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When he came reflect upon Elizabeth's reign, Francis Bacon addressed the question of propriety raised by the eroticisation of political discourse at her court. He observed that although the Queen had "allowed herself to be wooed and courted, and even to have love made to her," nevertheless, such "dalliances detracted but little from her fame and nothing at all from her majesty.

Where Elizabeth had controlled courtship up to the early 's through obliquity, metaphor, indirection, deferral, obfuscation, and systematic denial of satisfaction, Marlowe's play shows what can happen when the control slips. Alas, see where he sits and hopes unseen T'escape their hands that seek to reave his lie.

Edward II review – Marlowe's murky drama of love, murder and a hollow crown

In the next act, Leicester tries to console the captive monarch, urging him to "Imagine Killingworth Castle were your court. Leicester, if gentle words might comfort me, Thy speeches long ago had eased my sorrows, For kind and loving hast thou always been 5. And then at a crucial moment the queen relieves Leicester of his command 5.

It is later reported 5. Because his majesty so earnestly Desire to see the man before his death, I will upon mine honour undertake To carry him and bring him back again. My lords, I will not over-woo your honours, But if you dare trust Pembroke with the prisoner, Upon mine oath I will return him back. Lancaster is given words that confirm the trust reposed in Pembroke's honesty -- "I say, let him go on Pembroke's word" Arundel's narrative of these events includes a defence of Pembroke's behaviour -- saying he "said least" during the debate on rebellion and then reporting that.

The Earl of Pembroke mildly thus bespake I will this undertake, to have him hence And see him redelivered to your hands. Blame is specifically not attached to Pembroke -- Arundel goes out of his way to identify Warwick as the dishonourable and untrustworthy villain.

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You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute, And now and then stab as occasion serves My focus will therefore be rather different from that of such writers as James Voss , which draws attention to the indications of the development of a money economy, as in the giving Mortimer the seal to raise cash for the ransom, using up treasury fund so that he can't support armies. And he is only liberal, which distributeth according to his substance, and where it is expedient.

For the first half of Elizabeth I 's reign, one of the most fervent political hopes was that the Queen would marry and produce an heir to the throne. Without a clear successor to carry on the Tudor dynasty, it was feared that competing candidates for the English crown would brew a civil war like the one that was then devastating France. But the Queen never married, and by the s, she was well past child-bearing age. It is understandable that people didn't want to think about what the future had in store.

Edward II (play) - Wikipedia

Instead, they turned Queen Elizabeth into an almost mythological figure: constant, unchanging, immortal. A crucial element of this wish-fulfilment was that Elizabeth's body had never been sexually penetrated: she was a Virgin Queen. In short, they were making a virtue of necessity: the hope that she would become sexually active turned into a celebration of the fact that she had not. This portrait c. It was into this atmosphere that Marlowe released his portrayal of Edward II and his love for Gaveston.

His lyrical speeches create, amid the harsh, grey realities of politics, little islands of beauty that reflect the sort of private world that he and Edward are trying to create for themselves, and help the audience to appreciate and empathise with the attraction that Edward feels for him, and thereby compromise any orthodox, disapproving response to the relationship.

Marlowe had to modify the audience's reaction like this, not because the play is a tragedy about royal homosexuality, but precisely because it is not. He does not seek to qualify judgement and prejudice with sympathy, as he might if the play were simply about the baiting to death of a pair of gay men by homophobic barons.

Rather, sympathy and prejudice are both encouraged, each independently of the other: the audience would have felt, paradoxically, both attraction and revulsion for Edward and Gaveston; they would be made to see both sides of the issue. Internalising the conflict like this is a way of removing it from the centre of the play. The painting shows his marriage to Isabella, but the French text describes his love of Gaveston.


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Usage terms Public Domain in most countries other than the UK. The King and his lover are criticised for their misplaced priorities: they spend public money on fashionable clothes rather than using it to maintain the army, which is not an entirely groundless point in a nation at war with its territorial neighbour, Scotland. The fact that they are specifically Italian clothes adds an unsightly element of xenophobia to the objection to Gaveston, who is himself French.

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The medieval connotations of villein, or peasant, still lingered in the word. To promote him into the nobility as Edward does is to devalue title and rank, and to insult the men who were born to them. What all this means is that, in various ways, Edward's relationship with Gaveston disrupts the traditional ways in which value and importance are measured and expressed.

For the barons, it is good to be manly, English and aristocratic; but in favouring Gaveston, who is none of these things, the King privileges the effeminate, the foreign and the plebeian.

About Edward II

But the real problem of Gaveston is that he is also a political threat. This crudely absolute opposition threatens to turn the narrative of the play into a see-saw, hoisting Gaveston up and down in repetitive series. The principal developments in the first half-hour seem to cancel each other out: Gaveston is recalled from exile in France, then exiled to Ireland, then recalled from Ireland.


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And as a result, the story gets nowhere fast — or, at least, so it seems if we join the King and the barons in paying too much attention to Gaveston. So in production, Gaveston needs to be both attractive and transparent: we must see him as both a desired person and a bargaining counter. He must be an element in our sense of the clash between monarch and nobility, but he must not dominate it. That's important not least because he is murdered by the barons halfway through.

The murder doesn't bring the civil war to an end; instead, a herald arrives with an ultimatum to Edward. It is as though the barons have suddenly realised that they have let themselves be diverted by a symptom of the problem, rather than tackling the problem itself; for the problem is not Gaveston, but Edward. But this must not be a sudden revelation to a Gaveston-focussed audience; for then the play would be broken-backed.

The problem that gives the tragedy its coherence is not of sexuality but power: not how Edward sees Gaveston, but how he sees his office as king. One of the great absent presences in the play is his dead father, King Edward I, who originally banished Gaveston, and who was remembered in Elizabethan times as a great warrior monarch, the conqueror of Wales and subjugator of Scotland, an exemplar of many of the core values the barons stand for.

Gaveston is forever under attack for his base birth; but the insult doesn't stick: Gaveston returns it, reversing the implied values, calling them 'Base leaden earls that glory in your birth' 2.

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