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Relationship with Scrooge
In life, Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. As teenagers, both men had been apprenticed in business and met as clerks (presumably in accounting) in another business. The firm of Scrooge and Marley was a nineteenth century financial institution, probably a counting house, as Marley refers to their offices as 'our money-changing hole'. They have become successful bankers, with seats on the London Stock Exchange; they are also stockholders and directors of at least one major association, but a vast amount of their wealth has been accumulated through usurious moneylending. Scrooge is described as Marley's "sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner". He has been dead seven years by the time the story begins.
The Haunting of Ebenezer Scrooge
Jacob Marley preys upon Scrooge's mind in a variety of different ways. First, his face appears in place of Scrooge's door-knocker as Scrooge approaches his lodgings; secondly, Scrooge gets the impression of a "locomotive hearse" ascending the stairs before him as he climbs; thirdly by making his face appear to engulf the whole design of the fireplace in Scrooge's bedroom; next by making every bell in the house ring of its own accord and then, most famously, by appearing before Scrooge in the form of a ghost himself.
The ghost maintains the same voice, hairstyle and sense of dress that he had in life, but is completely transparent, wearing a handkerchief tied about his jaws, and "captive, bound and double-ironed" with chains which are described as "long, and wound about him like a tail; it was made... of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel." He often, in moments of great despair or impatience at Scrooge's skepticism, flings these upon the ground before him and almost induces his former partner "into a swoon". He explains that it is the chain he subconsciously built himself in life, as a result of his extortionate behaviour. The ghost is also described as being provided with "an infernal atmosphere of its own... its hair and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven". He despairs at his inability to ever find happiness in the mortal world or the next. As he spent his life on this earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and wretched to fill his pocket, Marley is damned to walk the earth for all eternity, never to find rest or peace.
At first Scrooge does not believe that Marley's ghost is real, and a mere figment of his imagination. When the spectre asks, "Why do you doubt your senses?" Scrooge scoffs that "...a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!" Later, more pointedly he says, "Humbug, I tell you! Humbug!" Marley's only reply is a spine-chilling howl that brings Scrooge to his knees, begging for mercy. Satisfied, after explaining his situation and the reasons for it, Marley delivers his message of the three hauntings that will help redeem Scrooge of the same punishment, he then flies out of the window in the company of other restless souls, all of them chained in a similar manner to himself, and all of them suffering the same incessant torture.
The life and afterlife of Jacob Marley is not detailed in A Christmas Carol. The reader has no idea exactly how Marley escaped with an arrangement for Scrooge's redemption. Even he himself appears uncertain as to how he is visible to Scrooge "on this night", when he has followed him, invisible, on "many and many a day". One interpretation has been offered in the prequel novel, Marley's Ghost, (2000) by Mark Hazard Osmun, an imagining of Marley's life and subsequent sacrifice on behalf of his former partner.
However, various adaptations of A Christmas Carol have made various differences to Marley. In A Christmas Carol, for example, his birth-date is given as 1785, and in Mickey's Christmas Carol, it is said that Marley left very little in the way of a fortune, so he was instead buried at sea. In that same film, he was implied to be a ruthless criminal as well, "robbing the widows and swindling the poor", all in the same day and his punishment of being "forced to carry his heavy chains for eternity" was a result of it.
- In 1963, President John F. Kennedy quoted Marley in his speech about businesses in America, saying "Humanity was my business".
- In 1993, Aimee Mann released a song called "Jacob Marley's Chain" on her album Whatever.
- Marley's grave - covered in chains - can be briefly seen in one scene from the 1994 film The Pagemaster.
- In the 1998 episode of Sports Night entitled "Thespis", Jacob Marley is referenced and compared to Thespis of ancient Greece, when the show's production appears to be haunted by the ghost.
- In 2008, Nightwish's single, "Bye Bye Beautiful", a reference to Jacob's ghost is made due to the problems that lead the band to fire their former singer, Tarja Turunen.
- Marley's Ghost is the name of a Northern California band extant since the early 1990s whose diverse musical styles are principally focused on bluegrass, country, and folk.
- Jacob Marley's Ghost is an esoteric music group from the late 1990s which originated in Eugene, Oregon. Once led by Ezra Holbrook, the band now seems to be "defunct".
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Exogenesis", Marcus makes reference to Marley while quoting Dickens.
- In the short story "Adaptation", by Connie Willis, Marley's ghost appears as a stand-in for the Ghost of Christmas Past (who has become corrupted by the increasing commercialisation of Christmas and retired to Florida).
- In the 1984 film adaptation of "A Christmas Carol", Scrooge hears Marley's ghost from a spectral hearse that is pulled by two spectral horses while returning home from working at his office.
- In the 1999 television film adaptation of "A Christmas Carol", the film opens with a prologue of Scrooge attending Marley's funeral at a rural churchyard.
|Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol||1962||Royal Dano|
|Famous Classic Tales: A Christmas Carol||1969||Bruce Montague|
|A Christmas Carol||1971||Michael Hordern|
|Scrooge||1970||Alec Guinness||Marley is given an extra scene near the end where he escorts Scrooge down into his grave before Scrooge wakes up.|
|Mickey's Christmas Carol||1983||Goofy (voiced by Hal Smith)|
|The Jetsons: "A Jetson Christmas Carol"||1985||Mel Blanc||This version of the character is called Marsley.|
|The Real Ghostbusters: "Xmas Marks the Spot"||1986|
|Scrooged||1988||Jamie Farr||The character of Lew Hayward (played by John Forsythe) acts as a Jacob Marley analogue to Frank Cross within the main plot.|
|The Muppet Christmas Carol||1992||Statler and Waldorf (performed by Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz)||The character is portrayed as two brothers named Jacob and Robert Marley (a nod to Bob Marley) so that they can be played by Statler and Waldorf. They sing the number "Marley and Marley" where they lament their suffering and warn Scrooge of what he will face.|
|Animaniacs: "A Christmas Plotz"||1993||Slappy Squirrel (voiced by Sherri Stoner)||Slappy shows up as a ghost, telling Thaddeus Plotz that she is here because "the studio keeps giving me these stupid cameos."|
|A Flintstones' Christmas Carol||1994||Mr. Slate (voiced by John Stephenson)||This version of the character is called Jacob Marbley.|
|Ebbie||1995||Jeffrey DeMunn||DeMunn plays Marley's modern version, Jake Marley, Elizabeth "Ebbie" Scrooge's mentor and later partner who dies of a heart attack right in front of her.|
|A Christmas Carol||1997||Ed Asner|
|A Diva's Christmas Carol||2000||Rozonda Thomas||Rozonda Thomas portrays a female version named Marli Jacob.|
|101 Dalmatians: "A Christmas Cruella"||1997||Horace and Jasper Badun||Cruella De Vil's henchmen appear as a two-headed ghost.|
|Ms. Scrooge||1997||Katherine Helmond||Helmond portrays a female version named Maude Marley.|
|Adventures from the Book of Virtues: "Compassion"||2000||Plato the Buffalo (voiced by Christopher Judge)|
|Christmas Carol: The Movie||2001||Nicolas Cage|
|A Carol Christmas||2003||Dinah Manoff||The Jacob Marley character is a stage mother-type aunt of Carol's, named Aunt Marla.|
|A Christmas Carol: The Musical||2004||Jason Alexander|
|Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas||2006||Sylvester (voiced by Joe Alaskey)|
|A Christmas Carol||2006||The character is portrayed as an anthropomorphic cricket (ala Jiminy Cricket). In this adaptation, he is given an extra scene where Scrooge's redemption frees him from his punishment.|
|An American Carol||2008||Chriss Anglin||The role of Marley is taken by the spirit of John F. Kennedy.|
|A Christmas Carol||2009||Gary Oldman|
|La CQ: "Christmas in the CQ"||2012||Clara|
(voiced by Teresa Gallagher (UK)/Jules de Jongh (US))
|Thomas & Friends: "Diesel's Ghostly Christmas"||2015||Emily is held and surrounded by chains, uses Thomas' steam to make herself look ghostly, and goes by the name of "E-Marley's Ghost".|
(voiced by Ashleigh Ball)
|My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: "A Hearth's Warming Tail"||2016||Applejack's role is also the Spirit of Hearth's Warming Past, the counterpart of the The Ghost of Christmas Past.|