To What Extent is Edward II Responsible for his Own Fate?

Topics: Edward II of England, House of Plantagenet, Kingdom of England Pages: 6 (2185 words) Published: October 8, 1999
‘Edward II plantagenet King of England,
Whose incompetence and distaste for government finally led to His deposition and murder.'

The Elizabethan drama, Christopher Marlowe's, Edward the Second is, according to Aristotle's definition of the word, a tragedy. That is to say it concerns the fall of a great man because of a mistake he has made or a flaw in his character. During this essay I will demonstrate how this definition of tragedy applies to Edward II.

Edward II was king of England, and reigned from 1307 to 1327, as a prince he had developed a close, possibly homosexual, relationship with a base commoner of very low social standing named Piers de Gaveston. The young prince's father Edward I, also known as Edward the Longshanks due to the length of his legs, disapproved of the developing relationship and had Gaveston banished from the kingdom. Partly due to this and also due to differences in personality between the two men, the relationship between father and son was relatively hostile. The young prince had little respect for his father or his father's wishes, illustrated by his act of immediately repealing of Gaveston's banishment upon his father's death,

‘My father is deceased; come, Gaveston,
And share the kingdom with thy dearest friend.'

His father spent his life expanding and defending his young son's future kingdom and in trying to educate his son in the art of war. The young prince however was totally uninterested in the art of war or in expanding or defending his kingdom, as is proved by the comments made to him when he is king,

‘Look for rebellion, look to be deposed:
Thy garrisons are beaten out of France,
And, lame and poor, lie groaning at the gates;
The wild O'Neill with swarms of Irish kerns,
Live uncontrolled within the English pale;
Unto the walls of York the Scots made road
And un-resisted, drave away rich spoils.'
‘The haughty Dane commands the narrow seas,
While in the harbour thy ride thy ships un-rigged.'

Edward completely neglects his duty as a king to look after the country before himself. There are many examples of this throughout the play and I will illustrate a few of them as I go through.

His only real interests being in the arts such as the theatre, music and other frivolity. In fact it could be said that because of this interest in the arts, he did not learn how to defend himself physically or politically. Neither did he learn how he should treat his Earls and other nobles or even his wife, and that this helped bring about his downfall, this situation is mirrored further back in history by the roman emperor Nero and I do not doubt there are yet more examples, ‘My lord, why do you thus incense your peers

That naturally would love and honour you,' –the nobles
Subsequently Gaveston returns to the kingdom and sits at Edward's right hand, he is then elevated above the earls with titles and money and the are understandably offended and angry that this is happening. The nobles demand Gaveston's banishment and threaten civil war when they are not only ignored but also tyrannised and mocked and forced to bow to a, ‘Base commoner' Edward eventually allows this banishment to be re-imposed but changes his mind at the last minute. When the Earls can take no more, a battle is fought. Edward loses and takes sanctuary in a monastery. However, he is seen and arrested, his favourites are executed and after being cruelly treated and deposed Edward is executed. Mortimer takes power as protector over Edward the third, but is then executed himself by Edward the third. Edward III then places his head on Edward the seconds coffin as a warning to all thinking of attempting a similar act of treachery.

The reasons for Edwards's downfall are complex and intricate, but I believe can be divided into three basic categories, Edwards relationship with those around him,...
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