Is the Marley Cipher in Hamlet's Name Intentional?
The most famous name in drama and likely in all of literature is Hamlet, a name comprised of but six letters.  Another six letter name is the name Marley. The poet, Christopher Marlowe, was frequently known as "Marley," as we can see by his Cambridge records.   

This fact can easily be dismissed as coincidence.  Many names have just six letters.

However not nearly so many six letter letters names share three the letters and share them in the same places:


An even smaller group of six letter names, which share three letters, will also be comprised of three letters that can be Caesar shifted, forward or backwards, by 5, to form the second name. 









      m        l        e        t

A Caesar shift code is one where letters are moved forward or backwards a certain number.  


HIJKLM(5) mnopqr (5) tuvwxy (5)

Indeed if Will Shorts, puzzle master for the New York Times, makes this his puzzle challenge for the week on NPR, I'll willing to bet lunch that few other names will be discovered. 

Even so is it simply coincidence that  H, m and t, Caesar shift by five to form the name Marley?*  Or is it evidence of intention?

I'd also be willing to say it was mere coincidence if it weren't for Scene iv in Act IV.  There the Author gives us, what looks to me, as the necessary clue to ferret out it's existence in line.  

Let's look at IV, iv, 20.   There we'll find Hamlet reading:

That hath in it no profit but the name.

To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it...


That's a clue.   It's something else that has been right under our collective noses for all these many years.  

Before we follow it up, lets first take notice that 20, the line number, factors by 4, the scene and act number, 5 times.  Another way of saying this is to say that 20 is divisible by 5 and thus, in a sense, has five hidden in it.  

This means that five is being called to mind three times in this line, twice in words and once as a factor of 20, the line number.   Three is not only a "magical" number it is the precise number of times that letters in Hamlet's name must be Caesar shifted by five to make the name Marley.

So this is a suggestive case by this point.  It doesn't appear to be coincidence.  The Author appears to understand that Marley and Hamlet are related names and that they can exchange places with one another by a Caesar shift of five. And he seems to be signaling this understanding to us.  Signaling in anticipation of being understood, just as he signals us about many of his hidden puns.

The ones that come to mind here are embedded in 2 Henry IV, when Prince Hal thinks his father has died and takes up the Crown.  While leaning over the King, he is crying and he says, this he says "this dew from me is my due to you."  Even modern editions still mangle the word play, and print both words as "due," despite the fact Kenneth Muir once told me it was "obvious" after I pointed it out to him, during a discussion of the so called Dering manuscript which does not mangle this important word play.

Before we leave this,  I think we can remove all doubt.  To do this I should note Marlowe uses a similar expression in Faustus when he has Faustus doing his conjuring,

Forward, and backward, Anagramatis'd
The abbreviated names of holy Saints i,iii, 238 

And later he ties this process explicitly to "

Hold, take this book, peruse it thoroughly:
The iterating of these lines brings gold;
farming of this circle on the ground
Brings Thunder, Whirlwinds, Storm and Lighting      ii,i 545

It's important because we just saw Hamlet using the same expression in a similar context:

That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not
farm it...

Hamlet, who quotes Marlowe verbatim, would have known the hidden Faustian meaning of the word "farm" and its application to the farming of a name.  

What does it mean by farming a name five by five, if not using a Caesar shift on it?  Farming means tearing it apart, tilling it, seeing what can coaxed from it. 

And what or whose name is Hamlet speaking about? 

To decipher this out, we begin by noting that it is not Hamlet that uses the expression, but the Captain.  

This is well and good since all conversations in Hamlet are radical fictions designed to cause a specific flow of ideas.  So Hamlet is, in a sense, being fed lines that will cause him to think and in this case is being fed them by the Captain.  

It is the Captain who was most likely, of the two, to be a scholar or user of  ciphers.  Indeed we seem to be signaled this by the Captain's use of the phrase, "with no addition."  Addition is a mathematical term.  Indeed a similar Captain, is called a "great arithmetician" in the opening lines of Othello, for this same reason. 

Forsooth a great arithmetician...

In the fuller context of this brief scene, this thought about farming a name leads Hamlet to his famous "How all occasions do inform against me," soliloquy.  A soliloquy Swinburne calls the most profound in all of drama. 

So in thinking about farming a name Hamlet is not thinking about farming Demark or Norway, but about digging into Hamlet.  

He's thinking about framing his name, Hamlet.  And he knows that hidden in it, is the name Marley.  A name that is informing against him, "How all occasions do inform against me."

In fact if we read closely we'll see Hamlet appear to confuse 2,000 ducats and 20,000 men.  We'll also see him use the proportion 1/4th.  1/4 of 2,000 is 500 and 1/4 of 20,000 is 5,000, so again he's calling attention to five, the number that drives the Caesar shift.  And these numbers are given in the clear three times.

?Is Hamlet confused or is there method in his madness?

Hamlet also uses the expression "and ever three parts coward."  Three is the magical number and the same number of letters that shift.

Ok, so let's review.  The two names Hamlet and Marley both have six letters.  They share three letters in precisely the same places.  The other three letters Caesar shift by five to make either word, depending on whether they are shifted forwards or backwards, i.e., Hamlet sifts forward into Marley and Marley shifts backwards into Hamlet.  All this might just be coincidence, where it not for the fact that Hamlet appears to call attention to this "jiggery-pokery" in Scene Four, Act Five.  This fact would, at least for me, make it even more likely that the Author knew about this hidden relationship and is calling our attention to it.  Lastly, we discovered that Faustus uses the word "farm" or "farming" in a similar context.  Since Hamlet is frequently quoting from Marlowe, we are safe in concluding that Hamlet's use of the word "farm" has Marlowe's usage in mind.  This means the relationship between the words is not coincidental but intentional and we are being invited to Caesar shift Hamlet into Marley.  

Marley was interchangeable with Hamlet.  And he went to Scotland for the Cecils, where he met and interacted with King James, whose life is based on Hamlet's. Through his friendship with James VI, later James I, he became assured of future advancement and employment, 

but never under the hateful name of Christopher Marlowe.  That name would stay buried with "his" body as he promised in the Sonnets:

* I am indebted to Rafe Szynowski for this marvelous insight into Hamlet's name.  I came up with the quote when I checked to see if "five" was used in Hamlet.  And all this additional rationalization followed. (:})  We'll see how time treats it. 

Note:  Whether or not the Author standardized the spelling of the name or not is hardly a major point.  I suspect he did intentionally spell the name this way because of its relationship to Marley.  

But it might be that he simply noticed it, as Garrison Keillor noticed the "turd" in Saturday at an age early enough to foster a subsequent love for hidden meanings. (:})  


So let's go back in time for a moment.

Let's go back to c. 1580 when Marlowe was going off to Cambridge and was writing the early anonymous plays that "Shakespeare" would later turn into canonical works.  

The plays include the Kentish manuscripts of Woodstock (Part One of Richard II), Timon, Ironsides, and Henry IV, along with the anonymous plays Famous Victories of Henry V, Taming of A Shrew, King Leer, Richard III, King John, Henry VI (True Contention), Arden of Faversham, and Locrine.  

Most of these works have either explicit or underlying Kentish locales, roles for cobblers and or share characters.  

Nearly all of Famous Victories scenes are to be found in the mature HenriadTaming of A Shrew's underlying locale is obviously Dover just as is Timon's, which mentions the Cinque Ports and the schools of Canterbury.   The relationship between the two King Johns is well established, while the ties between Leer and Lear, the two Richard IIIs and True Contention and Henry VI are more distant.  

No matter how distant, they are most likely all the work of a single playwright who was a boy genus in Kent c. 1575 and began to think dramatically about these subjects.  Judging from their content he was a member of a cobbler's family and matriculated to a university c. 1580 from Canterbury.  These facts make young Marlowe their most likely author.

It is important to our narrative because of the change in names between King Leer, the early anonymous play, and King Lear, the canonical play.   Why the change in spelling?  Leer has smirking implications and is not as suitable as Lear, which does not.  Moreover "Lear" converts easily to "Tear," and for this tear jerker, is a far more fitting moniker.  

There are many examples of Authorial tampering with names in the canon.  Othello is a name created by the Author.  It also anagrams to the theme of the play, when farmed or read "Forward, and backward, Anagramatis'd" to yeild: O TO HELL.  

Now the record historical is clear.  Hamlet's name was not spelled as Hamlet before it appears in either this or a similar play.  Saxo Grammaticus had 'Amleth' and Belleforest 'Hamblet.  So it seems clear that whoever wrote the early play that Nashe alludes to in 1589, where he uses the modern spelling, i.e., "Hamlet," changed the name to the present form.

Is this clear?  Some anonymous playwright c. 1588 had written a play about Hamlet, based according to Nashe, on a knowledge of the Roman playwright Seneca, meaning it was a "revenge tragedy." That anonymous playwright appears to have formalized the spelling as "Hamlet." 

So in our time machine we go back to that night when the world had yet to have this name in this form.  We venture back to that young scholarly playwright's desk, were he toiled over the name "Hamblet" and transformed it into "Hamlet." 

There are two questions here.  Who was that young scholarly playwright who could read Seneca by candle light?  And was the name formalized intentionally?  In truth we do not know.  Since we do not have a time machine. 

But we do know that Nashe and Marlowe were chums and we also know that Marlowe did write the earlier anonymous plays that eventually wind up as mature canonical plays.  

So in all likelihood the young playwright was Marlowe, who, at 

Cambridge, was   most frequently called "Marley."  And who, in order to secure his degree had to call upon the intervention of the the Privy Council and the Queen.

So this means that in all likelihood it was Marlowe or rather "Marley" who first farmed the name "Hamblet" into Hamlet.   And thus it was Marley who gave us the name Hamlet.  

With this context in mind, the possibility of intention becomes even more conclusive.  Marley created the name "Hamlet" with forethought because it was an analog to his own name.  









      m        l        e        t

Both have six letters.  Both share three letters in the same place and both Caesar shift by five to interchange with each other.  

HIJKLM(5) mnopqr (5) tuvwxy (5)

This was, c. 1585, big word magic.  And paradoxically still is:

Who'd have thought it?  Hamlet hides within it the Author's name.  Indeed scholars have a single surviving signature of Marlowe's, dated, coincidently, to this same period, i.e., 1585, and it reads, "Christofer Marley."

 That's almost as good as a time machine.  That signature's ink dried over 400 years ago.  Marlowe was just 21 years old that year.  It is on the will of a neighbor, Katherine Benchkin.  


The will mentions the wife of Marlowe's major professor at Cambridge, Thomas Harris, who shows up on the college lands in Virginia with a man suspected by Urry of being Marlowe's brother. 

Harris lived in the tinny Kentish village of Pluckley, where the manuscript of Henry IV surfaced.  What is so intriguing about the will is its date.  

The Italian scholar and futurist Bruno was leaving England at that same time.  Marlowe may have shadowed him for Walsingham, using the alias "Henry Faggot" and 


writing to Walsingham in a King's School cipher that shifted vowels into consonants.  

Faggot has never been identified, but wrote in a lovely Italic hand similar to the hand on the so called Arrian Heresies said Marlowe's by Kyd.   (We shall treat these subjects later.)  Marlowe's signature, pictured above is in the old style hand, the Elizabethan Secretary hand.  However it was not uncommon for university trained scholars of this period to command both hands.  The earlier one they learned at home, the newer, the Italian hand, at University and on their travels.

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