the Annotated Popular Edition of





by Christopher Marlowe







Annotations and notes © Copyright ElizabethanDrama.org, 2017

This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.





King Edward the Second.

     The focus of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II is more 

     Queen Isabella, Wife of King Edward the Second.

on personalities than politics, particularly spotlighting the

     Margaret, Niece to King Edward the Second,

king's obsessive attachment to his various favorites. The

          daughter of the Earl of Gloucester.

consequences of Edward's irrational and unkingly behavior

     Prince Edward, his Son, afterwards King Edward

are catastrophic for all. The result is a tragedy in the true

          the Third.

sense of the word, a play with no heroes, a drama in which

Earl of Kent, brother of King Edward the Second.

the king's wounds are self-inflicted, and a story in which

those whose lives are intertwined with that of the king are

Gaveston, the king's favourite.

left without any honourable options or recourse.

The King's Party:


Spenser, the elder.

Spenser, the younger, his Son.

     The text of the play is adapted from the Mermaid edition


of the plays of Christopher Marlowe, edited by Havelock

The Earl of Arundel.

Ellis, and cited in the footnotes below at #4, with minor


modifications taken from William Briggs' Marlowe's 

Levune, a Frenchman.

Edward II, cited at #6 below.

The King's Opponents:


The Earl of Warwick.

The Earl of Pembroke.

     References in the annotations to various editors refer to

     James, a retainer of Pembroke.

the notes provided by these scholars for Edward II in their

The Earl of Lancaster.

individual collections of Marlowe's work, each volume

The Earl of Leicester.

cited fully below.

Lord Berkeley.

     Biographical and historical notes appearing in italics are

Mortimer, the elder.

adapted from the Dictionary of National Biography, edited

Mortimer, the younger, his Nephew.

by Leslie Stephen and Sydney Lee (London: Smith, Elder,

and Co., 1885-1900).

More of the King's Opponents:

     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the

Archbishop of Canterbury.

footnotes immediately below. The complete list of footnotes

Bishop of Coventry.

appears at the end of this play.

Bishop of Winchester.

     Footnotes in the text correspond as follows:


     1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online.

Sir John of Hainault.

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words.

Rice ap Howell.

London; New York: Penguin, 2002.

     3. Ribner, Irving. The Complete Plays of Christopher

The King's Jailers:

Marlowe. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1963.


     4. Ellis, Havelock, ed. The Best Plays of the Old


Dramatists: Christopher Marlowe. London: Viztelly &


Co., 1887.

     5. Hutchison, Harold F. Edward II. New York: Stein and

Abbot, Monks, Herald, Lords, Three Poor Men, Mower,

Day, 1971.

Champion, Messengers, Soldiers, and Attendants.

     6. Briggs, William D. Marlowe's Edward II. London:


David Nutt, 1914.

     7. Tancock, Osborne William. Marlowe - Edward the

Second. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1887.

     8. Dyce, Alexander. The Works of Christopher Marlowe.

London: George Routledge and Sons, 1876.

     9. Schelling, Felix E. Christopher Marlowe. New York:

American Book Company, 1912.

     10. Cunningham, Lt. Col. Francis. The Works of Chris-

topher Marlowe. London: Chatto and Windus, 1879.

     11. Verity, A.W. Edward the Second. London: J.M. Dent

and Co., 1896.

     Historical and biographical notes which are not strictly

necessary to understand the play, but provide background

of possible interest, are supplied in italics.



     On April 25, 1284, at the castle of Carnarvon in Wales, a son was born to the English king, Edward I. According to an apocryphal story, the old king proclaimed that his son, also named Edward, was destined to be the sovereign of the Welsh.

     It was not until young Edward's older brother Alfonso died in August of 1284 that Edward became heir to the throne. During his childhood, Edward was presented with a foster brother, a child named Pierce (alternately Piers or Peter) Gaveston, the son of a Flemish knight who had fought with the king against the Scots. Gaveston became Edward's nearest friend and confidant, a relationship which eventually blossomed into an uncomfortably close love.

     Edward was trained to be a warrior, but he seems to have preferred such rustic pursuits as blacksmithing, raising horses, digging trenches and thatching houses. When they were older, Edward and Pierce joined the aging king in his later battles with the Scottish, acceptably acquitting themselves.

     In 1305, an immature Edward "invaded" the forests owned by the Treasurer and Bishop of Coventry, Walter Langton. When Langton criticized the prince for his trespass, Edward responded with insults; King Edward sided with his Treasurer, and banished his son from the court for six months. Young Edward never forgave the prelate; Edward's resentment would come back to haunt Langley when the old king died, as we will see in Act I of our play.

     The other important event of the junior Edward's life occurred in early 1307, when it was reported that he asked his father to give the lands of Ponthieu in France as a gift to Gaveston; the old king, enraged, and perhaps also worried about the too-near relationship between Gaveston and his son, banished the Frenchman from England on February 26.

     Just five months later, King Edward died, and young Edward ascended the throne. His first order of business was to recall his partner Gaveston.


     Edward II can be basically divided into two halves:

     Part One: Act I, Scene i through Act III, Scene i; the Gaveston years (1307-1312).

     Transitional Scene: Act III, Scene ii; the scene ties together Gaveston's removal in 1312 to Edward's military challenge to Lancaster at Boroughbridge in 1322.

     Part Two: Act III, Scene iii, through Act V, Scene v; the final years of Edward's reign (1322-1327).

     Coda: Act V, Scene vi, the final scene of the play; the end of the Mortimer era (1330).


     Those annotations which appear in italics serve two different functions: they provide either:

     (1) biographical background on the characters, or

     (2) historical context for the events of the play,
          allowing the reader:

          (a) to see when in real time the events depicted
               in Edward II occurred, and

          (b) to know where Marlowe has deviated from
               historical reality, either by changing the
               timeline of events, or inventing action or
               characters out of thin air.

     The most important thing to note is that it is not necessary to read the italicized annotations in order to understand the play.



by Christopher Marlowe


The Troublesome Raigne and lamentable

 death of Edward the second, king of

England: with the tragicall fall of proud




[A street in London.]

Scenes of the Play: early editions of Edward II did not provide scene locations (nor was the play broken up into Acts and Scenes; these were added by later editors). All scenes in this edition are the suggestions of previous editors, primarily Dyce and Ellis.4,8

   Enter Gaveston, reading a letter [from the king.]

Entering Character: Pierce Gaveston has been a close companion of the new king, Edward II, since Edward was a boy - uncomfortably close, for many. In fact, the last king, Edward's father Edward I, had banished Gaveston from the kingdom in February 1307, perhaps because of the "inordinate love", as one chronicler put it, he had for young Edward.
     But now, only five months later, old King Edward has died (7 July 1307), and the new king, our Edward II, has wasted no time in recalling his friend Gaveston from exile - on August 6, to be exact.


Gav.  My father is deceased! Come, Gaveston,

1-2: Gaveston rereads the letter sent to him by his bosom-
     friend, the new king Edward.


And share the kingdom with thy dearest friend.”

Ah! words that make me surfeit with delight!

= fill me".


What greater bliss can hap to Gaveston

= happen.

Than live and be the favourite of a king!


Sweet prince, I come; these, these thy amorous lines

Might have enforced me to have swum from France,


And, like Leander, gasped upon the sand,

So thou would’st smile, and take me in thine arms.

6-9: Marlowe's intention to have the relationship between Edward and Gaveston be understood as more than platonic is established in the first few lines of the play. Leander was a mythological youth who famously swam every night across the Hellespont (the modern Dardanelles in Turkey) to visit his love, Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite.
     Gaveston's use of phrases such as amorous and take me in thine arms solidify the point for those who missed the mythological allusion.


The sight of London to my exiled eyes

Is as Elysium to a new-come soul;

= the section of Hades reserved for the blessed souls, ie.


Not that I love the city, or the men,


But that it harbours him I hold so dear −


The king, upon whose bosom let me die,

= the old editors suggest "swoon", but die was also used
     frequently to refer to sexual climax.

And with the world be still at enmity.


What need the arctic people love starlight,

16: "why would the people of the Arctic love starlight". In

To whom the sun shines both by day and night?

     Tancock's interpretation, the nobles, whom Gaveston
     hates, are the stars, and Edward is the sun of the next
     line.7 Note the rhyming couplet in 16-17.


Farewell base stooping to the lordly peers!

= "no longer will I have to servilely bow".

My knee shall bow to none but to the king.


As for the multitude, that are but sparks,

= ie. the common people, the masses.

Raked up in embers of their poverty; −

20-21: common allusion to the practice of keeping a fire 
     alive overnight by raking ashes over the glowing coals.6


Tanti;  I'll fawn first on the wind

= "so much for you", an exclamation of contempt, perhaps
     accompanied by a rude gesture.23

That glanceth at my lips, and flieth away.


But how now, what are these?


Enter three Poor Men.


Men.  Such as desire your worship's service.

28: the poor men are inquiring if they can become servants
     of Gaveston.


Gav.  What canst thou do?

28-36: as often happens in Marlowe's plays, dialogue comprised of speeches of less than a line slips in and out of verse and into prose.


1st P. Man.  I can ride.


Gav.  But I have no horse. What art thou?


2nd P. Man.  A traveller.


Gav.                     Let me see − thou would’st do well

To wait at my trencher and tell me lies at dinner-time;

39: wait at my trencher = act as a waiter; trencher = dinner
         tell me lies = entertain the diners with exaggerated
     tales of his travels.


And as I like your discoursing, I'll have you.

40: "and if I like your stories, I'll hire you."

And what art thou?


3rd P. Man.  A soldier, that hath served against the Scot.

43: Edward's father, Edward I, known as the "Hammer of the Scots", fought numerous campaigns against England's northern neighbors (indeed, his enemies included the now-lionized William Wallace and Robert Bruce). Elizabethan drama is filled with ex-soldiers who have been reduced to poverty since they mustered out.


Gav.  Why, there are hospitals for such as you;

= basically poorhouses for disabled soldiers. Gaveston's


I have no war, and therefore, sir, be gone.

     suggestion is insulting.6,7


3rd P. Man.  Farewell, and perish by a soldier's hand,

48-49: the tendency of an ungrateful society to forget about

That would’st reward them with an hospital!

     those who have fought on its behalf is frequently
     alluded to in Elizabethan drama.


Gav.  [Aside] Ay, ay, these words of his move me as much

51: the words spoken in the aside allow Gaveston to share his true feelings with the audience; the aside ends with a dash (−) at the end of line 55.


As if a goose should play the porcupine,

And dart her plumes, thinking to pierce my breast.

= shoot.  51-53: like the goose imitating the porcupine's
     mythological ability to shoot its quills, the ex-soldier
     has no capacity to hurt Gaveston in any way.


But yet it is no pain to speak men fair;

54-55: Gaveston recognizes that his best tactic is to

I'll flatter these, and make them live in hope. −

     dissemble pleasantly with the poor men; too bad he
     will not remember this moment when he is dealing with
     the nobles of England!


You know that I came lately out of France,

And yet I have not viewed my lord the king.


If I speed well, I'll entertain you all.

= "am successful".  = hire, take into his service.


Men.  We thank your worship.


Gav.  I have some business. Leave me to myself.


Poor Men.  We will wait here about the court.


[Exeunt Poor Men.]

66: the Poor Men disappear from the play,


Gav.  Do. These are not men for me:

I must have wanton poets, pleasant wits,

= ie. poets who write about love or sexual desire.1 Note how, in this speech, Gaveston's descriptions of the myriad ways he and the king will while away the hours becomes saturated with sexual imagery.


Musicians, that with touching of a string

May draw the pliant king which way I please.

= pliable.


Music and poetry is his delight;

Therefore I'll have Italian masques by night,

73: a masque was a brief play or show, usually with music and dancing, and involving the portrayal of gods and allegorical characters; Gaveston means he will arrange such shows for Edward's entertainment.
     The masque was thought at the time to have originated in Italy, but they were actually of English conception.6 Masques also were not introduced into English society until the 16th century.1,3
     Lines 72-73 provide us with another rhyming couplet.


Sweet speeches, comedies, and pleasing shows;

And in the day, when he shall walk abroad,

= outside of the palace.


Like sylvan nymphs my pages shall be clad;

76: Gaveston's young male servants (pages) will be dressed
     like nymphs of the woods (sylvan nymphs), which were
     definitely female.

My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns,

77: satyrs = a race of mythical half-men, half-goats, known
     for their healthy sexual appetites.
         grazing = strolling or passing over.22


Shall with their goat-feet dance the antic hay.

= grotesquely-performed country dances.1,2

Sometime a lovely boy in Dian's shape,

= dressed or disguised as Diana, the Roman goddess of the
     hunt and of virginity; until the Restoration, all women's
     parts were played by boys.9


With hair that gilds the water as it glides,

80: note the wordplay of gilds and glides.

Crownets of pearl about his naked arms,

= small crowns, but used here to mean "bracelets".


And in his sportful hands an olive-tree,

= playful or merry.1  = ie. olive branch.

To hide those parts which men delight to see,

83: oh dear!


Shall bathe him in a spring; and there hard by,

= himself.  = close by.

One like Actæon peeping through the grove,


Shall by the angry goddess be transformed,

And running in the likeness of an hart


By yelping hounds pulled down, shall seem to die −

85-88: the reference is to the famous mythological story of Actaeon, a young man who accidentally stumbled onto Diana bathing naked in the woods; the virgin goddess punished Actaeon by turning him into a stag (hart), and he was torn apart by his own dogs.

Such things as these best please his majesty.


Here comes my lord the king, and the nobles

From the parliament. I'll stand aside.

= Gaveston positions himself so that he can hear the ensuing conversation without being seen; it was a major convention of Elizabethan drama that characters could confidently spy on each other without being discovered.



= steps back.


Enter King Edward, Lancaster, the elder Mortimer,

Entering Characters: the king is attended by some of


Young Mortimer, Kent, Warwick, Pembroke

England's leading nobles; Lancaster, Pembroke and

and Attendants.

Warwick are earls, and together with the Mortimers are bitter enemies of Gaveston. The Earl of Kent is Edmund, the half-brother of King Edward.
     By convention, the Earls are referred to by their titles rather than their given names: e.g., Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, is simply called Lancaster, etc.
     As a matter of history, neither Kent nor the Mortimers were involved in the Gaveston affair: the Mortimers, as the leading nobles of the marches, or borders, of Wales, were busy these years (1307-1312) ruling all of Wales; Edmund, the Earl of Kent, was too young to take part in politics, having been born in 1301.


K. Edw.  Lancaster!


Lanc.  My lord.


Gav.  [Aside] That Earl of Lancaster do I abhor.

= Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster (1277?-1322), was a first cousin of King Edward II, his father being Edmund Crouchback, who was Edward I's brother (see the Family Tree on our website's Edward II page). As one of the most powerful barons in England, Lancaster, who by all reports was an unpleasant man, particularly resented the upstart Gaveston.


K. Edw.  Will you not grant me this? −


                                             [Aside] In spite of them

I'll have my will; and these two Mortimers,


That cross me thus, shall know I am displeased.

= thwart.


E. Mort.  If you love us, my lord, hate Gaveston.


Gav.  [Aside] That villain Mortimer! I'll be his death.


Y. Mort.  Mine uncle here, this earl, and I myself,

= the Elder Mortimer.  = ie. Lancaster.

Were sworn unto your father at his death,

= ie. Edward I.


That he should ne'er return into the realm:

= ie. Gaveston; none of the characters on the stage is aware
     that Gaveston has already returned to London - never
     mind that he is eavesdropping on the discussion!

And know, my lord, ere I will break my oath,

= before.


This sword of mine, that should offend your foes,

= ie. "that I should be using against England's enemies".

Shall sleep within the scabbard at thy need,

119-121: ie. if Edward recalls Gaveston, then Young


And underneath thy banners march who will,

     Mortimer will refuse to fight on behalf of England in

For Mortimer will hang his armour up.

     the future. Note how Mortimer, in his rising anger, has 
     switched pronouns in addressing the king, from the
     proper and respectful "you" to the contemptuous and
     insulting "thou".


Gav.  [Aside] Mort dieu!

123: "God's death", a oath in French, introduced into English literature here by Marlowe.1 With this swear, Gaveston puns on the name of Mortimer.


K. Edw.  Well, Mortimer, I'll make thee rue these words.

= regret.


Beseems it thee to contradict thy king?

= "is it seemly for you"; note that it was acceptable, indeed
     correct, for the sovereign to address his subjects as
     "thou", to signal his superiority in status.

Frown'st thou thereat, aspiring Lancaster?

= ambitious.1


The sword shall plane the furrows of thy brows,

= make smooth.

And hew these knees that now are grown so stiff.

= ie. an ironic comment, referring indignantly to the refusal


I will have Gaveston; and you shall know

     of the nobles to bend their knees to the king.

What danger 'tis to stand against your king.


Gav.  [Aside] Well done, Ned!

= Ned is a nickname for Edward. It derives from the ancient


use of "mine" for "my": "mine Ed" transmuted into "my Ned", just as "mine Ellie" morphed into "my Nellie".

Lanc.  My lord, why do you thus incense your peers,


That naturally would love and honour you,

But for that base and óbscure Gaveston?


Four earldoms have I, besides Lancaster −

138-9: Lancaster inherited the titles of  Lancaster,

Derby, Salisbury, Lincoln, Leicester, −

     Leicester and Derby from his father; he then received
     Lincoln and Salisbury through his wife Alice, the
     daughter and heiress of Henry of Lacy.9


These will I sell, to give my soldiers pay,

Ere Gaveston shall stay within the realm;


Therefore, if he be come, expel him straight.

140-2: Lancaster overtly threatens rebellion.


Kent.  Barons and earls, your pride hath made me mute;

= speechless.

But now I'll speak, and to the proof, I hope.

= to the point, or irrefutably.3,6


I do remember, in my father's days,

Lord Percy of the North, being highly moved,

= riled, angered.


Braved Moubery in presence of the king;

= challenged, insulted.

For which, had not his highness loved him well,


He should have lost his head; but with his look

= ie. the king's countenance.

Th' undaunted spirit of Percy was appeased,


And Moubery and he were reconciled:

146-152: there is no historical basis for this anecdote, though
     there is a flavour of the quarrel between Bolingbroke and
     Mowbray during the reign of Richard II, as portrayed in
     the opening scene of Shakespeare's Richard II.6

Yet dare you brave the king unto his face.−


Brother, revenge it, and let these their heads

= Kent addresses his half-brother the king.

Preach upon poles, for trespass of their tongues.

= it had long been a tradition in England to cut off the heads


     of traitors (after they have been hanged and eviscerated)
     and place them on poles, which were then displayed on
     London Bridge.

War.  O, our heads!


K. Edw.  Ay, yours; and therefore I would wish you grant −


War.  Bridle thy anger, gentle Mortimer.

161: probably spoken as an aside.


Y. Mort.  I cannot, nor I will not; I must speak. −

= double negatives were perfectly acceptable in the 16th
     century; the second negative intensifies the negation.


Cousin, our hands I hope shall fence our heads,

164: Cousin = Mortimer addresses the king, to whom he was
     distantly related; cousin was used loosely as a term of
     address to any of one's kin.
         fence = protect.

And strike off his that makes you threaten us. −

= ie. Gaveston's.


Come, uncle, let us leave the brain-sick king,

And henceforth parley with our naked swords.

= ie. "do our talking".


E. Mort.  Wiltshire hath men enough to save our heads.

= Schelling notes that there is no known connection
     between the Mortimers and the county of Wiltshire.9


War.  All Warwickshire will love him for my sake.

= ie. Gaveston; both this line, and Lancaster's first line at
     173, are spoken ironically.6


Lanc.  And northward Gaveston hath many friends. −

= ie. in the north of England; Lancaster is in the county of


Adieu, my lord; and either change your mind,


Or look to see the throne, where you should sit,


To float in blood; and at thy wanton head,

= self-indulgent, pleasure-seeking.1

The glozing head of thy base minion thrown.

= fawning.  = favourite, but also referring to a homosexual



   Exeunt all except King Edward, Kent, Gaveston


and Attendants.


K. Edw.  I cannot brook these haughty menaces;

= endure.

Am I a king, and must be overruled? −


Brother, display my ensigns in the field;

= banners of the army.

I'll bandy with the barons and the earls,

= exchange blows, probably derived from the sport of


And either die or live with Gaveston.

     bandy, an early version of tennis.8


Gav.  I can no longer keep me from my lord.


[Comes forward.]


K. Edw.  What, Gaveston! welcome! − Kiss not my hand

192: Gaveston salutes Edward formally, kneeling and

Embrace me, Gaveston, as I do thee.

     kissing his hand.


Why shouldst thou kneel? Know'st thou not who I am?

Thy friend, thyself, another Gaveston!


Not Hylas was more mourned of Hercules,

196: another reference to inter-male love: Hylas was a young

Than thou hast been of me since thy exíle.

favourite of Hercules, and sailed with the great hero on the Argonaut as they accompanied Jason in search of the golden fleece. When the ship stopped at Mysia, Hylas went to fetch water, where he was seduced or abducted by some water nymphs who were enchanted by his beauty. He was never seen again. Hercules, distraught, searched in vain for his minion; with Hercules inconsolable and unwilling to give up his search, the Argonauts sailed on without him.20
     of in line 196 = by.


Gav.  And since I went from hence, no soul in hell

= from here, though technically redundant, as hence


Hath felt more torment than poor Gaveston.

     alone means "from here".


K. Edw.  I know it. − Brother, welcome home my friend.

= ie. addressing the Earl of Kent.

Now let the treacherous Mortimers conspire,


And that high-minded Earl of Lancaster:

= ie. proud-minded.6

I have my wish, in that I joy thy sight;

= the transitive use of  joy as a verb was favoured by


And sooner shall the sea o'erwhelm my land,


Than bear the ship that shall transport thee hence.


I here create thee Lord High Chamberlain,

208-210: of these offices and titles, only the earldom of

Chief Secretary to the state and me,

Cornwall was actually bestowed on Gaveston.  


Earl of Cornwall, King and Lord of Man.

     The Chamberlain was a high officer of the sovereign's court: he was not only in charge of the royal household, but he also controlled access to the king; the only two men known to have served as Edward's Chamberlain were John Charlton and Hugh Despenser the Younger (Warner, Household of Edward II).12
     The title Lord of Man is anachronistic: the Isle of Man, in the northern Irish Sea, had been historically controlled by Norway, and the Scots had only wrested Man away from the Norwegians in 1263. Edward I captured it by 1290, and Robert Bruce in turn had taken it in 1313. Man was ruled directly by whichever sovereign ruled it, until 1333, when Edward III gave the island to William Montecute, who became the King of Man. The title Lord Of Man was introduced in the 16th century.


Gav.  My lord, these titles far exceed my worth.


Kent.  Brother, the least of these may well suffice

214-5: even the least prestigious of these titles would be

For one of greater birth than Gaveston.

     enough for one born into a higher rank than Gaveston.


K. Edw.  Cease, brother: for I cannot brook these words. −

= bear.


Thy worth, sweet friend, is far above my gifts,

Therefore, to equal it, receive my heart;

= it is Gaveston's worth, ie. value to Edward.


If for these dignities thou be envied,

= high offices.  = hated.8

I'll give thee more; for, but to honour thee,

= "for no other reason but".7


Is Edward pleased with kingly regiment.

= authority or rule.

Fear'st thou thy person? thou shalt have a guard:

= "Are you afraid for your personal safety?"


Wantest thou gold? go to my treasury:

= "do you lack, ie. need, money?.

Wouldst thou be loved and feared? receive my seal,

225-7: Edward offers to give over to Gaveston authority to


Save or condemn, and in our name command

     unilaterally punish those who offend him, or to do or
     take whatever he wants, with the king's authorization
     and pre-approval!

Whatso thy mind affects, or fancy likes.

= whatsoever.


Gav.  It shall suffice me to enjoy your love,

= "be enough for".


Which whiles I have, I think myself as great

= "while I have it".

As Cæsar riding in the Roman street,


With captive kings at his triumphant car.


   Enter the Bishop of Coventry.

Entering Character: Walter Langton (d. 1321) first appears in the records as a clerk of Edward I's chancery, and from there steadily rose from one position to the next in the service of the king; his career culminated in his appointment as Treasurer in 1295, and he remained the closest advisor to the old king to the end of Edward's life. Langton further was elected Bishop of Coventry in 1296.
     At some point in time, Langton and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Winchelsea, had become mortal enemies, and when a number of outrageous charges were brought against Langton in 1301, he received no support from his Archbishop. The Treasurer was charged with "living in adultery with his step-mother", and then murdering her husband, a knight whose son was making these spurious accusations; Langton was further charged with "pluralism, simony, and intercourse with the devil", who was said to frequently appear to him in person.
     Suspended from office, Langton travelled to Rome to defend himself personally in front of the pope, and finally, in 1303, he was declared innocent.
In June 1305, Langton reproved prince Edward for invading his woods; insults were traded, but the old king Edward I sided with his Treasurer, and banished the prince from the court for six months. Edward did not forget the episode, and the moment he would get his revenge on the prelate has finally arrived.  


K. Edw.  Whither goes my lord of Coventry so fast?


Bish. of Cov.  To celebrate your father's exequies.

= funeral rites. It took a long time to get Edward I buried:

But is that wicked Gaveston returned?

     he died on July 7, 1307, and his body was removed to
     Waltham Abbey; he was not buried until 27 October,
     at Westminster Abbey.


K. Edw.  Ay, priest, and lives to be revenged on thee,

241-2: at the time Edward I exiled Gaveston in February


That wert the only cause of his exile.

     1307, the Bishop had been the old king's most trusted


Gav.  'Tis true; and but for reverence of these robes,

= ie. "your vestments"; Gaveston suggests the Bishop's

Thou should’st not plod one foot beyond this place.

     religious office is the only thing protecting his life.


Bish. of Cov.  I did no more than I was bound to do;


And, Gaveston, unless thou be reclaimed,

= recalled, but perhaps with a further sense of "reformed".

As then I did incense the parliament,

= read as "then, as I then".  = urge or incite.


So will I now, and thou shalt back to France.

= "you shall go back"; note the common grammatical
     construction of this phrase: in the presence of a verb of
     intent (shalt), the verb of action (go) may be omitted.


Gav.  Saving your reverence, you must pardon me.

= common formula for "excuse what I am about to say", but here referring to what he is doing, which is violently grabbing the Bishop.8 Gaveston is ironic.


[Laying hands on the Bishop.]


K. Edw.  Throw off his golden mitre, rend his stole,

256: mitre = tall headdress worn by a bishop.1 
         rend = tear. 
         stole = vestment worn over the shoulders by
     ecclesiastics, consisting of a narrow strip of linen.1

And in the channel christen him anew.

= gutter.


Kent.  Ah, brother, lay not violent hands on him!


For he'll complain unto the see of Rome.

= ie. the pope. The Bishop of Coventry's long career was 

filled with controversial episodes, causing him to appeal to the pope on several occasions; hence, Kent's comment is sarcastic, and not expressing genuine alarm at Edward's violence against the prelate.


Gav.  Let him complain unto the see of hell!

I'll be revenged on him for my exíle.


K. Edw.  No, spare his life, but seize upon his goods:


Be thou lord bishop and receive his rents,

= the Bishop was notorious for his great wealth and extensive properties, whose rents, ie. income, were estimated at 5000 marks annually.36

And make him serve thee as thy chaplain:


I give him thee − here, use him as thou wilt.

= treat.


Gav.  He shall to prison, and there die in bolts.

= shackles.2


K. Edw.  Ay, to the Tower, the Fleet, or where thou wilt.

272: the Tower = London's dreaded Tower of London, the fortress, castle and prison, the final address for many of England's traitors and criminals, as well as numerous unlucky royal family members.
     the Fleet = one of London's notorious prisons, first built in the 11th century, eventually becoming famous as a debtor's prison.6

     where thou wilt = "wherever you wish".


Bish. of Cov.  For this offense be thou accurst of God!


K. Edw.  Who's there? Convey this priest unto the Tower.

= Edward calls out for a guard.


Bish. of Cov.  True, true.

278: the exact meaning of this line has been lost to history.


K. Edw.  But in the meantime, Gaveston, away,

And take possession of his house and goods.


Come, follow me, and thou shalt have my guard

To see it done, and bring thee safe again.

= safely back (again).6


Gav.  What should a priest do with so fair a house?

285-6: Gaveston mocks the great wealth of the Bishop.


A prison may beseem his holiness.

286: a prison is a more fitting abode for the ascetic lifestyle
     expected of a man of the cloth.



Postscript to the life of the Bishop of Coventry: as depicted here, Walter Langton was indeed arrested on his way to arrange for the internment of Edward I. The new king seized all of the Bishop's property and wealth, including 50,000 pounds of silver, and gave most of it to Gaveston.
     For the next five years, the Bishop was kept in various prisons around England, including the Tower, until he was finally freed on 23 January 1312. Langton served Edward afterwards, their break having been repaired, at least to a small degree, till his death in 1321. Langton never received back any of the great fortune that had been taken from him 14 years before.



The Scene: Briggs suggests "London, near the king's

   Enter on one side the two Mortimers;

on the other, Warwick and Lancaster.


War.  'Tis true, the bishop 's in the Tower,


And goods and body given to Gaveston.

2: not only did Gaveston get all the bishop's property, but he

was also given responsibility for the cleric's imprisonment.
     Gaveston appointed two brothers named Felton to be the bishop's jailers; following the Frenchman's instructions, they moved Langton "maliciously" from castle to castle, all over England.


Lanc.  What! Will they tyrannize upon the church?

Ah, wicked king! accursèd Gaveston!


This ground, which is corrupted with their steps,

Shall be their timeless sepulchre or mine.

= untimely; Lancaster suggests somebody will suffer an
     early death.


Y. Mort.  Well, let that peevish Frenchman guard him sure;

= spiteful or hateful, or foolish.1,6


Unless his breast be sword-proof, he shall die.


E. Mort.  How now! Why droops the Earl of Lancaster?

12: Lancaster appears dejected.


Y. Mort.  Wherefore is Guy of Warwick discontent?

= why.


Lanc.  That villain Gaveston is made an earl.


E. Mort.  An earl!

18: that a relative nobody like Gaveston has been raised to

a rank equal to those of the most powerful men of the realm is an insult beyond bearing!


War.  Ay, and besides Lord Chamberlain of the realm,

And Secretary too, and Lord of Man.


E. Mort.  We may not, nor we will not suffer this.

= tolerate.


Y. Mort.  Why post we not from hence to levy men?

25: "why don't we ride hastily (post) out of here and raise a
     an army?"


Lanc.  "My Lord of Cornwall" now at every word!

27: the chroniclers of the time wrote that by the king's
     command, it was forbidden to address Gaveston in any
     way other than by his title, "an unusual practice at that


And happy is the man whom he vouchsafes,

= grants.2

For vailing of his bonnet, one good look.

29: ie. if a man removes his hat in Gaveston's presence, he 
     gets an approving look from the Frenchman.
         vailing = lowering.
         bonnet referred to head-wear of either sex.11


Thus, arm in arm, the king and he doth march:

Nay more, the guard upon his lordship waits;


And all the court begins to flatter him.


War.  Thus leaning on the shoulder of the king,

He nods and scorns and smiles at those that pass.


E. Mort.  Doth no man take exceptions at the slave?

= object to.1


Lanc.  All stomach him, but none dares speak a word.

= resent him, or consider him with ill-will.8


Y. Mort.  Ah, that bewrays their baseness, Lancaster!

= betrays.


Were all the earls and barons of my mind,

42: "if all the nobles of the land thought as I do".

We'd hale him from the bosom of the king,


And at the court-gate hang the peasant up,

Who, swoln with venom of ambitious pride,

= ie. swollen.


Will be the ruin of the realm and us.

1-46: the conversation reflects the genuine feelings of the

     nobles at the time; Gaveston's overbearing and
     supercilious attitude gravely offended practically every
     member of the upper class who encountered him.


War.  Here comes my Lord of Canterbury's grace.


Lanc.  His countenance bewrays he is displeased.

= betrays, shows.


Enter the Archbishop of Canterbury and an Attendant.

Entering Character: Cleric and theologian Robert Winchelsea (d. 1313) had been elected Archbishop of Canterbury in 1292. Over the many years he held this office, he had been a champion of the rights of the clergy over the crown, and fought and reconciled numerous times with Edward I, primarily over the right of the church to refuse to fund Edward's wars. Edward finally forced the elderly prelate into exile in May of 1306.
     Staying at the papal court in Bordeaux, Winchelsea suffered a paralyzing stroke from which he never fully recovered. Edward's death in February of 1307 led to Winchelsea's recall by the new young king, but his illness kept the Archbishop from returning in time to take part in Edward's coronation.
     Winchelsea quickly proved himself to be one of Gaveston's most implacable enemies, and when Gaveston was banished in the spring of 1308, the Archbishop promised Gaveston to excommunicate him should he return.


A. of Cant.  First, were his sacred garments rent and torn,

54-56:  the Archbishop of Canterbury describes Edward's
     treatment of the Bishop of Coventry to his Attendant .

Then laid they violent hands upon him; next,


Himself imprisoned, and his goods asseized:

= assize was a legal term describing the seizure of
     immovable (usually real) property; here it means simply

This certify the Pope; − away, take horse.

= "go inform the Pope."


[Exit Attendant.]


Lanc.  My lord, will you take arms against the king?


A. of Cant.  What need I? God himself is up in arms,


When violence is offered to the church.


Y. Mort.  Then will you join with us, that be his peers,

= peers in England refers to any and all of the inherited titles

To banish or behead that Gaveston?

     of nobility - duke, marquis, earl, viscount, baron - though
     in Edward II's time there were only earls and barons.6


A. of Cant.  What else, my lords? For it concerns me near;

= ie. "of course".


The bishopric of Coventry is his.

70: though not historically accurate, Edward, in line 266 of
     Scene i, gave to Gaveston Walter Langton's position of
     Bishop of Coventry.


Enter Queen Isabella.

Entering Character: born in 1292, Isabella (1292-1358) was the daughter of Philip IV (the Fair) of France. In 1298, as part of a truce arranged by the pope between the warring kings of England and France, an engagement between the child-princess and Edward I's son Edward (himself only 14 years old) was arranged; the betrothal became official in May 1303 at the conclusion of a permanent peace.
     When the old king died, and our Edward ascended the throne, he was still a bachelor; it was only in January of 1308, 11 months after Edward I had died, that young Edward finally crossed over to France and married Isabella at Boulogne.
     Returning with Edward to England, Isabella was crowned queen on 25 February at Westminster.
     Almost immediately, Edward II distanced himself from his new and still very young bride, neglecting her to the point that her two uncles, Charles of Valois and Louis of Evreux, who had accompanied her to England, departed the island-nation in disgust. The new king even gave all of the wedding gifts they had received from Isabella's father, Philip IV, to Gaveston.


Y. Mort.  Madam, whither walks your majesty so fast?

= to where.


Q. Isab.  Unto the forest, gentle Mortimer,

= a metaphor for "away from the world".9

To live in grief and baleful discontent;

= deadly, malignant.1


For now my lord the king regards me not,

But dotes upon the love of Gaveston.


He claps his cheeks, and hangs about his neck,

= pats.

Smiles in his face, and whispers in his ears;


And when I come, he frowns, as who should say,

= "as if to say to me".

"Go whither thou wilt, seeing I have Gaveston."


E. Mort.  Is it not strange that he is thus bewitched?


Y. Mort.  Madam, return unto the court again:


That sly inveigling Frenchman we'll exíle,

Or lose our lives; and yet, ere that day come,


The king shall lose his crown; for we have power,

And courage too, to be revenged at full.


A. of Cant.  But yet lift not your swords against the king.


Lanc.  No; but we will lift Gaveston from hence.


War.  And war must be the means, or he'll stay still.

= "or he will always (still) be a presence in England."


Q. Isab.  Then let him stay; for rather than my lord


Shall be oppressed by civil mutinies,

= tumults.7

I will endure a melancholy life,


And let him frolic with his miniön.


A. of Cant.  My lords, to ease all this, but hear me speak: −

We and the rest, that are his counsellors,


Will meet, and with a general consent

Confirm his banishment with our hands and seals.


Lanc.  What we confirm the king will frustrate.

109: Lancaster is pessimistic: he expects Edward will find a


way to ignore any order of the barons to banish Gaveston from England.
      frustrate is likely tri-syllabic here: FRUS-ter-ate.8

Y. Mort.  Then may we lawfully revolt from him.


War.  But say, my lord, where shall this meeting be?


A. of Cant.  At the New Temple.

= the New Temple was the home of the Templars, the ancient military order founded in 1118 A.D. in Jerusalem. It was referred to as New because it was the order's second English headquarters, built in 1184. Councils and parliaments were known to meet there on occasion.


Y. Mort.  Content.

117: "fine."


A. of Cant.  And in the meantime, I'll entreat you all


To cross to Lambeth, and there stay with me.

= the Palace of Lambeth, located opposite London on the

south side of the Thames (hence the need to cross to get to it), was, and still is, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.


Lanc.  Come, then, let's away.


Y. Mort.  Madam, farewell.


Q. Isab.  Farewell, sweet Mortimer; and, for my sake,

= this is the first of several hints in the first half of Edward

Forbear to levy arms against the king.

     II of a special connection between the Younger Mortimer


     and Queen Isabella; indeed, rumours of an affair between
     the pair are mentioned repeatedly by the king and his
         Historically, the two probably did not even meet until
     1325 when they were both on the continent; besides that,
     Isabella was only a teenager at this time.

Y. Mort.  Ay, if words will serve; if not, I must.




[A street.]

   Enter Gaveston and Kent.


Gav.  Edmund, the mighty Prince of Lancaster,

= Edmund is the given name of the Earl of Kent.


That hath more earldoms than an ass can bear,

And both the Mortimers, two goodly men,

= Gaveston is, of course, sarcastic here and in the next line.


With Guy of Warwick, that redoubted knight,

= revered or formidable.1,2

Are gone towards Lambeth − there let them remain.

1-5: the king and his court are aware that the nobles are
     planning to meet; more than one editor has noted the
     pointlessness of this scene.




[The New Temple, London.]

The Scene: while the Archbishop suggested above that the barons will meet at the New Temple, Ellis argues that the setting is more likely the king's palace at Westminster, given Edward's multiple entrances and exits in this scene. Of course, Marlowe was always careless about identifying the exact location of his scenes.

Enter Lancaster, Warwick, Pembroke,

the Elder Mortimer, Young Mortimer,

the Archbishop of Canterbury and Attendants.


Lanc.  Here is the form of Gaveston's exile;

= document.1


May it please your lordship to subscribe your name.

= sign.


A. of Cant.  Give me the paper.


[He subscribes, as the others do after him.]


Lanc.  Quick, quick, my lord; I long to write my name.


War.  But I long more to see him banished hence.

= from here.


Y. Mort.  The name of Mortimer shall fright the king,

Unless he be declined from that base peasant.

= ie. turned away from.8



Enter King Edward, Gaveston and Kent.


K. Edw.  What, are you moved that Gaveston sits here?

= angered.  = ie. is next to him.


It is our pleasure; we will have it so.


Lanc.  Your grace doth well to place him by your side,

For nowhere else the new earl is so safe.


E. Mort.  What man of noble birth can brook this sight?


Quam male conveniunt! 

24: Latin: "how poorly they fit together", or "how ill-

See what a scornful look the peasant casts!

     matched they are", referring to Edward and Gaveston.


Pemb.  Can kingly lions fawn on creeping ants?

24: though the Earl of Pembroke has appeared previously
     with the disaffected nobles, this is his first line of the


War.  Ignoble vassal, that, like Phaëton,

29-30: the reference is to the well-known and oft-referred to


Aspir'st unto the guidance of the sun!

story of Phaeton, the son of the sun-god Helios: as an adolescent, Phaeton begged his father to let him drive the chariot that pulled the sun across the sky. After much pleading, Helios reluctantly acquiesced, but warned his son to be careful. Phaeton could not control the horses, and would have crashed onto the earth, burning it, had not Zeus killed him first with a thunderbolt.
     Warwick's point, of course, is that Gaveston, like Phaeton, has taken on a role he is unqualified for, as a guide or close advisor to the king (the sun).


Y. Mort.  Their downfall is at hand, their forces down:

We will not thus be faced and over-peered.

= defied or intimidated.2  = scorned or condescended to,


     with a weak pun on peer.

K. Edw.  Lay hands upon that traitor Mortimer!


E. Mort.  Lay hands upon that traitor Gaveston!

37: several of the Attendants seize Gaveston; Edward's


     order is ignored.

Kent.  Is this the duty that you owe your king?


War.  We know our duties − let him know his peers.


K. Edw.  Whither will you bear him? Stay, or ye shall die.


E. Mort.  We are no traitors; therefore threaten not.


Gav.  No, threaten not, my lord, but pay them home.

= "pay them back, ie. punish them as they deserve".1


Were I a king −


Y. Mort.  Thou villain, wherefore talk'st thou of a king,

= why.

That hardly art a gentleman by birth?

= as noted before, in a land as class-conscious as was


     England, the nobles were naturally outraged that
     Gaveston, the son of a French knight, has been given
     a title to match their own; Mortimer's point is that
     Gaveston is barely (hardly1) a gentleman, a rank below
     that of noble.

K. Edw.  Were he a peasant, being my miniön,


I'll make the proudest of you stoop to him.

= bow down.


Lanc.  My lord, you may not thus disparage us. −

= dishonour or vilify.1,3

Away, I say, with hateful Gaveston!


E. Mort.  And with the Earl of Kent that favours him.


  [Attendants remove Kent and Gaveston.]


K. Edw.  Nay, then, lay violent hands upon your king!

63-66: Edward, weak, easily gives in to despondency.


Here, Mortimer, sit thou in Edward's throne:

Warwick and Lancaster, wear you my crown.


Was ever king thus over-ruled as I?


Lanc.  Learn then to rule us better, and the realm.


Y. Mort.  What we have done, our heart-blood shall

= the sense is, "we will uphold with our blood if necessary".


War.  Think you that we can brook this upstart’s pride?


K. Edw.  Anger and wrathful fury stops my speech.

= "leaves me speechless".


A. of Cant.  Why are you moved? Be patiënt, my lord,

= angry.

And see what we your counsellors have done.


Y. Mort.  My lords, now let us all be resolute,

79-80: Mortimer admonishes his fellows: if they fail to stick


And either have our wills, or lose our lives.

     together, or if they back down now, they will likely be
     hanged as traitors.


K. Edw.  Meet you for this, proud overdaring peers?

= "is this why you meet".  = foolhardy in their daring.1 As
     easily as he fell into despair, Edward regains his fortitude.

Ere my sweet Gaveston shall part from me,

= before.


This isle shall fleet upon the ocean,

= float.

And wander to the unfrequented Inde.

= probably the southern Indian Ocean. In the mid-sixteenth
     century, Flemish cartogropher Abraham Ortelius pub-
     lished a book of maps, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum,
     which Marlowe consulted extensively for his Tambur-
plays. Ortelius' map of the world shows the vast
     area of Antarctica contiguous to the still relatively
     unknown continent known today as Australia, with the
     Mar di India labeled just north of it.


A. of Cant.  You know that I am legate to the Pope;

87-89: the archbishop issues a thinly-veiled threat to the


On your allegiance to the see of Rome,

Subscribe, as we have done, to his exíle.

87-89: Throughout pre-Reformation English history, indeed throughout most of the history of the Catholic church, European sovereigns struggled to keep complete authority to do as they pleased, even as they acknowledged the pope to be the leader, at least in spiritual matters, of the western world.
     The problem, of course, was that the pope, and through him his locally-placed bishops, frequently understood their moral authority to extend to political questions, and so a king or queen's governing wishes often clashed with the will of the church.
     The pope, at least until the Reformation in England, ultimately held the upper hand, however, as he had in his possession, and frequently exercised, his overarching power to excommunicate monarchs (and in extreme cases could impose an interdict, as occurred under the reign of King John, in which the entire population of England was banned from receiving any of the sacraments - excepting baptism, confession and last rites - or receiving a Christian burial).13


Y. Mort.  Curse him, if he refuse; and then may we

= excommunicate.7


Depose him and elect another king.


K. Edw.  Ay, there it goes! But yet I will not yield:

Curse me, depose me, do the worst you can.


Lanc.  Then linger not, my lord, but do it straight.


A. of Cant.  Remember how the bishop was abused!


Either banish him that was the cause thereof,

Or I will presently discharge these lords


Of duty and allegiance due to thee.

101-102: perhaps the most terrifying power (at least from a monarch's perspective) claimed to be possessed by the church was its ability to release a nation's subjects from duty and loyalty to their sovereign.
     In 1570, for example, as part of the church's program to reclaim England for the mother church, Pope Pius V issued a papal bull in which he not only excommunicated Queen Elizabeth, but also declared "the nobles, subjects and people of the said realm and all others who have in any way sworn oaths to her, to be forever absolved from such an oath and from any duty arising from lordship. fealty and obedience."30


K. Edw.  [Aside] It boots me not to threat; I must speak fair:

= "is useless for me"

The legate of the Pope will be obeyed. −

105: Edward recognizes the that neither the archbishop nor
     the nobles are bluffing.


My lord, you shall be Chancellor of the realm;

106f: the king tries to bribe the nobles with high offices,

Thou, Lancaster, High Admiral of our fleet;

     if only they will allow Gaveston to remain in England.


Young Mortimer and his uncle shall be earls;

And you, lord Warwick, President of the North;


And thou of Wales. If this content you not,

Make several kingdoms of this monarchy,

= separate.


And share it equally amongst you all,

So I may have some nook or corner left,

= a predecessor to "nook and cranny".1


To frolic with my dearest Gaveston.


A. of Cant.  Nothing shall alter us − we are resolved.


Lanc.  Come, come, subscribe.


Y. Mort.  Why should you love him whom the world
     hates so?


K. Edw.  Because he loves me more than all the world.

Ah, none but rude and savage-minded men


Would seek the ruin of my Gaveston;

You that be noble-born should pity him.