Edward II

by

Christopher Marlowe

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Piers Gaveston Character Analysis

Gaveston is Edward II's companion and (almost certainly) lover. The two men have known each other for some time by the time the play opens, but had recently been separated by Edward's father, the former king, who disapproved of the relationship (this is a historically accurate detail, although Edward I had initially chosen the real Gaveston as a companion for his young son). The play begins with Gaveston receiving a letter from Edward II informing him of his father's death and his own ascension to the throne. Gaveston eagerly complies with the new king's summons to return, in large part because he hopes to use the situation to his own advantage. Ambitious and quick-witted, Gaveston encourages Edward to pursue his interests in poetry and theater—presumably to keep him in a state of happy compliance. Gaveston's tactics pay off in the short term, with Edward raising him from his low-born status and making him Earl of Cornwall, Lord High Chamberlain, and Chief Secretary. However, if Gaveston uses Edward's favor to his own advantage, it is nevertheless true that he seems to genuinely love the king: alone on stage during his opening monologue, he speaks about "dying" on Edward's "bosom" even at the cost of the "world's" esteem. Gaveston's relationship with Edward also speaks to the broader complexities of his character. For instance, while Mortimer Junior describes Gaveston as being a somewhat foppish man, a description supported by Gaveston's expensive tastes in clothing and entertainment, it is nonetheless also true that Gaveston is unafraid to fight: he repeatedly gets into brawls and duels. If anything, Gaveston seems too quick to resort to physical violence.

Piers Gaveston Quotes in Edward II

The Edward II quotes below are all either spoken by Piers Gaveston or refer to Piers Gaveston. 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 1 Quotes

These are not men for me;
I must have wanton poets, pleasant wits,
Musicians, that with touching of a string
May draw the pliant King which way I please.
…In the day when he shall walk abroad,
Like sylvan nymphs my pages shall be clad.
My men like satyrs grazing on the lawns,
Shall with their goat-feet dance an antic hay;
Sometime a lovely boy in Dian's shape,
With hair that gilds the water as it glides,
Crownets of pearl above his naked arms,
And in his sportful hands an olive tree
To hide those parts which men delight to see,
Shall bathe him in a spring.

Related Characters: Piers Gaveston (speaker), Edward II
Page Number: 1.1.549–65
Explanation and Analysis:

My lord, why do you thus incense your peers
That naturally would love and honour you,
But for that base and obscure Gaveston?

Related Characters: The Earl of Lancaster (speaker), Edward II, Piers Gaveston
Page Number: 1.1.98–100
Explanation and Analysis:

Come uncle, let us leave the brainsick King,
And henceforth parley with our naked swords.

Related Characters: Mortimer Junior (speaker), Edward II, Piers Gaveston, Mortimer Senior
Page Number: 1.1.124–125
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Bishop of Canterbury: …We and the rest that are his councillors
Will meet and with a general consent
Confirm his banishment with our hands and seals.

Lancaster: What we confirm the King will frustrate.

Mortimer Junior: Then may we lawfully revolt from him.

Related Characters: Mortimer Junior (speaker), The Earl of Lancaster (speaker), Bishop of Canterbury (speaker), Edward II, Piers Gaveston
Page Number: 1.2.69–73
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 4 Quotes

Edward: Lay hands on that traitor Mortimer!

Mortimer Senior: Lay hands on that traitor Gaveston!

[The NOBLES draw swords]

Kent: Is this the duty that you owe your King?

Warwick: We know our duties; let him know his peers.

Related Characters: Edward II (speaker), Edmund, Earl of Kent (speaker), Mortimer Senior (speaker), Guy, Earl of Warwick (speaker), Piers Gaveston, Mortimer Junior
Page Number: 1.4.20–23
Explanation and Analysis:

Rend not my heart with thy too-piercing words.
Thou from this land, I from my self am banished.

Related Characters: Edward II (speaker), Piers Gaveston
Page Number: 1.4.117–118
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

His wanton humour grieves not me,
But this I scorn, that one so basely born
Should by his sovereign's favour grow so pert,
And riot it with the treasure of the realm
While soldiers mutiny for want of pay.
He wear's a lord's revenue on his back,
And Midas-like he jets it in the court
With base outlandish cullions at his heels,
Whose proud fantastic liveries make such show
As if that Proteus, god of shapes, appeared.
I have not seen a dapper jack so brisk;
He wears a short Italian hooded cloak,
Larded with pearl; and in his Tuscan cap
A jewel of more value than the crown.
Whiles other walk below, the King and he
From out a window laugh at such as we,
And flout our train and jest at our attire.

Related Characters: Mortimer Junior (speaker), Edward II, Piers Gaveston
Page Number: 1.4.403–419
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Base leaden earls that glory in your birth,
Go sit at home and eat your tenants' beef,
And come not here to scoff at Gaveston,
Whose mounting thoughts did never creep so low
As to bestow a look on such as you.

Page Number: 2.2.74–78
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Monster of men,
That, like the Greekish strumpet, trained to arms
And bloody wars so many valiant knights,
Look for no other fortune, wretch, than death;
King Edward is not here to buckler thee.

Related Characters: The Earl of Lancaster (speaker), Edward II, Piers Gaveston
Page Number: 2.4.14–18
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Edward: O, shall I speak, or shall I sigh and die?

Spencer Junior: My lord, refer your vengeance to the sword
Upon these barons.

Related Characters: Edward II (speaker), Spencer Junior (speaker), Piers Gaveston, Guy, Earl of Warwick
Page Number: 3.2.121—123
Explanation and Analysis:
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Edward II PDF

Piers Gaveston Character Timeline in Edward II

The timeline below shows where the character Piers Gaveston appears in Edward II. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Gaveston, who until recently was in exile in France, reads aloud from a letter informing him... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Gaveston responds to the letter with delight, declaring his intention to rejoin Edward II immediately and... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Gaveston is interrupted by the arrival of three poor men seeking employment. In response, Gaveston questions... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
After the poor men leave, Gaveston explains why they will not suit his purposes: Edward loves poetry and music, and Gaveston... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...to argue, with the King threatening the nobles and openly stating his intention to have Gaveston by his side. In response, Lancaster questions why Edward should prefer the low-born Gaveston to... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...and orders Kent to raise his military banners: he would rather die than give up Gaveston. Hearing this, Gaveston bursts out from hiding, and Edward—surprised but elated—urges him to embrace him:... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Over the protestations of both Kent and Gaveston himself, Edward makes the latter Earl of Cornwall, Lord High Chamberlain, and Chief Secretary. Edward... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...his way to Edward I's funeral rites. He reacts with displeasure to the sight of Gaveston, and Edward warns Coventry that Gaveston wants revenge on the bishop for the role he... (full context)
Act 1, 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
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...and that his possessions have been confiscated, and Lancaster and Mortimer Junior vow revenge on Gaveston (or, as Mortimer calls him, the  “Frenchman”). Lancaster and Warwick also explain the new titles... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...because “God himself is up in arms.” He does, however, agree with Mortimer Junior that Gaveston should be banished or beheaded. (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
...her husband Edward has lost all interest in her, instead “dot[ing] upon the love of Gaveston.” Mortimer Senior remarks that it is “strange that [Edward] is thus bewitched.” (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 Edward if necessary. The Bishop of Canterbury, however, warns the nobles... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Gaveston and Kent enter, deep in conversation. Gaveston explains that Warwick, Mortimer Senior, Mortimer Junior, and... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...Archbishop of Canterbury and several nobles enter, putting their final signatures on the order for Gaveston's exile. Mortimer Junior is especially hopeful that the addition of his name will intimidate Edward. (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Kent, Gaveston, and Edward enter. As he seats himself on his throne, Edward taunts the nobles by... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Enraged, Edward threatens to kill the nobles if they leave with Gaveston. Mortimer Senior says that it is unfair to threaten them as if they were “traitors,”... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...the Bishop of Canterbury intervenes and, urging Edward to be “patient,” presents the decree for Gaveston's banishment. Edward defiantly states that England will “flete upon the ocean / And wander to... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...kingdom amongst themselves provided they leave him “some nook or corner…to frolic with [his] dearest Gaveston.” Growing impatient, the Bishop of Canterbury and Lancaster again urge the King to sign the... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Lancaster takes the signed order to display publically, while Mortimer Junior goes to see to Gaveston. Pembroke speculates that the common people will profit from Gaveston's banishment, and Mortimer Senior says... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Gaveston appears, saying that he has heard rumors he is to be exiled. Edward confirms his... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Edward urges Gaveston to act as Governor of Ireland until he can return. The two men then exchange... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...her a “strumpet.” Isabella questions who she should “fawn on” if not her husband, and Gaveston responds with Mortimer Junior's name, implying the two are having an affair. Isabella denies the... (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... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...nobles speculate that Edward must have been cruel to her and blame her suffering on Gaveston. Eventually, Mortimer Junior addresses Isabella directly and asks her what is wrong, to which she... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...Lancaster asks the other nobles for assurance that they will not change their minds about Gaveston's exile. Mortimer Senior says he will not go against his nephew's wishes, and the rest... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
When Mortimer Junior rejoins the nobles, he says that while he hates Gaveston, he is now convinced they should bring him back to England “for the realm's behoof... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...are not entirely convinced. He therefore points out additional advantages: for instance, the possibility that Gaveston, realizing that the nobles have the power both to exile him and call him back,... (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 the news of the banishment being... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Edward instructs the Clerk of the Court and Lord Beaumont to fetch Gaveston from exile in Ireland, and both leave. He then announces a feast and tournament to... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
...Hephaestion, Hercules and Hylas, etc. In time, Mortimer Senior says, Edward will be “weaned” from Gaveston. Mortimer Junior, however, retorts that he doesn't care about the King's “wanton humour,” but cannot... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...he is feuding with Edward II, and proposes seeking out the Earl of Cornwall (i.e. Gaveston) instead. In fact, Spencer expects to be Gaveston's “companion” rather than his “follower,” since Gaveston... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Baldock reminds Spencer Junior that Gaveston is exiled and can therefore do little to help him, but Spencer says he has... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...Spencer Junior's banter, and the two men listen as she reads aloud from letters from Gaveston and Edward: Gaveston's declares his intention to remain true to her at any cost, and... (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 impatient and preoccupied with thoughts of Gaveston, which irritates Isabella and... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...flying fish being captured by a bird. The King, realizing that these are symbols for Gaveston, questions whether the nobles have really made peace with him and his favorite: “Can you... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
In an aside to the other nobles, Mortimer Junior worries that Gaveston's presence will just deepen Edward's fervor. At that very moment, however, Gaveston arrives. The two... (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... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...Mortimer Junior, Lancaster, and Pembroke are now more convinced than ever of the need for Gaveston's death. They further feel that there is no point talking with Edward further; as Lancaster... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...the French, Scottish, and Irish, and that the common people are turning against Edward and Gaveston as a result of overtaxation and lack of military protection. Mortimer Junior further complains that... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...Kent, however, is alarmed by the threat of war and urges his brother to banish Gaveston once and for all, for the good of the country. Edward is predictably upset to... (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...and Edward again taunts her about her supposed affair with Mortimer Junior. Lady Margaret and Gaveston, who have entered with Isabella, urge Edward to be kinder to his wife, and he... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Edward and Gaveston discuss what to do about Mortimer Junior now that he is openly threatening “civil wars”:... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Turning back to Lady Margaret, Edward tells her that she and Gaveston will be married today, in part as a demonstration of his love for Gaveston. Edward... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Lancaster explains that Gaveston and Edward are “frolicking” in Tynemouth, and the nobles resolve to attack the castle, with... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...is already underway as the scene opens and Edward frantically questions Spencer Junior as to Gaveston's whereabouts. Just then, however, he catches sight of Gaveston, and the two men agree to... (full context)
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...they have no intention of harming Edward, but simply want to “rid the realm of Gaveston.” Isabella therefore tells them that Gaveston has gone to Scarborough, unaccompanied by the King. Mortimer... (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 dispute arises about where Isabella should go:... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Lancaster, Warwick, Pembroke, Mortimer Junior, and their forces chase after Gaveston, who is taunting them as he enters. Mortimer and Lancaster respond with threats of death,... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Warwick at first intends to hang Gaveston for “[his] country's cause,” but then decides to give him the relative honor of a... (full context)
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
Trumpets sound, and everyone but Gaveston, Maltravers, and Pembroke leaves. Pembroke explains that his house is nearby and invites Maltravers to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
As the scene opens, James and Gaveston realize that Warwick has betrayed Pembroke and is pursuing them. Gaveston desperately urges Pembroke's men... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Edward waits anxiously with Spencer Junior and Baldock. He knows that he cannot save Gaveston's life, and fears that the nobles will not even let him see Gaveston again. Spencer... (full context)
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...of France, has seized Normandy because Edward has “been slack in homage.” Edward, preoccupied with Gaveston's fate, dismisses this as easily solved and decides—over the young prince's reservations—to send his son... (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 dead. Edward presses him for details, and Maltravers explains the events leading up to... (full context)
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...heaven, his lineage, and his status as king to be revenged on anyone involved in Gaveston's death: “If I be England's king, in lakes of gore / Your headless trunks, your... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
...his victory, which he attributes to “justice” rather than the “chance of war.” Still mourning Gaveston's loss, he looks forward to executing the nobles. (full context)
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Kent argues that the nobles killed Gaveston for the good of both the country and Edward himself, and Edward sends him away.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)