Edward II

by

Christopher Marlowe

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Isabella is a daughter of the King of France, Edward II's wife, and mother to his son, Prince Edward. She is also one of the play's most ambiguous characters. The historical Isabella was a French princess who became infamous in England for the role she played in Edward's overthrow and (possibly) murder. In Marlowe's version of events, however, Isabella is quite sympathetic, at least initially. She first appears as a loving wife who is genuinely grieved and confused by her husband's preference for Gaveston—not least because Edward, under Gaveston's influence, treats her viciously at times. He repeatedly accuses her, for example, of having an affair with Mortimer Junior long before there is any evidence that she is doing so. Nevertheless, Isabella's willingness to conspire in Gaveston's recall and murder suggests she harbors an underlying ruthlessness. When her husband simply shifts his affections from Gaveston to Spencer Junior, Isabella decisively turns against Edward, taking Mortimer as her lover and supporting his rebellion against her husband. By the time Isabella colludes in Edward's murder and lies about it to her son, she has revealed herself to be a deeply treacherous character. It is never clear, however, whether she was untrustworthy and vengeful all along, or whether frustration with her husband’s mistreatment of her is what drove her actions.

Isabella Quotes in Edward II

The Edward II quotes below are all either spoken by Isabella or refer to Isabella. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Methuen Drama edition of Edward II published in 2014.
Act 1, Scene 4 Quotes

Edward: Fawn not on me, French strumpet; get thee gone.

Isabella: On whom but on my husband should I fawn?

Gaveston: On Mortimer, with whom, ungentle Queen—
I say no more; judge you the rest, my lord.

Related Characters: Edward II (speaker), Piers Gaveston (speaker), Isabella (speaker), Mortimer Junior
Page Number: 1.4.145–148
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

Isabella:…A heavy case,
When force to force is knit, and sword and glaive
In civil broils make kin and countrymen
Slaughter themselves in others, and their sides
With their own weapons gored. But what's the help?
Misgoverned kings are cause of all this wrack;
And Edward, thou art one among them all,
Whose looseness hath betrayed thy land to spoil
And made the channels overflow with blood.
Of thine own people patron shouldst thou be,
But thou—

Mortimer Junior: Nay madam, if you be a warrior,
Ye must not grow so passionate in speeches.

Related Characters: Mortimer Junior (speaker), Isabella (speaker), Edward II
Page Number: 4.4.4–15
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, Scene 5 Quotes

Successful battles gives the God of kings
To them that fight in right and fear his wrath.
Since then successfully we have prevailed,
Thanks be heaven's great architect and you…
Sith the fates
Have made [Edward II] so infortunate,
Deal you, my lords, in this, my loving lords,
As to your wisdoms fittest seems in all.

Related Characters: Isabella (speaker), Edward II
Page Number: 4.5.28–38
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Edward II LitChart as a printable PDF.
Edward II PDF

Isabella Character Timeline in Edward II

The timeline below shows where the character Isabella appears in Edward II. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Mortimer Junior notices Queen Isabella walking past in a hurry, and asks her where she is going. Despairingly, she responds... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Mortimer Junior tells Isabella to return to court, promising that the nobility will see Gaveston banished and even depose... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...at the Bishop's residence for the council meeting to take place. As the men leave, Isabella again pleads with Mortimer Junior not to go to war with Edward. Mortimer promises not... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Kent and Isabella appear, and the Queen asks where Edward is going. Edward rebukes her for bothering him... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Edward, Gaveston, and Kent leave, and Isabella—now alone—imagines all the ways she might have been spared her husband's abandonment: poisoned on her... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Lancaster, Warwick, Pembroke, Mortimer Senior, and Mortimer Junior enter and witness Isabella's distress. The nobles speculate that Edward must have been cruel to her and blame her... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
As Mortimer Junior and Isabella talk privately, Lancaster asks the other nobles for assurance that they will not change their... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...question and denying that there can be any good in Gaveston's return, but Mortimer and Isabella urge him and the other nobles to hear what they have to say. Asking whether... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Isabella notices Edward returning from seeing Gaveston off, and looks forward to cheering him up with... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Isabella reminds Edward of the nobles, who are now kneeling before him. Edward addresses Lancaster first,... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...in planning all this, and leaves after they have restated their obedience to his wishes. Isabella, Pembroke, Warwick, and Lancaster also exit, leaving Mortimer Senior and Mortimer Junior alone. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Edward, Isabella, Lancaster, Mortimer Junior, Warwick, Pembroke, and Kent are waiting for Gaveston's arrival. The King is... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...in words make show of amity, / And in your shields display your rancorous minds?”. Isabella attempts to reassure her husband that the nobles “love” him, but Edward argues that no... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
As Gaveston leaves, Isabella laments Mortimer Junior's rash actions. Mortimer, unrepentant, implies that his only regret is that he... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...the nation's wealth is being wasted on pageantry and gifts, that the King's treatment of Isabella jeopardizes international relations, that England is rapidly losing territory to the French, Scottish, and Irish,... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Edward notices Isabella, whom he describes as the cause of all his problems. Isabella reports the rumors about... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...Edward accordingly says goodbye to both Gaveston and Lady Margaret, but only bids farewell to Isabella “for Mortimer, [her] lover's sake.” Everyone then leaves except for Isabella, who reiterates that she... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Lancaster, Warwick, and Mortimer Junior burst in. They are searching for Edward, and Mortimer interrupts Isabella's lament about her efforts to win her husband's affections to ask her where the King... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Heeding Isabella's words, the nobles decide to pursue Gaveston as a group. Before they leave, however, a... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Spencer Junior notices Isabella approaching with Prince Edward and Levune, a messenger from France. Edward II asks Isabella for... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
As Isabella, Prince Edward, and Levune leave, Maltravers arrives. He is alone, and reports that Gaveston is... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
...go to France and bribe the king and nobility there to withhold their support from Isabella: he suspects that she and the English nobility have been plotting to make Prince Edward... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Kent is preparing to join Isabella in France, where he will back up the Queen's claims about Edward's behavior. He appears... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
In France, Isabella speaks to Prince Edward. She laments that the French king and nobles have failed to... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Sir John, a nobleman from modern-day Belgium, enters and greets Isabella. He invites her and Prince Edward to come with him to his home in Hainault,... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
Isabella is surprised to see Kent and Mortimer Junior, whom she had heard were dead. Mortimer,... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Sir John urges Kent and Mortimer Junior to accompany Isabella to Hainault, where they will be able to raise both money and an army. Prince... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Junior. He asks Maltravers to read the list of executed rebels, and then gloats that Isabella's efforts to find French allies have failed thanks to the money he has spent there.... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...Levune. It explains both that Levune succeeded in buying off the French nobility and that Isabella, disappointed, went to Hainault with Kent and Mortimer Junior to raise an army. The news... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Isabella, Mortimer Junior, Kent, Prince Edward, and Sir John arrive in England. Isabella laments the necessity... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Mortimer Junior interrupts Isabella and tells her that she must be less “passionate” in speech if she wants to... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...his loyalties have changed. Finally, Kent confirms for the first time in the play that Isabella and Mortimer are having an affair. (full context)
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
Isabella, Mortimer Junior, Prince Edward, and Sir John now appear as well. Isabella appoints Prince Edward... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Kent asks Isabella what she intends to do with Edward II, and Mortimer Junior grows irritated, saying that... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...of Bristol enter. Rhys ap Howell presents Spencer Senior, who has been taken prisoner, to Isabella and Prince Edward. He also explains that Spencer Junior and Baldock have fled with Edward... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Mortimer Junior gives orders for Spencer Senior's execution, but the latter condemns Mortimer and Isabella as “rebels” before being taken away. Mortimer then orders Rhys ap Howell to deal with... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
...but chafe against his imprisonment at the hands of Mortimer Junior and his “unnatural queen” Isabella. Almost as soon as he has vowed to seek revenge, however, Edward's mood changes. He... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...of Winchester and Trussel away, but hands them a handkerchief—”wet with [his] tears”—to take to Isabella. He fears for Prince Edward's safety while his son is under Mortimer Junior's care, but... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...of Edward's supporters as well as at the imprisonment of the “light-brained King.” He urges Isabella to “be ruled by [him]” and arrange for Prince Edward's coronation: he himself will then... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
A messenger arrives from Kenilworth, followed shortly afterward by the Bishop of Winchester. Isabella feigns distress at the news of Edward's unhappiness, but sends for Prince Edward when she... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
...wheel turn as he please.” Gourney then prepares to leave, but before he does so, Isabella gives him a jewel to give to Edward as evidence of her love. (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Gourney leaves, and Mortimer Junior tells Isabella in an aside to keep up her pretense: Prince Edward and Kent have just walked... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...if he can see Edward II and learn what his father wants to have happen. Isabella, however, says that this is impossible, and she, Mortimer Junior, and Kent begin to argue:... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
...Junior takes stock of his position, which allows him to control both Prince Edward and Isabella. Gloatingly, he remarks that everyone at court fears him and hurries to do whatever he... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Trumpets sound, and Prince Edward enters, accompanied by Isabella, the Bishop of Canterbury, and a group of nobles. The Bishop proclaims the Prince to... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...challenges Mortimer's right to condemn him, but is eventually escorted away under guard. Turning to Isabella, Edward III expresses concern over his own safety at Mortimer Junior's hands. Isabella, however, reassures... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
...finds Edward, who suspects that Lightborne is there to kill him. Lighborne denies this, saying Isabella has sent him to enquire after Edward's well-being. In response, Edward describes the conditions in... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
Isabella enters in distress, explaining that Edward III knows about Edward II's death and suspects her... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...says, Mortimer's “hateful and accursèd head” can stand “witness” to his crime. He also rebuffs Isabella's attempt to quiet him, saying he fears she is guilty as well. Finally, when Mortimer... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
...first attempts to protest his innocence but, quickly realizing the situation is hopeless, he orders Isabella to be quiet, saying he would rather die than “sue for life unto a paltry... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Isabella continues to plead with Edward III, begging him to spare Mortimer Junior's life. Edward, however,... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Isabella is escorted to prison as a lord returns with Mortimer Junior's head. Edward III then... (full context)