Edward II

by

Christopher Marlowe

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Trees and Vegetation Symbol Analysis

Trees and Vegetation Symbol Icon

Elizabethan theater often used plant imagery to describe the health of a nation: gardens, for instance, play a major role in Richard II. Marlowe also draws on this symbolism in Edward II, often tying it to descriptions of Edward himself, as when the nobles describe Spencer Junior as a “putrefying branch / That deads the royal vine.” The rationale behind this and similar passages lies in Edward's own symbolic function as a monarch whose circumstances represent the circumstances of his entire country. Thus, in allowing social-climbing “flatterers” like Spencer and Gaveston access to himself, Edward is (according to the nobility) destabilizing the entire country.

The fact that it is a “mower” who, after Edward has lost the final battle and hidden himself in a monastery, reveals Edward's whereabouts to the nobles supports this idea: just as he literally prunes hedges, the mower symbolically “prunes” England back into shape. That said, Edward's arrest does not, in fact, end up putting an end to the country's problems, and it's worth noting that Mortimer Junior, who assumes power as Lord Protector after Edward’s fall, at one point compares himself to “Jove's huge tree.” Since Mortimer would not be the lawful king even if Edward II were dead, his use of this imagery arguably hints at his own growing arrogance and corruption, and further implies that it is not until the rightful heir, Edward III, ousts Mortimer Junior that England again returns to natural health.

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Trees and Vegetation Symbol Timeline in Edward II

The timeline below shows where the symbol Trees and Vegetation appears in Edward II. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 4
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...that they will have the support of the common people, who “cannot brook a night-grown mushroom”—i.e. an upstart like Gaveston. The nobles agree to Mortimer's plan, and Isabella promises not to... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Language and Violence Theme Icon
Mortimer Junior describes the scene that will decorate his shield: “A lofty cedar tree fair flourishing…And by the bark a canker creeps me up / And gets unto the... (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
Language and Violence Theme Icon
...and reports that the nobles want the King to dismiss “This Spencer, as a putrefying branch / That deads the royal vine whose golden leaves / Impale your princely head.” Instead,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order Theme Icon
...and hopes that the crown will be a curse to him, “So shall not England's vines be perished, / But Edward's name survives.” (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
Fear of the Other and Internal Discord Theme Icon
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
...remorse, but eventually dismisses him instead. Mortimer then boasts that he “stands as Jove's huge tree” and thus has nothing to fear from anyone. (full context)