The Dating Game is the name of U.S. television show that first aired in the 1960s, but I’ll use it to describe a game I believe Marlowe played with 17th century theater-goers. Alex Jack discovered an instance of the dating game in Hamlet’s first quarto.1 The gravedigger tells Hamlet that if it is not rotten, an ordinary body will last eight years, while “a tanner/ Will last you eight years full out, or nine” (the same numbers are provided in the First Folio version). The first quarto was registered in 1602, nine years after Marlowe’s “death” in 1593. Thus, this dating game has to do, I think, with inserting a clue about life/death and the number of years that have elapsed since Marlowe’s supposed demise. By the way, Hamlet was registered on July 26th, the day after St. Christopher’s Day, which fell on a Sunday that year.2
Instance #2: In Pericles, Prince of Tyre, a prince, through no fault of his own, must go on the run. He meets and marries a princess, but she is thought to die after childbirth during a tempest at sea. Her casket is tossed overboard and she is washed ashore, discovered to be alive, and becomes a priestess. Their baby daughter, Marina (abbreviated as Mar. in speech designations), is left on another shore to be raised by others, but just before her father returns to retrieve her, is thought to have been murdered. In reality, she is hauled off by pirates. Marina is able to retain her virtue and is reunited with her parents in a happy ending.
Fourteen years pass between the princess’ “death” and her rediscovery by Pericles; the family reunites when Marina is fourteen years old. Pericles was registered on the anniversary of Marlowe’s arrest, May 20, 1608, not quite fifteen years from the date of Marlowe’s “death,” and printed the following year.
Instance #3: A key source for The Winter’s Tale is Robert Greene’s Pandosto. In Greene’s version, a jealous king unjustifiably accuses his wife Bellaria of adultery, sets her newborn child to sea in a small boat, and sends emissaries to the Oracle at Delphos to verify his suspicions. The Oracle says Bellaria is innocent. As this news is delivered to the king, Bellaria drops dead and remains dead the rest of the story. The Bard changes the characters’ names, and Bellaria becomes Hermione. The name stems from antiquity: Hermione was of the daughter of King Menelaus and Helen of Troy. In the present case, however, it might denote self-identification: Her + Me = One.
In the Bard’s version, again there is a jealous king, again an unfairly accused wife, but their baby is renamed Perdita, from the Latin “perditus” or the Spanish “perdida,” meaning “lost”. Again the king launches the baby to sea in a small boat, and sends men to the Oracle of Delphos. As the Oracle’s pronouncement of innocence is read before the King, again his wife falls down “dead.”
But this time, unbeknownst to the king and everyone else, Hermione is not dead. Her servant Paulina spirits her away to a safe place until the time, sixteen years later, when Perdita is found. At that point, Paulina takes the remorseful king to see a statue of Hermione she has erected in her honor, a statue that comes to life before his eyes as his long-lost wife. The Winter’s Tale is thought to have been written in 1610 or 1611, but not registered or published until 1623. Adding sixteen years to the date of Marlowe’s “death” would entail composition between May 30, 1609 and May 29, 1610. The date ranges overlap.
It has been conjectured that the name “Paulina” was derived from St. Paul. It is interesting, though, that both Sir John Davies and Sir John Harington employed “Paul” as a nickname for Sir Walter Ralegh in their epigrams.3 Might Paulina represent Ralegh? In our discussions about who helped Marlowe escape in 1593, should we be considering Ralegh as another possibility?
“It is certain that Marlowe and Ralegh knew each other, but how well we do not know,” wrote Charles Nicholl.4 According to an anonymous informer, Richard Cholmeley said Marlowe “read the Atheist lecture” to Ralegh and others. The Baines Note reported that Marlowe said “Moses was but a juggler, and that one Heriots (Thomas Hariot) being Sir Walter Ralegh’s man can do more than he," while Thomas Kyd wrote that Marlowe conversed “with Harriot, Warner, Royden, and some stationers in Paul’s churchyard.”5 Like Marlowe, Ralegh was accused of atheism: Robert Person alleged that Ralegh presided over a school of atheism, and an ecclesiastical commission held an enquiry in 1594, but filed no charges against Ralegh. So far as we know, he was a conforming member of the Church of England who enjoyed discussions with intelligent, forward-looking people. On a lighter note, Ralegh wrote a poem about a nymph declining the offer to “come live with me and by my love” as requested in Marlowe’s A Passionate Shepherd to his Love. Most importantly, Ralegh famously had access to ships; Marlowe’s last known location, Deptford, was a port; and Marlowe would have needed to get away quickly. Might Ralegh have helped provide an escape vessel?
© Donna N. Murphy, August 2011
Donna N. Murphy is the co-winner of the 2010 Calvin and Rose G. Hoffman Prize for a Distinguished Publication on Christopher Marlowe. She is only the third person to do so for a work which supports the view that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare (the others being Peter Farey and Michael Rubbo). Her two most recent articles, both in the June 2011 issue of Notes and Queries, are "'The Repentance of Robert Greene,' 'Greene's Groatsworth of Wit,' and Robert Greene," and "'Two Dangerous Comets' and Thomas Nashe."
1Hamlet. By Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, ed. Alex Jack, Vol. 2 (Becket, MA: Amber Waves, 2005), 256.
2John Baker reported the St. Christopher’s Day association on his now-defunct website.
3Charles Nicholl, “‘At Middleborough’: Some Reflections on Marlowe’s Visit to the Low Countries in 1592,” Christopher Marlowe and English Renaissance Culture, ed. Darryll Grantley and Peter Roberts (Aldershot, Hants, England: Scolar Press, 1996), 43.
4Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning (London: Vintage, 2002), 233.
5Park Honan, Christopher Marlowe. Poet & Spy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 237, 235. Emmerich Anonymous
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