‘But what are kings, when regiment is gone,
but perfect shadows in a sunshine day?’
Act V, scene 1
King Edward recalls his lover, Gaveston, from banishment and sets in motion a chain of events that will culminate in some of the most shocking scenes in all of early modern theatre.
Threatened by the preferment shown to the ‘upstart’ Gaveston, and exasperated by Edward’s neglect of matters of state, the king’s nobles join forces with Queen Isabella and the clergy to plot the downfall of Edward’s circle of flatterers, and ultimately of the king himself.
Edward II dramatises the tragic interplay of power, ambition and sexual desire. Marlowe’s portrayal of Edward and Gaveston is a rare depiction of a gay relationship on the early modern stage, and a frank exploration of the tension between private pleasures and public duty.
On the Shoulders of Ghosts
Our second festival of the season probes the fine, if not invisible, line between the personal and the political.
On the Shoulders of Ghosts runs February – April 2019 and includes Edward II, Richard II and After Edward.