Oliver but so far I have not been able to work out anything in any language I know. I will try again...someday.

Anybody else for

Come on, Maureen!

Maureen Duff said...

Hi Isabel,

Believe it or not, I dislike anagrams as much as you do and I'm not that good at solving them. You may recall that people much cleverer than me helped with Sir Oliver Mar-Text. I understand that honorificabilitudinitatibus is the dative or ablative plural of a Latin word (medieval not classical Latin) meaning "the state of being able to achieve honours". It is not a synthetic anagram within itself although, as you say, the Baconians tried to resolve it anagrammatically for their own purpose. Honorificabilitudinitatibus, in different grammatical cases, was used by many authors from 1187 onwards. The provenance of Sir Oliver Mar-Text is substantially different.

Best wishes


Jim said...

Honorificabilitudinitatibus stands for the Sonnets sequence built by Francis Bacon, the drawer Francis whose "eloquence the parcel of a reckoning." The reckoning in video:

Bacon's contribution was mainly on numbers, from Marlowe and others' view:

For your reference.

Textor said...

Doesnʼt Act V, sc. i highlight the contrast between a learned and an unlearned wit? Isnʼt that the main theme of the whole scene? Bearing that in mind, the priestʼs name seems to vary that dichotomy in a nutshell – or rather in one “Sir Oliver Mar-text” by addressing both the unlearned and the learned audience/reader through that odd characterʼs overt “Englishness”, but covert “Latinity”. To me, that appears quite Marlovian.

Isabel Gortázar: “Marlowe had plenty of Latin and as much Greek, but when he could leave his clues in plain English he did so.”

This is true enough. But it is certainly just as true that Marlowe occasionally left his clues in plain English along with those in Latin, when the framing of a double meaning turned out to be feasible.

Isabel Gortázar: “What I am trying to say is that, had Marlowe had in mind to create a Latin anagram out of the name of a character, he was free to invent such name including any letters he might need for his purpose.”

Since Marlowe chose to “hide” an ambiguity within the expression, he was not entirely free to invent a name, but found himself constrained by the necessities of each and every intended meaning.
With regard to the word “TEXIT”, the literary con t e x t is obvious, given the etymology of the English word “text” that clearly derives from Latin “textus”. “RES” translates inter alia as “the real thing, fact, truth, reality”.
So there is just one anagram, but one can detect at least two meanings in it which make sense as they are easily relatable to Marloweʼs presumed fate:


[texo, texere, texui, textus; texit = 3s pr act ind]

2. THE MAN MARLOWE HAS HIDDEN THE THINGS (i. e. FACTS [about his “afterlife”]/REALITY [of the anagram itself]).
[tego, tegere, texi, tectus; texit = 3s perf act ind]

Jim said...

Latin anagram may work in this scene. I see Marlowe devised another method to cover the whole FF. He used "name and description" of a role to create anagram, and made the plot fits to it as a proof. In this way Marlowe removed the "restriction." Here Marlowe put himself in Touchstone, the most capricious Poet and Ovid and Jove (

The third murderer in Macbeth recorded Marlowe's fake death. He added the third one to fit his own true story. "There's blood upon thy face" can spell Robert Poley. The first murderer did "strike out the Light" to free Fleance (

Many coincidences lead to truth, Marlowe's strategy. To stand Latin anagram, we need more samples.

Up to now I found Marlowe had only full control over Macbeth and Othello. Other plays were done by other Wilton House playwrights first, and then passed to Marlowe to insert hidden messages under Mary Sidney's request. The FF is not really co-authored, but modified by Marlowe as the last one, since those messages cannot miss a word.

Anonymous said...

I think you should use more images on your blog, but besides that, it is really great. Cheers.

daver852 said...

I love to go back and re-read these articles. As one person has noted, the word "ipse" is a very strange one to be used in the scene between Touchstone and Will of Arden. Could there be a connection between it and Guise' speech in "The Massacre At Paris" where he says:

"And he forsooth must goe and
preach in Germany:
Excepting against Doctors actions,
And ipse dixi with this quidditie,
Argumentum testimonis est in arte

Just a thought.

peter manchester said...

The author has overlooked the rather obvious possibility that, if the anagram theory is correct, rather than hinting at Marlovian authorship of Shakespeares plays, it is a swipe at Marlow himself, comparing his compositions to the doggerel verse that is quoted in the play.