What have you found of interest in Marlowe's presentation of history in Edward II?

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What have you found of interest in Marlowe’s presentation of history in Edward II?

Throughout Edward II, Marlowe uses a variety of stimulating techniques to present the drama as a history play. Marlowe manages to use the tradition of the chronicle or history play and develop it further producing an extremely compelling, unique piece of work. It is a play which on one hand shows structural affinities with the chronicle plays, in that it has a stirring plot with a rapid flow of incident and plenty of variety while on the other hand it has points of contact with tragedy in its attempts to show on stage heart-rending scenes filled with passionate utterances, deep pathos and high tragic dignity. This can be seen in Act four, scene two where the pace quickens as Marlowe deviates between countries. We see Edward receiving the news that Isabella, Mortimer, Kent and the young prince Edward are collecting an army in Hainault to attack on King Edward:

        ‘Ah villains, hath that Mortimer escaped?

        With him is Edmund gone associate?

        And will sir John of Hainault lead the round?

Marlowe therefore states historical moments, which did actually occur, but real, human, affectionate feelings are also shown from Edward, which makes the drama so much more intriguing. Also, in this scene the importance of Prince Edward continues to grow in a carefully controlled way. In the midst of Edward’s anger and warlike preparations, Marlowe now has him spare a moment to think kindly of his son, whom he describes as a ‘little boy’:

        ‘Ah, nothing grieves me but my little boy

        If thus misled to countenance their ills.’

Here, Marlowe shows the sentimental, humane feelings of Edward, human emotions we usually do not experience in history plays. In Edward II it is therefore made clear that the characters not only sustain its plot but also carry the emotional burden of the play. He has struck a balance between a plot whose events are directed by its hero and one, which develops independently of him and reacts upon him. The historical evidence is presented in a form that is dramatic and vivid in our minds therefore producing a thought-provoking, emotional drama.

        Marlowe manages to telescope time in his production as he has developed a fast-moving plot. The plot is broken up into a great many separate episodes, most of them quite short, but we can follow it as a close-knit, coherent and logical chain of cause and effect, for in all the episodes the person and character of the king are in some way involved. Marlowe uses complex staging to bring characters on and off the stage in such a way that the action keeps going with as little break as possible. This provides a great sense of pace, and contributes to the skill with which Marlowe compresses the events of twenty years into a single dynamic narrative sweep. This can be seen in Act two, scene four where time is compressed in a surreal way, as the flight, the capture, the news of the capture reaching the king, and the appearance of a messenger from Edward all occur within seconds of one another on stage. As Marlowe chooses a more extended period of action though he is compelled to congest or select the episodes so menial, uninteresting occurrences are not included. Moreover, historical dating and historical sequence he’s regarded as wholly within his control if it led to economy and coherence, above all if it led to dramatic power. The audience therefore are presented with an extremely interesting piece of drama.

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        Another striking thing about the play is that the kinds of situation which, at an earlier stage in the evolution of English drama, would have been turned into entirely static episodes or declamatory showpieces by a series of long and exaggeratedly rhetorical set speeches, here take the form of swiftly unfolding scenes of action containing a good deal of well developed dialogue. An example is Act one, scene four where the King is made to part from Gaveston:

        ‘Rend not my heart with thy two-piercing words

        Thou from this land, I from myself am banished.’

This new dramatic technique employed ...

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