Sunday, October 17, 2010
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:
THE MAN MARLOWE COMPOSES THE THINGS.7
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 : 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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Posted by CARLO D. at 4:33 PM