Edward II becomes king after the death of his father, but almost immediately lets his shortsightedness and irrationality regarding how his relationship with the basely-born Gaveston will appear to the nobles cloud his rule. He defends Gaveston at all costs and will brook no dissent, leading to complaints that his rule is bad for the state and bad for the people. He ignores his nobles' wishes and ends up being forced to agree to Gaveston's banishment and then watch a series of events play out that leads to Gaveston's death and civil war. By the end of the play he is a pitiable figure, though it is hard to defend his actions while king. His gruesome death ends his tumultuous reign.
Piers de Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall (a title levied upon him by the besotted Edward), is referred to merely as Gaveston. Having been banished by Edward I before the play begins, the play opens with his receiving word of that king’s death, the ascension to the throne by Edward II, and Edward’s plans for him to return. He has strong feelings for Edward and delights in the power he receives by being his companion. This brings him into conflict with the Queen and the nobles, who scheme to banish, imprison, and then kill him.
Daughter of the French King, Isabella is wife to Edward II and mother to Edward III. She loves her husband and is jealous of his open affection for Gaveston, even shunning the overtures of Mortimer. Her patience wears, however, and she joins with Mortimer and the nobles to plot against Gaveston and, eventually, Edward himself. She enters into a sexual relationship with Mortimer and helps him become Protector over Edward III. All of her machinations eventually backfire, as Edward III decides to behead Mortimer and imprison Isabella after learning of his father's death.
(Roger) Mortimer Junior
A nobleman desperate for his own power and thus disdainful of Gaveston's place at court, Mortimer schemes too seduce the Queen and to eventually bring Gaveston and Edward himself down. Even when the other nobles seem to be initially resigned to Gaveston's ascendance, Mortimer cannot quell his thirst for power. He speaks of Fortune as a wheel and sees himself at the top once he has managed to rid of the king and install the young Edward III in bis place. However, he underestimates Edward III's moral compass and is beheaded for his machinations, his head to adorn Edward II's hearse.
Brother to the King, uncle to his heir, Kent is repulsed by his brother’s lack of attention to his duties as head of state and the self-indulgence which distracts him. Eventually he has no choice but to move toward the very nobles he considered disloyal for daring to question his brother, but stops well short of joining Mortimer in his insurrection. Flip-flopping again, he comes to believe he needs to help Edward and protect Edward III from the grasping Mortimer and unnatural Queen, but is thwarted in those efforts. It is implied that he is beheaded.
One of the nobles who is opposed to Edward's elevation of Gaveston. He supports the banishment but also Gaveston's return. For this, Edward makes him his chief counsellor. Later, after Gaveston is recaptured and slated for death, Warwick intervenes to prevent Gaveston from visiting the king one last time and instead kills him himself. He is captured in battle against Edward and beheaded.
Earl of Lancaster
One of the nobles who is opposed to Edward's elevation of Gaveston. He conspires with Warwick and the Mortimers and the Archbishop to have Gaveston exiled but agrees to bring him back. Edward makes him his companion, which Lancaster professes to welcome, but with Mortimer, he attacks Gaveston when the man arrives back in England. He vociferously denounces Edward's behavior and tells him to expect rebellion. He is captured in battle against Edward and is beheaded.
The uncle of Mortimer Junior and one of the nobles profoundly disturbed by Gaveston's elevation to Edward's right hand. He helps spearhead the banishment of Gaveston and desires to punish Kent for supporting Gaveston, but after Gaveston is brought back, he advises his nephew to simply let Edward have his minion. Edward makes him the general of the levied troops ready to attack the Scots, and he assumes that post with gladness. He is later captured, but Edward will not ransom him do to his outrage over his nobles' betrayal and Gaveston's seizing.
Bishop of Coventry
One of the individuals responsible for Gaveston's first exile, Edward, frustrated by the reach of the Church into his private affairs, orders him stripped of the trappings of his station and of his property, the latter which he bestows upon Gaveston.
Archbishop of Canterbury
One of the most powerful leaders in the Church of England, the Archbishop sides with the nobles, excoriating what Edward has done to the Bishop of Coventry and disapproving of his relationship with Gaveston. He helps the nobles secure another banishment for Gaveston.
The clerk of the Crown.
One of the former Earl of Gloucester's men. He decides that he will show his support for Gaveston and thus for the king, and urges the Niece's marriage to Gaveston. After Gaveston's death, he tries to rouse the king to action against the traitorous nobles. Edward makes him the Earl of Wiltshire, and then the Earl of Gloucester and Lord Chamberlain. He and Baldock are captured at the abbey and presumably put to death.
One of the former Earl of Gloucester's men. He is a scholar and does not care for the trappings of court, but attends to the Niece and becomes a loyal servant to Edward. He and Spencer are captured at the abbey and presumably put to death.
The King's Niece
The daughter of the recently deceased Earl of Gloucester. She loves Gaveston and is to be married to him. At this point he will be the new Earl of Gloucester, but this does not come to pass.
Earl of Arundel
He first brings the nobles a message from the king asking to see Gaveston one more time before Gaveston is killed, and then brings the news of Gaveston's death to Edward, as well as the means by which it was accomplished.
Spencer Junior's father. He pledges troops and arms to the king's cause of revenging Gaveston. He is captured by Mortimer and Isabella's soldiers, and it is implied that he is beheaded.
Prince Edward/Edward III
The young son of Edward and Isabella. Edward is a circumspect young man and does not want to be a pawn in a game. He is confused by what is happening but allows his mother to reassure him it is for the best. He is eventually crowned King Edward III after his father resigns, with Kent as Protector first until he is jailed and then Mortimer Protector second. After news of his father's death and its cause reaches him, he orders Mortimer put to death and his mother imprisoned. It is implied that he will be a wise ruler.
A Frenchman and friend of Queen Isabella. He informs her and Edward that her brother, the King of France, has attacked Normandy, which prompts Edward to send Isabella and Prince Edward abroad. At Spencer's urging, Levune helps turn the lords of France against the Queen.
Sir John of Hainault
An important ally of the Queen and Mortimer, who welcomes them and gives them succor. He suggests that the marquis of Hainault, his brother, will provide them money and men to fight against Edward, which proves to be the case.
Rice ap Howell
A cruel Welshman sent into Wales to apprehend the king. He brings the captured Spencer Senior to the Queen and Mortimer.
He provides succor and a hiding space for Edward, but only does so for a short time before the king is discovered.
The man who recognizes Edward and his associates at the abbey and turns them in.
Earl of Leicester
The noble sent by Mortimer and the Queen to arrest Spencer and Baldock and send the king to Killingworth. He evinces some pity for Edward and his circumstances, but he is relieved of his command and replaced by Berkeley.
Bishop of Winchester
A leader of the Church sent to encourage Edward to resign his crown.
Sir William Trussell
With the Bishop of Winchester, he is tasked with relaying the message to Edward that he must resign, and bringing news of the response back to Mortimer and the Queen.
Sir Thomas Berkeley
The man tasked with watching over Edward and taking him to Killingworth. He is relieved by Matrevis and Gurney.
Along with Gurney, one of the men Mortimer tasks with removing Edward to Killingworth. Also on Mortimer's orders, he and Gurney treat Edward abominably while he is in the dungeon. Matrevis delivers the news of Edward's death to Mortimer and receives permission to flee the realm.
Along with Matrevis, one of the men Mortimer tasks with removing Edward to Killingworth. Also on Mortimer's orders, he and Matrevis treat Edward abominably while he is in the dungeon. He does not approve of what Lightborn does, so he murders him after the assassin kills Edward. He turns Mortimer's letter with the orders to Lightborn on it over to Edward III's people, and flees the realm.
The sadistic assassin Mortimer hires to kill Edward. Lightborn promises it will be done without a trace and brags of the ways he's killed people before. He uses a red-hot spit and inserts it into Edward's rectum. Gurney kills Lightborn after this.
Earl of Pembroke
One of the nobles opposed to Edward's elevation of Gaveston. He supports the banishment, but agrees to have Gaveston brought back. At this, Edward makes him sword of the realm. Once the nobles seize Gaveston again, Pembroke volunteers to bring Gaveston to and from the king safely so the king can say his goodbyes. Unfortunately, Warwick alters this plan and kills Gaveston.
A soldier of Pembroke's who is tasked with watching over Gaveston. Warwick seizes Gaveston anyway, despite James' protestations.
Edward II Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Edward II is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.