Monday, May 18, 2009

Marloviana: The Tempest's "Every third thought" by Isabel Gortázar

The Tempest Act V, 1, 311-312

And thence retire me to my Milan, where,
Every third thought shall be my grave.

The "Every third thought" line has puzzled the Stratters, and with reason. Of course, once you focus on Marlowe, it becomes easy to “translate." The Tempest is full of numerical clues and this is one of them. Here is what I wrote about it in my essay on The Tempest (Marlowe Research Journal nº 4):

Even accepting the obvious meaning that Prospero is getting old and is thinking about death, this is a curious way of putting it. Why every third thought? Is this a manner of speaking, or is it one more example of his excessive use of the number three? Is the author positively linking his grave to the number three? When I focused on this strange line, it occurred to me that Marlowe would be the only one, among the authorship candidates, who could actually know the date of his burial: 1st June 1593. And here it seems I may have struck gold:

As Marlowe had been killed on May 30th, the 1st of June was the third day from his death (in the same way that Christ is supposed to have resurrected on the third day, Easter Sunday, from his death on Good Friday). Also, June is the third month in the Julian Calendar Year, which starts on March 25th. Finally, 1593, as well as 1+5+9+3=18, and 1+8 =9 (= 3+3+3) are numbers divisible by three. So, Marlowe’s grave, though unmarked, would have received his corpse on the third day after his death, on the third month of the Julian Year 1593, a year divisible by three whichever way one adds its digits. I wonder what are the odds that all this may be a coincidence.

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Alisa Beaton said...

I believe the author is saying that although all his thoughts are not on his death, thoughts of his death occur to him with great frequency. If Christopher Marlowe was not killed in Deptford on May 30, 1593 but lived on, neither he nor anyone else would have been able to foretell the date of his actual death.

Isabel Gortazar said...

Sorry Ms Beaton; I must have been unclear in my explanation. Prospero is not giving a clue as to the date of his real death, of course, but as to the date of his fake burial in the unmarked grave that exists in St Nicholas Church in Deptford. According to the Church records, the burial took place on 1st June 1593.

Douglas Frank said...

Excellent! My comment is not necessarily discordant with your point of view, Ms Gortazar. It is, however, more "action oriented" for those of us living today, to discuss and possibly to embrace. This remarkable line by Prospero (Shakespeare) may be further interpreted to mean: If we choose to live for today – rather than for a "future indefinite" over which, ultimately, we cannot predict or control – each day we live will be immeasurably enhanced; a holiday, a bonus day! Thank you for your thoughts. Have a great day!

CARLO D. said...

Mr. Frank,

Ms. Gortazar, unfortunately, has passed away.