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Harpo (Arthur) Marx
November 23, 1888, New York City
Interpretation by Kathy Biehl
This interpretation uses the birthdate and place given in the Marx Brothers Encyclopedia. The chart was run with the sun on the ascendant, to avoid the problem of not having an exact birth time, and as a result I'm not making any conclusions about the ascendant. The planets and signs are:
Sun in Sagittarius
Moon conjunct north node in Cancer
Mercury in Scorpio
Venus in Capricorn
Mars in Capricorn
Jupiter in Sagittarius
Saturn in Leo
Uranus in Libra
Neptune conjunct Pluto in Gemini
The preponderance of planets in fire and mutable signs gives the chart a Sagittarius overlay, underscoring the Sun's placement in Sagittarius..
This chart shows a generally optimistic, independent person with a need to do things his way rather than follow established rules (accompanied by the innate ability to get away with it), and a sensitive emotional nature with the potential for giving and receiving nurturing.
Sun in Sagittarius usually indicates a personality that's a little hard to pin down. It can be warm, impulsive, freedom-loving, prone to broad humor and pranks, generous-hearted, athletic and playful, but it's also incredibly changeable. All of this goes double-strength in Harpo's chart because the ruler of Sagittarius, Jupiter, is in the sign as well. He probably had a great laugh; Sags can laugh so hard and cathartically that they wind up in incoherent spasms and tears. He would have been a great party guest; with all the Sag he knew how to amuse himself and other people, and could convey an air of not taking anything too seriously.
The Sag spectrum has room for more than just happy clowns; it also embraces phenomenally rigid thinking, like political and religious dogmatism. The negative expression of Sagittarius is equating your view of reality or a particular situation with absolute, unshakeable Truth. Even the most easy-going Sags exhibit this now and again. With a Neptune/Pluto conjunction opposing (in a stress aspect to) his sun, Harpo would have been prone to this himself, particularly if something challenged his personal life philosophy. (The incident that comes to mind is steadfastly standing by Chico when his daughter Maxine complained about his neglect and unleashing a furious lecture about the importance of family loyalty.) He was not a person to cross, and his will (when he cared enough about something to flex it) would have been almost impossible to override.
The same planetary configuration gave Harpo a charisma bordering on the otherworldly. Pluto's presence in the opposition injected an intense, piercing, seductive, dangerous quality behind the happy-go-lucky fascade. Pluto would also have given him the ability to mask his face completely, so that it gave no hint whatsoever of what was going on inside him. (Think of the ending of "Animal Crackers," when he is equally impassive to the policeman's lecture, his brothers' commentary and the silverware tumbling from his clothes. I challenge you to find a more uncommunicative blank-eyed stare than Harpo's.) Softening the harshness of Pluto, Neptune added the sense of being untainted by whatever he encountered or experienced, no matter how sordid (and, next to Pluto, he would have been inclined to wander through experiences many people couldn't handle.)
The rock-solid personal power this configuration conveys would have enabled Harpo to deal with the most difficult and troubled of people, and would have magnetized them to him. He innately understood them, because he innately understood the depths and the heights of human existence. Since the Neptune/Pluto conjunction trines his moon in hypermaternal Cancer, a part of him would have actually wanted to take care of this sort of people — which explains allowing the prickly Oscar Levant to move in for a protracted period.
The ethereal charisma suited Harpo for the stage, particularly once he stopped trying to fit into established traditions. Because of the sun/Neptune contact, playing make-believe would have been second nature for him. Because of the Neptune/Pluto contact, the charisma also translated into films, which are associated with Neptune.
His innate knack for unpredictability and shock value is shown by Uranus (an influence of rebelliousness and unconventionality) squaring, or in stress aspect to, Mars (which shows what type of energy a person has and how he uses it.) That would have been a crowd-pleaser, too; no one would have been quite sure what he would do, except that it probably wouldn't match convention (shown by Uranus sextiling, or in harmonious aspect to, Saturn, which represents authority and obligations).
He had his own set of internal brakes, though. He would not have been prone to do anything so extreme as to damage his position, obligations or responsibilities, nor to cause anyone serious harm, at least not intentionally. (Because of the sun/Neptune/Pluto contact, he may have thought, superstitiously, that he did cause harm just by wishing it, as when he yelled "I hope your theater burns down!" to an owner who'd double-crossed the brothers — and the building did go down in flames after they'd left town. Then again, who's to say he didn't actually possess evil eye powers; a sun/Neptune/Pluto configuration would have it, if anyone could.) The brakes on consciously causing real harm comes from Saturn in Leo sextiling Uranus in Libra, which also shows that when he tweaked an authority figure, the person probably benefitted from it. At the least, Harpo got away with it. The sextile also shows that he could gain respect from not following the same rules as the norm, which fits with holding his own without saying a word in an incredibly verbal act. The square between Mars in Capricorn and Uranus in Libra, on the other hand, suggests he had to learn not to damage his own security (particularly material) or work.
Since not speaking was key to his career, a look at his Mercury is in order. Mercury shows communication: how a person takes in a processes information as well as how he conveys it. In the water sign of Scorpio, Harpo's Mercury shows that he did not think in words. Instead his mind worked more abstractly. He may have seen pictures; he may have automatically understood concepts. He learned things by being in the middle of them; like Zeppo, whose Mercury was in the water sign Pisces, he could read situations and people just by coexisting with them. While Zeppo mimicked, though, Harpo penetrated. This would have aided his timing as a performer. He would have known, without being able to say why, where another performer was heading and exactly when he should jump in.
As shown by the moon sign, his emotional nature and needs were singular among the Marx Brothers. Every other brother required distance; what Harpo needed was comfort, closeness and nurturing. Moon in Cancer creates a man with maternal impulses; he may well build a shell around his heart, to avoid their detection, but what's behind the shell is definitely soft, squishy and sentimental. Harpo was capable of being moved and feeling intensely (though, with Pluto masking his sun, he may not have shown it in his expressions publically.) He was also capable of crying, though this would have been privately. Because of the moon's harmonious aspect to the Neptune/Pluto conjunction, he was capable of unwavering emotional commitment bordering on religious devotion.
Cancer/Capricorn axis involves the issue of who gets to be the parent
and who gets to be the child. With moon in Cancer and Mars in Capricorn
(in close opposition), Harpo wanted to be both, at once. This was a key
issue for him. The importance of this dichotomy is amplified by the
fact that the nodes of the moon also coincide with this opposition. The
south node of the moon reveals a person's instinctive, automatic
impulses; the north node shows their life path and purpose, the
behavior that they are to grow into. Harpo's south node is exactly
conjunct Mars in Capricorn (they're only 20 seconds apart), which means
he was predisposed to be the daddy -- much like Groucho,
who also had Mars in Capricorn, but to a stronger degree. He worked
hard for long term goals, particularly involving family and material
security, and he would have felt an obligation to take on financial
responsibilities, particularly where emotional loyalties were
concerned. Harpo's north node, the path he needed to take, is closely
conjunct to his moon. This gave him an innate ability to act in synch
with the times and fueled his popularity. It also meant that he needed
to be more than a provider; he needed -- and, in a cosmic sense, was
This moon placement also gives clues about Harpo's relationship with his mother. With the moon in Cancer, he experienced some traditionally maternal qualities in her, unlike his brothers. (For an astrological comparison of their relationships with Minnie, click here.) Whether she actually was expressively caretaking, nurturing and loving, her presence would have felt like a security blanket. He felt emotionally connected to her and was probably protective of her; with Mars opposing his moon, he would have fought for her. What she wanted from him dovetailed with his own desires, so it was easy for this freedom-loving soul to follow her dictates. The strong will indicated by the sun opposing the Neptune/Pluto conjunction works absolutely in harmony with his emotional nature. His moon is harmonious aspect to both ends of the opposition (it trines his sun and sextiles his Neptune/Pluto conjunction.) Harpo would have seen larger-than- life, goddess-like qualities in Minnie, but they would not have loomed as a threat capable of destroying or consuming him. They would, instead, have been powerful allies in his own personal development, as well as worthy recipients of unflagging devotion.
Interestingly, Harpo's romantic/artistic/aesthetic nature and image of the ideal woman is similar to Gummo's, and a far cry from those of his other brothers. Venus in Capricorn conveys traditional aesthetics and an old-fashioned, hearts and lace aspect to romance. There's also a utilitarian undertone, valuing the object of one's affection a bit for the display factor. As far as womanhood goes, Harpo had down-to-earth opinions and preferences. His ideal woman was a practical, feet-on-the-ground sort, responsible, stable, reliable, even useful. A woman on a pedestal was not what he was after. Real and close at hand were more attractive characteristics. Making him feel safe and secure would have been the key to moving his interest into the realm of emotions. And when Harpo's emotions were engaged, he was there for life.
Copyright Kathy Biehl 1999. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for electronic replication or distribution of this article only if you include the copyright notice.
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