Edward II

by

Christopher Marlowe

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Themes and Colors
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
Fortune and Tragedy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Edward II, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Sex, Lineage, and the Natural Order

For its time, Edward II is remarkably open about the kind of relationship that exists between the king and his favorite, Gaveston. As Marlowe depicts them, the two men are almost certainly lovers. While the concept of homosexuality as it is understood today may not have existed until the 19th century, homosexual behavior and relationships obviously did exist, and in the times when the play was set and was written were extremely taboo…

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Fear of the Other and Internal Discord

At the time Edward II was written, the casual xenophobia of its characters would not have seemed out of the ordinary in English society. War was common, both in Marlowe’s day and in Edward’s, and tensions with the French, Scottish, and Irish ran correspondingly high. With that said, the mistrust of foreigners and the pervasive threat of war in the play also points to a broader suspicion of “otherness,” whether based on ethnicity, sexuality…

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Monarchy, Legitimacy, and Loyalty

Like many works of English Renaissance drama, Edward II deals extensively with the nature and limits of monarchical rule. Although the English kings and queens of the time certainly wielded more power than they would in later years, they were not absolute monarchs in the way that many rulers in continental Europe were. Instead, England had a tradition of semi-constitutional monarchy dating back to the rule of King John and the signing of the Magna…

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Language and Violence

From start to finish, Edward II is an exceptionally violent play: Gaveston attacks a bishop in the very first scene, and the play ends with Edward brutally murdered and his son, Edward III, displaying the severed head of Mortimer Junior alongside his father’s corpse. What is even more striking, however, is how much of the dialogue in the play centers on violence, often describing it as something that, like language itself, can convey meaning…

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Fortune and Tragedy

One recurring image in Edward II is the “Wheel of Fortune”—a symbol medieval writers used to warn against the dangers of striving for worldly power and success. The basic idea was that the same fortune that carried a man to a position of prominence would ultimately bring about his downfall. Perhaps because of the clear parallel to the genre of tragedy (traditionally concerned with the fall of a powerful individual), the image frequently appears in…

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