Act one of Edward II.

Essay by madboarderbenCollege, UndergraduateC+, April 2003

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From the first sentence of the first Scene of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II, three of the main themes of the play become apparent; "My Father is deceased; come Gaveston, and share the Kingdom with thy dearest friend." This is said by Gaveston on his return to England, having been banned years before by Edward I. The play's main themes are therefore; death, politics, and friendship, and out of these three themes politics is the one that is focussed upon heavily in the first Act. Marlowe does this very effectively in dramatic terms for example; by bringing out the gay theme strongly between the King and Gaveston. This of course would not have been looked upon positively by the court of Edward at this period.

Gaveston is used to emphasise not only homophobia, but also xenophobia. It is sometimes suggested that many pre-1967 productions concentrated on Gaveston's foreign origins by way of discretely avoiding his more obvious homosexuality: the barons' xenophobia is taken to be a refined alternate for their homophobia.

However, the play does make a great deal out of the fact that Gaveston is a Frenchman with outlandish tastes; for example his continental ideas and fancies such as the "Italian masques" the "Tuscan cap" and his talk of an "olive tree" all being Mediterranean in origin. Mortimer Junior's dislike of the foreigner is shown at Scene II, line 57, when he calls him a "sly inveigling Frenchman". Xenophobia and homophobia in the play are actually closely linked, and not just through the first being a substitute for the second; Gaveston is contaminating the King with his foreign influence, which means that he has therefore infiltrated the English nation. This is where it starts becoming political- when the foreigner starts to effect the way that the country is run.