Monday, August 11, 2008

Allusionary Play: Hemingway from Shakespeare, Shakespeare from Marlowe

In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” when the virile safari guide Wilson quotes a passage from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II -- “By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death” (3.2.109) -- Marlowe’s Edward II (written around seven years before Henry IV, Part II) also comes to mind, as Edward states to Berkeley, “. . . of this am I assured: / That death ends all, and I can die but once” (5.1.152-153).

Perhaps Marlowe, who was very well-versed in Scripture, was inspired by Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die . . .”

Of course, I believe Marlowe most likely wrote the Shakespeare plays anyway. Read Edward II, for example, and you’ll see “Shakespeare" everywhere. Regardless, tracing allusions is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, August 2008

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