Edward II

Edward II Literary Elements





Setting and Context

14th century England during the reign of King Edward II

Narrator and Point of View

As it is a drama, lines are spoken in the first person.

Tone and Mood

Tone: fatalistic, tragic, inflammatory, insolent, resigned

Mood: fatalistic, threatening, brooding

Protagonist and Antagonist

Edward II is the protagonist; Mortimer, the other nobles, and eventually Isabella are the antagonists

Major Conflict

Will Edward hold onto his crown as the nobles plot to first rid of Gaveston and then rid of Edward himself?


Edward is brutally murdered by Lightborn. This climax is then followed by the denouement of Edward III ending the treason of his mother and Mortimer by imprisoning the former and beheading the latter, and then dedicating himself to mourning his father and ruling (presumably) fairly.


1. Lightborn's name means "Lucifer" in English, which foreshadows his devilish behavior and modus operandi when it comes to killing his enemies.
2. Gaveston vows that he will be the death of Mortimer, which foreshadows the indirect way that Mortimer's movement against Gaveston sets in motion the events that do indeed lead to his own death


1. The Herald announces the nobles' request for Edward, saying they "lovingly advise your grace / To cherish virtue and nobility, / And have old servitors in high esteem, / And shake off smooth dissembling flatterers" (III.2.166-168). This is an understatement because they make it seem like an easy and pleasant task for Edward. They also sugarcoat it and understate just what will happen if Edward refuses their request—war, deposition, death, etc.


1. The play alludes to many factual historical events, for example, the Battle of Bannockburn, and the pitiful performance of Edward on the battlefield and as a general in charge of his army.
2. Leander (I.1.8): Lover of Hero in Greek Mythology; Leander would swim every night to go see Hero.
3. Dian (I.1.60) and Acteon (66): Acteon was a son of a herdsman who fell prey to the wrath of Diana and was subsequently turned into a stag and torn apart by hounds
4. Phaeton (I.4.16): the son of the sun god, Helios, who asked to drive the chariot of the sun through the sky but went too close to the Earth and scorched it, and was then struck by Zeus's thunderbolt and fell to Earth
5. Jove and Ganymede (I.4.180): a handsome mortal whom Jove falls in love with and abducts in the form of an eagle
6. Hymen (I.4.174): god of marriage ceremonies, a winged love god
7. "fly / As fast as Iris or Jove's Mercury" (I.4.370-71): Mercury is the god of commerce, communication, messages, divination; Iris is a goddess of the rainbow, cup-bearer to the gods, and also a messenger
8. Proteus, god of shapes (I.4.411): a sea-god, known as a shifter of shapes
9. Saint George (III.3.35): a Christian martyr, patron saint of Europe, figure of selflessness
10. Jove and Danae (III.4.47-48): a mortal whom Jove loved and seduced/impregnated as a shower of golden rain and light
11. "Let Pluto's bells ring out my fatal knell, / And hags howl for my death at Charon's shore" (IV.7.88-89): Charon is the ferryman in Pluto's Underworld, taking souls across the River Styx


The imagery is predominantly dark and sinister. The nobles paint terrible pictures of what is happening in the kingdom due to Edward's rule, speaking of plague, death, anarchy, and unnaturalness. Edward boasts of bloody revenge for Gaveston's death and is an image of grief and suffering. Other potent images—the tortured and bereft king in the dungeon, beheaded nobles, grieving sons—all create a sense of horror and instability.


1. Lancaster uses a paradox to express his bafflement at what is going on with Gaveston's exile and return: "Can this be true, 'twas to banish him, / And is this true, to call him home again? / Such reasons make white black and dark night day" (I.4.245-247).


1. Gaveston and Isabella have parallel experiences in that they both see the other as depriving them of Edward.
2. Gaveston and Edward's "unnatural" relationship is mirrored in the unnatural, adulterous relationship of Mortimer and Isabella.
3. The play begins with the death of one king and the ascendance of his son; it ends the same way.


1. "This sword of mine that should offend your foes / Shall sleep within the scabbard at thy need" (Mortimer, I.1.85-86)
2. "Anger and wrathful fury stops my speech" (Edward, I.4.42)
3. "And see how coldly his looks make denial" (Lancaster, I.4.235)
4. "...riper years will wean him from such toys" (Mortimer Senior, I.4.401)
5. "Thy court is naked, being bereft of those / That makes a king seem glorious to the world" (Mortimer, II.2.173-174).
6. "England, unkind to thy nobility, / Groan for this grief! Behold how thou art maimed (Mortimer, III.4.30-31)
7. "Mortimer's hope surmounts his fortune far" (Mortimer, III.4.38)
8. "Nature, yield to my country's cause in this" (Kent, IV.1.3)

Use of Dramatic Devices

1. Much like his counterpart, William Shakespeare, Marlowe makes great use of monologue, and this enables each character to act as a narrator by telling the audience what they are feeling or doing, and also explaining the reasoning behind the action that is about to unfold. He also uses asides, and multiple stage directions.
2. Alliteration, such as "A ranker rout of rebels never was" (III.2.154)
3. Irony, imagery, metaphor, simile, symbol, motifs, etc.
4. Hyperbole is frequent in the characters' protestations, outbursts, etc.