In my second reading of Marlowe's tale of how personal choices influence the political arena, what struck me was the pure gall of King Edward's subjects. From the very beginning it seems that the lords of the court are questioning their ruler's every action.
Edward II is often explored for its homosexual undertones, with regards to the title character and his relationship with his 'favorite' of the moment, most especially Gaveston. The intimacy that they share is a threat to some of the other men at court. The King is asked, with regards to Gaveston:
Why should you love him whom the world hates so?
His majesty quickly responds:
Because he loves me more than all the world.
To the lords of the court, Gaveston's station in life is offensive. To be the favorite of the King and to be of base birth is unacceptable in their eyes. To Edward, it is the man that makes the man, not to whom he was born. This is seen as a weakness in the eyes of those who disapprove of the company he keeps and it is not long before his own nobility are telling him:
Look for rebellion, look to be deposed:
This blows my mind. This is their KING. Placed on earth by GOD. And these arrogant, petty, men decide to kill him.
As a tribute to Marlowe's writing, I did go back and forth throughout the play with regards to whose side I was on. The nobles do have some slightly convincing points when it comes to Edward's behavior, and at times Edward gets a little whiny and "poor me." On the whole, however, I was on the side of the lawful King. When Spencer Junior entreats King Edward not to bear these base insults and to "Strike off their heads, and let them preach on poles;" I found myself saying, "Hear, hear!" and then promptly learning that little monologue because I liked it so much.
Truly, Spencer Junior gets the best lines in the play. During one of the fights, Lancaster warns the King not to trust those around him:
For they'll betray thee traitors as they are.
Spencer Junior responds:
Traitor on thy face, rebellious Lancaster.
Now, this is how I imagine this line should be played: "Traitor on thy FACE, rebellious Lancaster!" with some appropriately physical intimidation to accompany said line.
The moral center of the play seemed to me to lie in the King's brother, Kent. Even though he is swayed from side to side, I believe he was trying to act in the best interest of the country and not out of personal greed or gain. Eventually, King Edward is imprisoned and the gravity of the situation weighs heavily on Kent:
O, miserable is that commonweal, where lords
Keep courts and kings are locked in prison!
Mob mentality is a dangerous thing.
The villain of the piece (well, one of them) is certainly Mortimer. [In case you weren't sure, just refer to the much longer original title: The troublesome reign and lamentable death of Edward the second, King of England: with the tragical fall of proud Mortimer. Guess they didn't worry about spoiler alerts in those days.] Though I was generally unimpressed by Mortimer (I mean, how hard is it to woo a Queen, really), his method of disposing of the King was pretty brilliant. After hiring an assassin, he sends the man to the people holding the King with a letter that reads thus: "Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est." He purposefully leaves out punctuation because in the tricky language of Latin, depending on where you place the comma, this sentence can be interpreted two different ways. He explains:
'Edwardum occidere nolite timere, bonum est;
Fear not to kill the King, 'tis good he die.'
But read it thus, and that's another sense:
'Edwardum occidere nolite, timere bonum est;
Kill not the King, 'tis good to fear the worst.'
Thanks to the title, you already know that King Edward dies. Reading the play to see how it comes to pass is something I would highly recommend.
ATTENTION MARLOWE FANS!
Fairly soon, you will have the rare opportunity to see a production of this play. Details below:
An all-female cast performs Christopher Marlowe's play with proceeds benefiting the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for queer homeless youth.
Written by Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Nicolette Dixon and Ben Prusiner
WOW Theatre Cafe
59-61 E 4th St. New York City, New York
April 21, 22, 23 at 8 pm
April 28, 29, 30 at 8 pm
Gay King and Conqueror's Son: how do sexuality and gender meet & what can we learn from the past?
WOW Cafe Theatre, a women and transperson's theatre collective, is proud to present an all- female production of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II with all proceeds to benefit the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for queer youth. A fictionalized account of real events, Edward II is a gay king who fails to live up to the prevailing ideas of masculinity and loses everything because of it. Through masks, movement, and heightened theatricality, Edward II takes the audience on a journey of power, privilege, and forbidden desires. Marlowe's play asks direct questions about sexuality and gender, the price of freedom in love, and the oppressive and destructive power of hatred. By combining the heightened language of classical theatre with an expressive experimental movement vocabulary, the production magnifies the story's emotional power and critical context.
Co-director Ben Prusiner says, "It's incredible how many of the issues that Marlowe was struggling with - sexuality, gender, class - are the same ones we are dealing with today. My goal is always to ask the open-ended question: what can we learn from another point of view?" Co-director Nicolette Dixon makes this statement about why she was drawn to the play, "Edward II is about sexuality and gay rights, and it powerfully situates that struggle within history. At the same time, this play is about the universal struggle to be accepted and loved for who we truly are, and we tell this story in honor of those whose voices have been stifled."
Edward II is written by Christopher Marlowe and directed by Nicolette Dixon and Ben Prusiner.
WOW Cafe Theatre
WOW Café Theater is a women's theater collective in NYC's East Village, which promotes the empowerment of women through the performing arts.
Historically, WOW has been a majority lesbian woman's space. WOW welcomes the full participation of all women and transpeople in solidarity with women. WOW especially welcomes women and transpeople of color, and women and trans people who identify as lesbians, bisexual and queer.
Christopher Marlowe's Edward II performed by an all-female cast with all proceeds benefiting the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth.
When and Where:
WOW Cafe Theatre
59-61 E 4th St. New York City, New York
Thursday, April 21, 8pm
Friday, April 22, 8pm
Saturday, April 23, 8pm
Thursday, April 28, 8pm
Friday, April 29, 8pm
Saturday, April 30, 8pm
Tickets are $20 at the door, $15 pre-sale online at www.fabnyc.org, student and senior and discount available at the door.
For more information please visit: http://edward-ii.tumblr.com/
Tomorrow's Play: The Crucible by Arthur Miller