The Marlowe Society

The Marigold Emblem

The Marigold Emblem

The marigold emblem (shown right) adopted by the Marlowe Society was drawn by our Art Director, June Everett, in 2003, and has since adorned the front cover of both the Society's publications - the Newsletter and the Research Journal.

The inspiration for the Society logo was the woodcut that appeared on the title page of Christopher Marlowe's poem Hero and Leander, as completed by George Chapman and published in 1598. Marlowe's 818 line unfinished poem had been published earlier that same year by Edward Blount, and dedicated to Sir Thomas Walsingham. Chapman structured Marlowe's poem into two sestiads, added four more of his own, prefaced each with an argument, and dedicated the published whole to Lady Audrey Walsingham, Sir Thomas' wife.

The woodcut shows a marigold with two flowers: one is open to the sun, whilst the other is closed and bowed under a night sky lit by stars and five comets or torches. This characteristic of the marigold, and indeed the wider daisy family, of closing at night was much admired by the Elizabethans. Above the closed flower, the woodcut contains a scrolled banner on which is written the motto "NON LICET EXIGUIS". This translates as: "not permitted to those of mean spirit," or perhaps " not permitted to the uninitiated". The title page also contains the legend "Ut Nectar, Ingenium" - "Genius is Like Nectar", written beneath the title and authorial credits, and above the woodcut.

On a relatively opaque symbolic level, the two flowers may have likely been intended to represent the two parts of the poem (the unfinished and the finished) and also allude to the two authors - Chapman very much alive, and Marlowe "prevented by the stroke of death" from finishing the poem1. However, some painstaking investigation by the Society's Research Officer, Michael Frohnsdorff, has revealed potentially far more hidden significance in the use of the marigold emblem alongside these intriguing mottos.

He has been researching the symbolism and allusions used in representing Elizabethan and Jacobean courtiers and poets during the Renaissance period, especially the frequent habit of calling them by the names of flowers. His findings suggest that the marigold is used as a code-name to refer to Marlowe in literature dating from the year following his alleged death in Deptford up to as late as 1622.

Marlowe also appears to be in highly exalted company here. Queen Elizabeth was well known for assigning her courtiers amusing nicknames, but it seems that the marigold was her flower too. There is no doubt that John Lyly is referring to Elizabeth in the following passage in Glass of England (taken from Euphues and his England):

"This is she that, resembling the noble Queene of Navarre, useth the Marigolde for her flower, which at the rising of the Sunne openeth her leaves, and at the setting shutteth them, referring all hir actions and endevours to him that ruleth the Sunne."

Michael Frohnsdorff has also studied the use of woodcuts and other printing house devices on publication title pages of the period. His on-going research has uncovered some tantalising possible connections in the use of the marigold in this regard, especially with Mary Herbert (nee Sidney), Countess of Pembroke. You can read a detailed explanation of some his findings in an article published in Issue 2 of the Marlowe Society Research Journal, and there is also a brief summary of the marigold emblem and its adoption by the Marlowe Society by the Editor in Issue 1.

During the service at Westminster Abbey in July 2002 to unveil the Christopher Marlowe memorial window in Poets' Corner, the Society's Patron, Professor Christopher Miles, laid a wreath of marigolds beneath the window after Michael Frohnsdorff (then Chairman) had explained their significance. A wreath of marigolds is also laid beneath the Marlowe Memorial Statue in Canterbury every year on Marlowe Day.

The Marlowe Society Marigold Emblem

Above: The Marlowe Society Marigold Emblem by June Everett.


The woodcut from the title page of Hero and Leander (1598)

Above: The woodcut from the title page of the (second) 1598 publication of Hero and Leander "begun by Christopher Marloe and finished by George Chapman".



Above: Marigold flowers (calendula officinalis).

Hero and Leander (1598)

Above: The title page of the 1598 edition of Hero and Leander finished by Chapman, printed by Felix Kingston for Paul Linley.

  • Note 1: Edward Blount, in his dedication to Sir Thomas Walsingham, describes his publication of Marlowe's unfinished poem as the "duty we owe to our friend ... namely of the performance of whatsoever we may judge shall make to his living credit, and to the effecting of his determinations prevented by the stroke of death." Back to Text