Edward II


Christopher Marlowe

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Edward II: Act 5, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Maltravers and Gourney, carrying torches, hurry Edward toward Kenilworth as the latter asks where they are taking him. Wearily, Edward wonders whether he will ever be allowed to rest, and offers up his heart to satisfy Mortimer Junior's desire for revenge. He then remarks that he will likely die soon anyway: he is starving, and the stench in the dungeons is overpowering. Nevertheless, he begs for water to drink and clean himself of “foul excrements.” In response, Maltravers and Gourney mockingly douse him in sewer water and shave off his beard as Edward laments the futility of "seek[ing] for mercy at a tyrant's hand."
Gourney and Maltravers's cruelty to Edward in this scene continues to make the deposed king a more sympathetic figure while rendering Mortimer correspondingly less sympathetic. This process culminates in Edward's use of the word "tyrant" to describe Mortimer—a term the nobles had earlier applied to Edward to describe his perceived abuses of power.
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Edward calls on God to bear witness to Maltravers and Gourney's treatment of “their liege and sovereign, England's King.” He then calls on Gaveston, saying that he is now suffering for his sake, as Gaveston and Spencer Senior and Junior died for him.
Once again, Edward claims to remain the true King of England in spite of his overthrow. However, where Edward's early insistences on his divine right to the crown came across as dictatorial, here they give him an aura of dignity now that he has fallen from power. The play's attitude toward monarchical legitimacy, then, is ultimately ambiguous: while it criticizes Edward's abuses of power, it is also suspicious of the efforts to depose him.
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Maltravers orders that the torches be put out as the group approach Kenilworth. At that moment, however, Kent appears, and a struggle breaks out. Gourney and Maltravers's soldiers eventually succeed in seizing Kent to take him away to “court”—though Edward protests that the true court is wherever he, as king, is. Ignoring this, Gourney and Maltravers leave with Edward, while Kent bemoans the state of a country “where lords / Keep courts and kings are locked in prison.” He then resigns himself to execution, knowing he has failed to secure his brother's escape.
Kent's lament for England echoes the patriotism that led him to betray Edward in the first place. Although his feelings about his participation in the rebellion have clearly changed—in fact, like Edward himself, he now implies that no rebellion can undo the legitimacy of a crowned king—his sense of civic responsibility has remained stable over the course of the play. This is significant, because the other character who frequently claims to act on patriotic grounds—Mortimer—reveals himself to be a hypocrite.
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