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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

"Edward II" by Christopher Marlowe

I hope to see this play soon at the Tristan bates theatre where it will be performed by Lazarus Theatre Group who also performed Marlowe's Tamburlaine.

Edward II was the probably gay king who doted on Piers Gaveston which made all the nobles angry because Gaveston lorded himself over them and enriched himself at their expense. So the Barons, including Roger Mortimer, rebelled and, after one defeat which led to many of them being executed as traitors, captured Gaveston and lynched him. Ed II found himself some new favourites, the Spencers, and bunged Mortimer in the Tower but he escaped and fled to France where he met Queen Isabella, Edward's wife, who was on an embassy to her brother the King of France to try to negotiate a peace treaty. Mortimer and Isabella began an affair and invaded England in the name of Edward's son, prince Edward, later Edward III. Ed II was captured and famously done to death in Berkeley Castle by having a red hot poker thrust into his anus.

Marlowe was a brilliant playwright who was also responsible for Dr Faustus. The difference between Marlowe and Shakespeare? Marlowe's iambic pentameters are almost all end-stopped. He has very few caesuras and even fewer enjambments. This makes his verse a little less natural, a little more boring. But he is still a maestro.

The original manuscript is not divided into acts but into 25 scenes. Some of these scenes are brief, a few very long. Many of the scenes in the middle of the play are rather busy with plot: Marlowe does have to tell quite a complicated history of battles won and lost and allegiances changed. But the start of the play, with Edward's love for Gaveston, and the end where Edward is forced to abdicate, is mistreated in prison and is finally murdered is brilliant.

The play opens with Gaveston, having returned from exile and newly arrived in London, reading (presumably rereading) a letter from the King Edward II summoning him back from banishment. He is petitioned by three poor men for jobs and treats them arbitrarily. He doesn't want poor men but poets and musicians:
"My men like satyrs grazing on the lawn

Shall with their goat-feet dance an antic hay [a grotesque country dance];
Sometime a lovely boy in Dian's shape,
With hair that gilds the water as it glides,
Crownets of pearl about his naked arms,
And in his sportful hands an olive tree
To hide those parts that men delight to see,
Shall bathe him in a spring."

Scene 4 starts with the nobles signing a petition for Gaveston's rebanishment but they are interrupted by EdII and G entering and sitting side by side on thrones. As Lancaster observes:
"Your grace doth well to place him by your side,

For nowhere else the new Earl is so safe."
The Lords basic problem seems to be that G is a commoner. They force Edward to banish G again.

Now the Lords have gone and King Ed is left with G. His queen comes in. This is an interesting three parter. Gaveston accuses Isabella of being involved with Mortimer. Then Edward decides that Isabella is indeed "too familiar with that Mortimer" and so he tells her she can't have him if he can't have Gaveston; she has to reconcile the lords or be banished from the court.
Isabella says to Gaveston:
"Villain, 'tis thou that robb'st me of my lord."
and he replies (with an interesting variant of the thou/ you)
"Madam, 'tis you that rob me of my lord."

But Isabella is forced to beg the Barons to unexile G. They do.

Scene 6 starts with the King and court eagerly awaiting the return of G.
"They love me not that hate my Gaveston".
When he rocks up Edward greets him with words of love; the lords 'welcome' G by scornfully reciting his titles. He gets mad, insulting them as beef-eaters (and therefore slow, ox-witted, a favourite French jibe)
"Base leaden earls that glory in your birth,
Go sit at home and eat your tenants' beef"
There's going to be war.

The Barons force the King to flee Tyneside and capture Gaveston as he heads for Scarborough. They sentence him to death.
"I thank you all, my lords; then I perceive

That heading is one, and hanging is the other,
And death is all."
But the Earl of Pembroke's men rescue him but Warwick then unrescues him and lynches him.

On hearing the news that G is dead, Edward mourns:
"O, shall I speak, or shall I sigh and die?"
Spencer (Jr) persuades Ed to swear vengeance. The war is not yet over. After a battle the Barons are captured. Edward has won. Edmund D of Kent, the King's brother, attempts to broker peace but Edward orders him away and sentences Warwick and Lancaster to death and Mortimer to the Tower. But Mortimer escapes and flees with Kent to France.
"Fair blows the wind for France; blow, gentle gale,"
In france they meet Isabella and Prince Edward, Isabella starts her affair with Mortimer and they reinvade England, defeating and capturing Edward in a monastery, disguised as a monk.
"But what is he, whom rule and empery

Have not in life or death made miserable?"
Edward is told he must go to Kenilworth. He replies:
"Must! 'Tis somewhat hard when kings must go.

A litter hast thou? Let me have a hearse,
And to the gates of hell convey me hence,
Let Pluto's bells ring out my fatal knell,
And hags howl for my death at Charon's shore"
The soon to be executed king's men mourn:
"We are deprived the sunshine of our life.

Make for a new life, man; throw up thy eyes,
And heart and hand to heaven's immortal throne,
Pay nature's debt with cheerful countenance."

Scene 20: Leicester is trying to persuade Edward to resign his crown. Edward is bemoaning his captivity:
"But what are kings, when regiment is gone,

But perfect shadows in a sunshine day?
My nobles rule; I bear the name of King. 
I wear the crown, but am controlled by them 
Whilst am lodged within this cave of care"
And he argues back and forth, taking the crown off and putting it back on again, begging:
"let me be King till night 

But day's bright beams doth vanish fast away."
At last he abdicates, saying:
"Commend me to my son, and bid him rule

Better than I."
Berkeley appears with a letter to take Edward to his castle.
"Whither you will; all places are alike,
And every earth is fit for burial".

Scene 24: Edward is being kept in a very damp and smelly dungeon:
"the sink

Wherein the filth of all the castle falls
And there in mire and puddle have I stood
This ten days' space; and lest that I should sleep,
One plays continually on a drum.
My mind's distempered and my body's numbed,
And whether I have limbs or no, I know not.
O would my blood dropped out from every vein
As doth this water from my tattered robes."
tormented by his jailers. Lightborne arrives and murders the king with a red hot spit newly from the fire. Edward screams and dies.

Scene 25: Back at the palace. The news arrives. King Edward III is cross. He tells his mum
"Forbid me not to weep; he was my father,

And had you loved him half so well as I,
You could not bear his death so patiently."
and then he sentences Mortimer to beheading and Isabella to the Tower
"Weep not for Mortimer,

That scorns the world, and as a traveller
Goes to discover countries yet unknown."

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