The play Edward II reaches its emotional climax in scene i, Act V. It is in this scene that the king’s image as an irresponsible and weak person undergoes a total transformation, and he emerges before the audience as a tragic figure in his understanding of the worthlessness of a king stripped of power just like the King in King Lear. Historically Edward II might not have shown this kind of tragic understanding of life. It is here that one has to look for the poet in the dramatist who expressed the renaissance anxiety for the helplessness of the human beings before Time. In the context of the drama, however, the understanding of the futility of human endeavour is related to another personal fact of the king; in fact, he lost the desire to live after Gaveston’s death, who was half his self. In other words, the king is under the control of death-instinct. With this he has also lost the desire for pomp and pleasure, and what he cares for now are his sense of honour, betrayal, conspiracy and anxiety for the future of his son. His refusal to surrender the crown to the Bishop of Winchester is a symbolic overture to defy Mortimer’s authority. And this is necessary for the dramatist also in reversing the sway of sympathy of the audience in the king’s favour. At the opening of the scene, Marlowe presents Edward II in a very pathetic condition. This is evident in Leicester’s words when tries to console the king: “Be patient, good my lord, cease to lament
Imagine Killingworth castle were your court...”
Here he treats the king almost as an innocent child. The king, however, rises above the ordinary level when he expresses his understanding of the tragic situation of a king remaining in imprisonment in his own kingdom and still remaining the titular head of the kingdom. This kind of situation forces him to understand the tragedy of power or the irony of kingship: “I wear the crown, but am controlled by them
By Mortimer, and my unconstant queen...”
Though it is rather...