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Polecats & Puppies

The eventual winner of the Audrey Turf bridal sweepstakes is Pol-Martin, the gentleman usher to Lady Tub, Squire Tubs mother.   Some editions spell his name as Pol-Marten.  It is explained the he was a basket carrier in the salt-petet mines until Lady Tub removed him to become her servant. His name originally was Marten Polecat. A polecat is a member of the weasel family, known for being smelly, and the term is a known pejorative. If the intent isn’t clear, a pine marten is also a member of the weasel family. The Scottish word for polecat is full-mart, and Lady Tub calls him that at one point when she is exasperated with him. In the play, Lady Tub rehabilitates her servant from his weasel origins and gives him a more proper name, Pol-Martin. She also makes him a gentleman.

The turf family has an usher/servant as well, Hannibal Puppy. He is a clown of the play. The two characters are complementary in a sense, puppy versus polecat, and serve respectively comnon folk versus gentry. Perhaps the implication is that the Pol-Martin is the opposite of a puppy.

In Chapman’s The Gentleman Usher we had a similar complementary relationship between Medice and Bassilio. Bassilio was, like Puppy, a primary clown of the play. The two characters were the ‘favorites’ of the Duke and Vincentio respectively. Bassilio was specified as Vincentio’s usher. That relationship was not explicit between the Duke and Medice, but the complementary opposition to Bassilio and Vincentio implied it. In A Tale of a Tub, Pol-Marten is not Squire Tub’s usher. He serves his mother. But he is a servant in the Squire’s household.  In both play, the authors dance closely to the flame of naming the Shakspere character as the servant/usher of the Vere character but stop slightly short of that arrangement. I think it was highly forbidden territory.

Pol-Marten shares a number of key similarities as allusions to Shakspere and Mendice. All of them changed their names – Shakspere to Shakespeare, Mendice to Medice and Marten Polecat to Pol-Martin. The hyphen is a nice touch by Jonson! They all are upwardly mobile, Mendice from beggar to lord-wannabe, Pol-Martin from base-born to gentleman. At the end of Usher, Mendice tells us he ‘took the treasure, ‘ while Pol-Martin manages to get the girl. We know what Shakspere ended up with.  I’ll save their respective relationships with older women for a separate post.

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