Academic journal article Marlowe Studies: An Annual

Telescoping Translation: Hero and Leander, Lenten Stuffe, and Bartholomew Fair

Academic journal article Marlowe Studies: An Annual

Telescoping Translation: Hero and Leander, Lenten Stuffe, and Bartholomew Fair

Article excerpt

Thomas Nashe's translation of Hero and Leander's story in the context of English piscatorial politics in Lenten Stuffe (1599) has yet to be recognized as both an extension of Christopher Marlowe's thematic departures from his Musean predecessor and a primary influence on Ben Jonson's puppet show in Bartholomew Lair (1631). (1) Although C. S. Lewis believes that "our taste is a little offended" by Nashe's transformation of Marlowe's lovers into fish, (2) G. R. Hibbard situates Nashe's "burlesque" of Marlowe's poem as the "high-light" of Lenten Stuffe and observes: "To see what happened to 'Hero and Leander' when it was vulgarized, it is only necessary to turn to Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, where it is debased into a crude puppet-show by the stupid citizen John Littlewit." (3) Critical conventions clearly position Nashe "between" Marlowe and Jonson. But an analysis of the intertextual exchanges among these works that includes Jonson's telescoping--his compression and conflation--of both Marlowe's and Nashe's versions of Hero and Leander with Richard Edwards' Damon and Pythias in London's Smithfield remains outstanding. This essay fills this critical gap by demonstrating how the progressive conversation between Hero and Heander, henten Stuffe, and Bartholomew Fair formally turns on the dialectical nature of translation. It additionally shows how all three writers exploit Ovidian hermaphroditic imagery in order to undermine the intersecting ideals of linguistic integrity, classically inspired amity, and Neoplatonic harmony.

Marlowe's wonderful punning on "Venus nun," suggesting that Hero is "Venus none," epitomizes the quandary at the crux of translation. (4) Ideally, translation follows its prefix to span "across" and create unity from multiple versions. Thus, the project of translatio studii et imperii (translation of learning and empire) aims toward creating a sense of national and linguistic unity. But "translation" is also already subject to having been doubled. A translated text both is, and is not, its source--the paradox is omnipresent. (5) Belen Bistue rightly embraces this contradiction and explains that "while translation theory can be a repository for ideologies of unification (economic, political, doctrinal, and stylistic), it can also be a site of resistance to them." (6) Marlowe's, Nashe's, and Jonson's versions of Hero and Leander directly exploit this conflict. On the one hand, Nashe and Johnson reveal an urge toward the kinds of ideological unification Bistue catalogs. Both position Marlowe as a master worthy of imitation and simultaneously elevate the English language to stand, if not "above," at the very least on par with Museaus' Greek and Ovid's Latin. On the other hand, the latent satire that begins with Marlowe's Mercury digression predestinating divine and political authorities to legislative caprice, and then grows more outrageous with Nashe's and Jonson's subsequent translations, resists these ideologies. Ultimately, all of these three versions of Hero and Heander progressively expand upon Leander's cheeky arguments that Venus' nun should be "none" chaste in order to emphasize the ruptures of classically inspired ideals of amity and Neoplatonic idealism in early modern England.

Marlowe and Nashe initially exploit the fluid duality of both Venus and the hermaphrodite to mock hypocritical expressions of erotic love and political harmony in Elizabethan society. Tellingly, Jonson's conflation of his contemporaries' versions of Hero and heander in Bartholomew Fair with Damon and Pythias exploits the puppets' androgyny and extends his predecessors' satirical portrayals of love and amity in early modern England. (7) Hero's association with the hermaphrodite begins when Marlowe's speaker associates her with Ovid's Salmacis, (8) continues as Nashe transforms her from a human into an asexually reproducing fish, and culminates when Jonson portrays her as a puppet performing at Bartholomew Fair. …

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