Piers Gaveston first appears in “Edward II” in Act 1 Scene 1 and is a major character throughout the play even after his death in Act II Scene VI. Before the beginning of the play, Gaveston was assigned by Edward I to be a companion to Prince Edward (later King Edward II) in the hope that Prince Edward would lose some of his non-masculine qualities. Once Edward I dies, however, and Edward II is crowned King of England, Gaveston is free to return to England and effectively become co-ruler. However, the nobles will not accept a man born of a lower status than them receiving a position of power above them.
The very first line of the play begins with Gaveston reading a letter from the new King Edward, “My father is deceased, come Gaveston, / And share thy kingdom with thy dearest friend” (1.1.1-2). This letter expresses the relationship between Gaveston and Edward. Now that Edward I is dead, his son has revoked the exile on Gaveston by inviting him back to England. Piers Gaveston is clearly excited at his return when he says “Ah, words that make me surfeit with delight! / What greater bliss can hap to Gaveston / Than live and be the favourite of a king?” (1.1.3-5). This is an example of dramatic irony because it is his return to England that is the cause of his death. Gaveston continues his soliloquy:
Sweet prince I come; these, these thy amorous lines
Might have enforced me to have swum from France,
And, like Leander, gasped upon the sand,
So thou wouldst smile and take me in thy arms. (1.1.6-9)
These lines show the affection and relationship between Edward and Gaveston when Gaveston proclaims that he would swim from France to England to be with his beloved. Gaveston then says, “The sight of London to my exiled eyes / Is as Elysium to a new-come soul” (1.1.10-11). In Greek mythology, Elysium was the resting place reserved for the souls of the heroic and virtuous. Gaveston says that it is not London or...