Edward II

by

Christopher Marlowe

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Edward II: Act 4, Scene 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Edward II, Baldock, and Spencer Junior have disguised themselves and taken refuge in a monastery. The Abbot assures Edward that he will be safe in his protection. Edward, however, is preoccupied by thoughts of his fall from power, bemoaning the miseries of life as a king and wishing he could lead the “life contemplative” the monks enjoy.
Edward's suggestion that the life of a king is inherently tragic foreshadows an image that will become central when Mortimer Junior takes power: Fortune's Wheel. The symbol deals with the impermanence of worldly success and the random nature of men's fates, so it in many ways parallels Edward's realization that kings are "in life or death made miserable": even if fortune spares a ruler overthrow and downfall, he will ultimately lose all his power in death.
Themes
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
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Despite the monks' reassurances, Spencer Junior fears that their location will be betrayed. Baldock explains that bad weather thwarted their voyage to Ireland, leaving them vulnerable to Mortimer Junior. At this, Edward exclaims, “Who wounds me with the name of Mortimer, / That bloody man?” and kneels before the Abbot, begging to be allowed to rest there until his death.
Fittingly, Mortimer's very name has by this point in the play become a kind of weapon: here, for instance, Edward describes it as "wounding" him. Mortimer, in other words, has made even language into a tool for violence.
Themes
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Suddenly, Spencer Junior urges Edward to look up: Rhys ap Howell and the Earl of Leicester have discovered them, thanks to the help of a Mower who had seen them and revealed their location. Spencer Junior had earlier noticed the Mower looking suspiciously at the King and his companions.
Since the play repeatedly associates both England and the monarchy with plant imagery, the fact that it is a mower who betrays Edward has symbolic significance. If the tree or garden of the kingdom has grown out of control, it is the Mower who "trims" it back into order. More ominously, the fact that the Mower carries a scythe makes him a Grim Reaper-like figure, and therefore foreshadows the deaths of Spencer Junior, Baldock, and Edward himself.
Themes
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Leicester, in an aside, speaks pityingly of Edward and quotes a Latin proverb about the precariousness of power. Aloud, however, he arrests Spencer Junior and Baldock for treason.
The proverb Leicester quotes translates to, "He whom dawn of day hath seen in pride to reign, / Him overthrown hath seen the evening late." Leicester therefore echoes Edward's earlier words about the price of being king, while also laying the groundwork for the image of Fortune's wheel, which will play a major role in the scenes involving Mortimer's rise and fall.
Themes
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
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Edward laments his fate and questions why the stars have "lour[ed] unkindly on a king" before inviting Leicester to kill him rather than imprison Spencer Junior and Baldock. Edward then begins to say his goodbye to his companions, blaming their misfortunes on “hell and cruel Mortimer.” Meanwhile, the Abbot looks on, distressed to see a king “bear these words and proud commands.”
Despite his earlier comment about the sorrows unique to kingship, Edward here implies that his status should make him immune to his misfortunes. This idea that any particular individual is exceptional (and untouchable) is one that the play itself constantly challenges: fortune consistently cuts down everyone who occupies or aspires to a position of power. On the other hand, the Abbot clearly shares Edward's sense of what it means to be king, since he views the nobles' treatment of Edward as an affront.
Themes
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
Rhys ap Howell informs Edward that he “must go to Kenilworth,” which causes Edward to take issue with his use of the word “must.” Edward further argues he might as well be transported in a “hearse,” now that his friends are being taken away for execution. Seeing that Rhys ap Howell is unmoved, however, Edward remarks that “that shall be shall be” and bids farewell to Spencer Junior and Baldock before Leicester escorts him from the room.
In this passage, Edward continues to swing between bitterness over his fall from power and acceptance of the whims of fortune. He first remarks that it is "hard when kings must go," implying that monarchs should be exempt from commands (and, perhaps, from the broader "necessities" of fate). Later, however, he implies that because whatever is destined to happen will happen regardless of human action, it is best to make peace with it.
Themes
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
Spencer Junior and Baldock mourn their parting with Edward, likening him both to the sun and to their own “souls.” Baldock concludes that there is nothing left for them to do but die, but takes comfort in the fact that death is humanity's common lot. Rhys ap Howell cuts off their “preachments,” however, and takes them away after promising to pay the Mower for his services.
Like Gaveston, Baldock compares Edward to the sun in order to describe the centrality of the King to Baldock himself. Since the symbol ordinarily refers to a king's public role as the center of society, Baldock is appropriating it to describe a personal relationship in much the same way he (and the King's other favorites) have "corrupted" Edward's reign. Meanwhile, Baldock's resignation in the face of death evokes another image that is central to the play: the Wheel of Fortune. In particular, his remark that all people "rise to fall" corresponds to the structure of the wheel, where power peaks and then inevitably declines. Finally, Rhys ap Howell's impatience with Spencer and Baldock's  parting speeches is characteristic of Mortimer's (and increasingly the play's) intolerance of language.
Themes
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
Related Quotes