The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: February 2013

Something a little bit different with this month’s crocodile mystery: this is an object that I both know and don’t know what it is. At one level, it’s not hard to figure out what is being depicted. But who and why and what to do with this depiction is a bit more complex, I think, and I haven’t quite worked it all out yet.

crocodile.2013 02

So I welcome your thoughts about this image and perhaps some of you will have insights that will help me think through what is going on here. I’ll post my thoughts-in-progress next week.

I’d also welcome your thoughts on the “crocodile mystery” feature. We at The Collation have had fun in thinking up items to show you, but we are also wondering if there are other ways we could be using this feature. Do you have suggestions on mysteries that you’d like to see shared? Should we expand our notion of what’s a mystery? (That’s part of my aim this month: sharing something with you that I don’t fully understand so that we have a collaborative mystery-solving adventure.) Are there other approaches we should consider? Feel free to share your thoughts below or to send an email to

UPDATE: See the answer, and learn about the actress, in the next post, A Henry for her time.


  • I think it’s really fascinating that the subject is standing right where the black wall and the white wall meet — is that supposed to be the “ground” for the coat of arms?

  • Well, that livery seems to be from either Henry IV or Henry V’s reign, so I presume that this is a photo of an actress playing Prince Hal in one form or another. I’m having a rough time figuring out who the subject is. The only female Prince Hal that would be early enough for a black and white picture (that I’m immediately aware of) is Julia Marlowe’s Prince Hal in the last decade of the 19th century. I’ve brought a link to the original NYT review (see below), but I’m not sure that is her in the picture. It is hard to tell under the armor. If it is her, there’s an interesting story of how her husband did everything to promote her career (he even played Hotspur to her Hal). They divorced in 1900 allegedly (needs a source) due to professional jealousy; she was much more successful than him. He died of a terrible lung infection in her cabin. She gave it to him because his sickness had ruined him. Then she married the famous Shakespearean EH Sothern.

    Link to NYT article:

  • I’m wondering if at one time there was an all-female production of one of the Histories. Perhaps she played one of the Kings.

  • Annie Firmin was playing Prince Hal long before Sarah Bernhardt or Ada Rehan; Firmin’s husband, John Jack, played Falstaff. In the 1870’s, they took this production on tour several times (throughout the US and Europe as well as to Australia, New Zealand, and the Sandwich Islands).

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