MONTANUS

De la Motte means 'of (i.e. dwelling on) the hill', the nearest Latin for which would be Montanus.

On 9th May 1595, two years after Marlowe's 'death' and just a few months before we first hear of Le Doux, someone in fact calling himself Pietro Montanus arrived in London, sick and almost broke. He had entered the country using a forged passport, (1) which alleged that he was a French servant of Anthony Bacon, who had allowed him leave from London to visit his family and friends in France, and that he was now returning to serve his master - un tres honeste gantillomme monsieur bacon.

His illness continued at least until the 23rd May, during which time it seems he was under the care of Bacon, as he was well enough to write letters on 15th and 23rd, copies of which are retained among the Bacon Papers. (2) Both of the letters are addressed to an agent of Lord Burghley, Peter Edgcombe, who is known to have been employed in the field of espionage. (3)

The letters, both in Latin, express his unhappiness with the way he has been treated by Edgcombe. In the first, he accuses Edgcombe of failing to deliver a letter and some money (an 'angel', today equivalent to some 250) sent to him by Anthony Bacon on Edgcombe's last visit. Montanus asks to be recompensed, saying in his second letter that he can be reached either via the Pastor of the Italian Church in London (Joannes Baptista Aurelius), or by way of Anthony Bacon himself. He also complains that oral and written promises made by Edgcombe - presumably on behalf of Burghley - had not been kept. These were that he would be given provisions, money etc. (viaticum) together with a 'safe conduct' for his journey.

He speaks not only of his illness, however, but also of his 'great calamity'.

Act II of Hamlet, written five or six years later, however, begins with a short scene in which Polonius is sending his man, Reynaldo, to check up on what his son Laertes is getting up to while he is away in Paris and, presumably, to report back to him on this. Given the position apparently held by Polonius, and the suggestion that his lecture to Laertes bears a strong resemblance to the 'precepts' prepared by Burghley for his son, Robert Cecil, (4) it has often been proposed that Polonius was modelled on Burghley. This argument on its own is perhaps unconvincing, but it is given considerable support by Polonius's original name having been Corambis (cor ambis), an obvious play on Burghley's own motto cor unum, via una, still to be seen on his portrait above the main staircase at Hatfield. (5)

The word cor means 'heart' or (more appropriate in this context) 'mind', so the motto means 'one mind, one way'. In other words, it commends single-mindedness. Ambis, on the other hand, is a form of the adjective ambo , meaning 'both', and suggests that this character is 'of two minds' - the exact opposite. Similarly, Polon(y)us is a simple anagram of the Greek word polynous, made up of the words poly (more than one) and nous (mind). The author could now deny it had the same meaning, however, as the complete word polynous means 'thoughtful' or 'profound'. (6)

What has never been explained until now, however, is why it is that the name of the man sent to spy on Laertes was changed too. The original was not Reynaldo, but Montano (= Montanus). We could therefore have hit upon how it was that Marlowe came to be working for Burghley in the first place. Learning from his probable family friend Jonathan Parker that someone of about the same above-average age as his son Robert was due to go up to Cambridge at almost exactly the same time, typical Burghley, (7) he may well have asked for Marlowe to keep an eye on what the young Cecil was doing, and to report back, just as he may, years later, have asked William to report on his nephew Anthony Bacon too.


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NOTES AND REFERENCES (MONTANUS)

1 LPL Bacon Papers MS.651 f.124. According to the 'passport' itself, it was issued on 6th May 1594, but it is endorsed as being forged by Arnauld on 6th May 1595, only three days before Montanus's arrival in London.

2 Ibid. MS.651 ff.2, 130

3 Calendar of State Papers (CSP), Domestic, pp.144-5

4 BL Stowe MS.143 f.100

5 Harold Jenkins, ed. Hamlet (1982) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. pp.34-5 and 421-2, points out that since the memorial reconstruction, Q1, in which Polonius appears as Corambis, must have come after Q2, which was based upon Shakespeare's original text, it follows that Polonius was the original name, to be replaced (as he admits, for 'unexplained' reasons) by Corambis. He does not offer what would seem to me to be a far more logical interpretation. This is that Corambis was the original name, and the one initially used on the stage, at least until the publication of Q1. After this, and probably even because of it, somebody (presumably Sir Robert Cecil) complained; the name was changed, and the printer of Q2 instructed to substitute the name Polonius for Corambis wherever it occurred in the original text.

6 I only recently came across this suggested meaning of 'Polonius' in William Honey, The Life, Loves and Achievements of Christopher Marlowe, alias William Shakespeare (1982), Marlowe Books, London.

7 Charlton Ogburn (The Mystery of William Shakespeare, 1988, pp.661-2) points out that both the Earl of Oxford and Sir Francis Drake had had servants either planted on them or suborned by Burghley. While on the subject, there could also be good reasons for thinking that Skeres had been planted on Essex by Walsingham.


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