Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 809
Marlowe's Edward II: Penetrating Language in Shakespeare's Richard II
Meredith Skura, Rice University
In an often-quoted judgement, Charles Lamb noted that Shakespeare's Richard II took hints from, but 'scarce improved' on, 'the reluctant pangs of abdicating Royalty' in Marlowe's Edward II But was Shakespeare in fact trying to 'improve' on Marlowe when he created his own 'weak king' in Richard II?1 Or was he doing something else? This paper re-examines Shakespeare's play as a more complicated response to Edward II that reveals dynamic tensions between the two playwrights. Bertolt Brecht's modern response to Marlowe in his 1922 Edward II provides a useful introductory comparison. Brecht seems to have been drawn to Marlowe's play not so much for its political as for its personal relevance, in particular for its portrayal of the doomed bond between Edward and Gaveston—the kind of bond Brecht had just written about in The Jungle. Brecht was indeed trying to improve on, or at least to outdo, Marlowe's bleak play. With a 'savage pessimism', he rewrote Marlowe to create a world where, as his Edward says, 'There is nothing in life besides the touch of men's bodies, and even that is minimal and vain.'2 What interests me about Brecht's play however is that it is not only about the difficult closeness between two men but—as adaptation, collaboration, and partly cribbed translation—it is also the product of such closeness. Edward II was the first of the collaborative ventures that were to serve Brecht so effectively as catalysts for creativity throughout his career.
On the face of it, Shakespeare's response to Marlowe seems to have been quite different from Brecht's. He was interested in the politics of Richard II, not the touch of men's bodies in Edward II; and, even politically, the difference between Shakespeare's and Marlowe's plays has always seemed far more striking than the similarity. Where Marlowe reduces politics to personal appetite and a struggle for power, Shakespeare transcends the personal, contextualizing abdication in a universe that makes moral and political sense. Where Marlowe's play is full of sex and violence, Shakespeare's is almost devoid of both. For one thing, Edward II's passion for Gaveston seems to have left no trace on Richard's relationships. Edward's favourites (and Richard's favourites in the anonymous Woodstock (c. 1592), which Shakespeare also knew), all but disappear in Richard II3 For another, Edward's extraordinary pain at losing Gaveston is paralleled only by Richard's regret that his roan Barbary now serves the new king Bolingbroke so willingly and by his abstract complaint that 'love to Richard / Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world' (5.5.65-6). As for violence, no one has found any trace of Edward's appalling murder in Richard II In fact Shakespeare, offered a choice of deaths in Holinshed, could have scripted a passive starvation or even suffocation for Richard; but instead he chose to make his king die fighting. Edward's death is devastatingly physical as the world bears in on him in the form of a burning spit thrust up his fundament; but Richard's death allows him to escape the world of bodies altogether ('Mount, mount, my soul. . . / Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward' [5.5.111-12]).
I shall argue, however, that Shakespeare was more influenced than we have realized by the erotic passion and erotic violence associated with male friendship and male rivalry in Marlowe. Both Edward's love for Gaveston and his erotically suggestive death affect the portrayal of Richard, his friends, and his (often premature) visions of death. Marlowe's love and death have been ousted from Shakespeare's plot by the more languid 'pangs' of abdication, but they return in Shakespeare's language, or rather in what Ruth Nevo has called Shakespeare's 'other language', the unconscious effects that words and verbal images create as they circulate between Marlowe and Shakespeare.4 They imply less about Richard's sexuality than about his subjectivity—less about whom he loves than about who he is—but their quiet presence is particularly important in Richard II, because it helps fill in the gaps of a plot that is so undermotivated in places that critics have had to postulate a missing 'part I' in order to understand why Richard attacks Bolingbroke at the beginning of the play, and they have had to postulate neurosis in order to understand why Richard abdicates even before Bolingbroke claims the throne at the end of the play. In what follows, I will first single out aspects of Marlowe's Edward II that were important to Shakespeare insofar as they left their mark on his other plays; and then I will suggest how such material might fill in the missing gaps of Richard II as well, even though it is supposed to have been eliminated from that play. Finally, I will suggest that Shakespeare's response to Edward II may help us understand new dimensions of dramatic collaboration on the early modern stage.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2207
Sex and violence per se have hardly been neglected in Marlowe's play. Critics no longer either discreetly ignore Edward's homosexuality or mention it only to condemn it; indeed, the erotic implications of Edward's death have become increasingly important to our understanding of the play.5 And yet I am not sure that we appreciate the range of fantasies in this play if we stop short after specifying the gender of Edward's lover or the particular orifice implicated in their coupling. One can certainly see why Edward's Queen Isabel refers to him and Gaveston bitterly as 'Jove and Ganymede' (or why the barons cite as models Hylas and Hercules, and other famous male lovers). But Edward and Gaveston also compare themselves to the heterosexual Hero and Leander, Jupiter and Danae, and Actaeon and Diana. In fact, Edward and Gaveston in this play are very different from the Jupiter and Ganymede whom Marlowe had actually staged in his earlier Dido, Queen of Carthage. The difference is important: in Dido, Jupiter and Ganymede are canny, in control—and comically unequal. The couple in this play are tragic. Edward's dotage is far more serious than Jupiter's; and even Gaveston, opportunistic as he is, loves Edward. Edward's love for Gaveston is actually like the heterosexual dotage Marlowe portrays in the rest of Dido, between Dido and Aeneas, or like the dotage he draws on for Edward II's lines6—like Margaret and Suffolk's love in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part One, or like Andrea's love for Bel-Imperia in Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. In any case, more than its classification as 'homosexual' or 'heterosexual',7 what matters in Marlowe's play is not only the actual 'object' of Edward's love but Edward's—and Marlowe's—narratives (or fantasies) about that object and about love.
Marlowe's narrative of love involves not only love but friendship—and even rivalry. It needs to be read in the context, not only of Jupiter and Ganymede or Hero and Leander, but also of the twinning that Bacon, Montaigne, and Elyot see as prerequisite for ideal friendship. (A friend is 'another Γ, Elyot writes; 'another himself, says Bacon; they 'entermixe and confound themselves one in the other', says Montaigne.)8 Gaveston, Edward says, 'loves me more than all the world' (I.4.164); but instead of simply loving back, Edward responds with an 'almost manic desire'9 to be 'another Gaveston' (I.1.142-3) and to 'knit' his soul to Gaveston.10 In addition, Edward's love is defined partly by its difference from his other relationships—to his father and the barons, and to his rival Mortimer. Edward II is not only a 'weak king' but also a bad boy, one of the Elizabethan prodigals whom Richard Helgerson saw moving out of the old school plays and into Elizabethan prose fiction, and who had leapt up onto the contemporary stage with Prince Hal in The Famous Victories.11 Like all prodigals, Edward is matched against a straight man or "'good' son" and Mortimer plays this role in Edward's story. If Gaveston is Edward's mirror, Mortimer is his reversal; if Gaveston is his twin, Mortimer is his 'rival twin'. Edward is thus defined not only by his twin, the man he wants to be, but also by his rival, the man who wants to be him and take his place.
We might see in this doubling a Girardian structure of rivalry between Edward and Mortimer, that is, a social truth about division between competitors trying to create difference between them in order to avoid the terrible truth of similarity.12 In this reading Mortimer seems to be defined by sheer difference from Edward—rational where Edward is passionate, macho where Edward is effeminate—but the two men turn out after all to be alike, two versions of egocentric wilfulness, undistinguished twins who take turns being 'good' or 'bad', but who are finally defined simply by being on opposite sides and competing for the same place. Similarly, we might see a political structure in the subsequent rivalry between Gaveston and Mortimer, whereby each calls forth one of 'the king's two bodies' in Tudor doctrine, or one side of 'the king's twin nature', as Anne Barton calls it, the vulnerable human king versus the divinely protected warrior king.13 But for the moment I want to focus on the psychological rather than the political or social repercussions of the fact that Marlowe's Edward has both a twin and rival twin, so that he himself is split into two: Gaveston's Edward and Mortimer's Edward, lover's Edward and rival's. The presence of both pairings situates Edward II among examples of what Bruce Smith calls 'the myth of combatants and comrades', which, he argues, shaped so many early modern texts.14 Read this way, Gaveston and Mortimer, twin and enemy twin, can be seen as two different faces of Edward's relationships to other men, possibly even to the one other man who counts most, Gaveston. Edward's death at Mortimer's hands, in fact, has been read as a nightmare version of Edward's love for Gaveston, in which the twin (Gaveston) is not only replaced by the enemy twin (Mortimer) but metamorphosed into a satanic version of the enemy (Mortimer's tool, Lightbourne) who promises to 'comfort' but comes to kill (5.5.2)—and whose attack transforms sodomy into rape.15 Passionate love calls forth passionate hatred; hatred, if it is strong enough, ignites a kind of love. Edward's death can be read as punishment—a homophobic society's idea of poetic justice—but it may also be an inevitable fulfilment, just as Romeo's and Juliet's deaths were. This kind of self-consuming love is death.
In this reading, what Marlowe portrays is not only a kind of sexuality but a divided subjectivity inseparable from it, one construed differently from any in Marlowe's earlier plays. Marlowe's earlier heroes, Tamburlaine, Barabas, and Faustus, were singular. Giants in a world of undifferentiated pygmies, they may have had friends, like Tamburlaine's Theridimas, though none as important as Edward's Gaveston; or they may have had rivals, like Faustus' Mephistopheles, though none with his own story like Mortimer's. But none of the earlier protagonists shared his plot with both friend and rival. It has been suggested that Marlowe learned the new balance in Edward II from Shakespeare's multiply heroed Henry VI histories; but in his play Marlowe makes the leap from mono-hero, not all the way to multitude, nor even just to doubleness, but to double doubleness. Marlowe could have found single pairs of opposing rivals elsewhere in Tudor theatre, where not only prodigal and thrifty sons but good and bad kings often acted out conflicting moral principles onstage. And he could have found single pairs of mirroring friends—perhaps even in Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. But when Marlowe gave Edward not only a rival twin but a mirroring twin, he multiplied and internalized division. He crossed moral ambiguity with emotional ambivalence and made drama a newly subtle instrument for exploring both social and psychological complexity.
This is where Shakespeare's earlier borrowing is relevant. Doubleness and twinship are precisely what's at stake in Shakespeare's very first response to Edward II Two verbal echoes of Marlowe's play had turned up before Richard II in the unlikely setting of The Comedy of Errors,16 which is close to Edward II in time (c. 1592) but seemingly in nothing else—although Marie Axton provides a connection when she argues that The Comedy of Errors was also an exploration of the theme of the king's two bodies.17 The echoes indicate still deeper affinities, however, once we read Marlowe's play as a twin play about two men who loved one another so well that Edward could say, 'I am Gaveston' and call Gaveston his brother, and once we remember that Shakespeare's play is about an identical twin separated since birth and longing to be reunited with his brother.
Marlowe shows the darker side of twinship when Edward's rival, Mortimer, steals his identity as king and husband. In Shakespeare's play, twin and rival are located in the same person, but the dark rivalry is still present. If Antipholus longs for his lost brother, he also steals that brother's identity as citizen and husband, ensuring, however inadvertently, that the ghoulish Dr. Pinch, his wife's 'minion', attacks him. As Pinch arrives to capture Antipholus, Antipholus cries out, 'What, will you murder me?' (Errors 4.4.107)—just as Edward II does when his murderer arrives in Marlowe's play. Though Harold Brooks, who pointed out this echo, did not, he could have argued for Marlowe's further influence here in the fact that what Pinch wants to do is to have Antipholus 'bound and laid in some dark room' (Errors 4.4.92), which turns out to be 'a dark and dankish vault' (Errors 5.1.246), the sort of 'room' one would find in Edward II's medieval castle rather than in Antipholus' bourgeois home. Later, in a second Marlovian echo, Antipholus gets back at Pinch by throwing 'puddled' mire on him (5.1.173), that is, by inflicting on him one of the humiliations that Edward had suffered in Marlowe's play. Shakespeare's allusion to Edward's torture, though inappropriate to describe what is really happening to Antipholus, does convey his fearful fantasy about what's happening to him. Apropos of what is frightening about twinning, it is interesting to note that Pinch not only questions Antipholus' identity by confusing him with another man but goes even further to tie him to another man, leaving
. . . me and my man, both bound together,
Till, gnawing with my teeth my bonds in sunder,
I gain'd my freedom.
For Antipholus, in other words, losing your identity and being thrown into a vault is associated with being so closely—and literally—tied to another man that you have to gnaw your way free. Once before, Antipholus had been literally tied to his servant, when both were bound as infants to the mast that floated them to safety. That earlier tie saved his life (Errors 1.1.79-82); but Shakespeare is never certain about whether it is good or bad to be so closely tied to someone that he is your 'glass' (your spatial double (Errors 5.1.417)), as Dromio calls his brother, or your 'almanac' (your temporal double (Errors 1.2.41)), as Antipholus calls Dromio.
The violent images from Marlowe's Edward II left traces elsewhere in the Shakespeare canon. An echo of Mortimer's threat to Edward crops up, for example, in Henry IV, Part One, when Hotspur rages at King Henry IV for refusing to ransom Mortimer:
He said he would not ransom Mortimer . . .
But I will find him where he lies asleep
And in his ear I'll holla "Mortimer!"
(1 Henry IV 1.3.217-20)
As Edmond Malone pointed out, Hotspur's lines echo Mortimer's rate at Edward's similar refusal to ransom Mortimer Senior in Marlowe's play:
If he [Edward] will not ransom him
I'll thunder such a peal into his ears
As never subject did unto a king.19
It might be argued that Shakespeare remembered the Marlovian lines here simply because he too was writing about 'ransoming Mortimer'.20 But perhaps it was more than Mortimer's name Shakespeare recalled from Marlowe, and Mortimer's assault specifically on Edward's ears may also have caught the playwright's attention. In any case Marlowe's villain turns up again in what is perhaps the most famous of all Shakespearian lines about ears. It appears in Hamlet, another story about brothers who were rival twins, though not actual twins.21 There, Old Hamlet's Ghost describes his own death in an attack that had first been conjured up by Mortimer's hired assassin, Lightbourne, in Edward II As the Ghost tells it, while he was sleeping in his orchard Claudius stole
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ear did pour
The leperous distilment, whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body.
In Marlowe's play, Lightbourne boasts:
Tis not the first time I have kill'd a man.
I learn'd in Naples how to poison flowers;
To strangle with a lawn thrust down the throat
Or pierce the windpipe with a needle's point;
Or whilst one is asleep, to take a quill
And blow a little powder in his ears;
Or open his mouth and pour quicksilver down.
And yet I have a braver way than these.
Here Lightbourne lists six kinds of undetectable penetration through four orifices, and tantalizes us with hints of yet a 'braver' one. Shakespeare condenses Lightbourne's last two possibilities in Claudius' similarly deadly-but-undetectable attack on Old Hamlet.
Marlowe's play is present elsewhere in Hamlet as well, in the prince's famous 'To be—or not to be' soliloquy. What calls Hamlet's thoughts back from suicide in that speech is the sudden thought of the 'undiscover'd country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns' (Hamlet 3.1.79-80), the same territory ('countries yet unknown') which Mortimer defiantly claims he is going to 'discover', just before he is hanged for killing King Edward (Edward II 2.6.24). Hamlet has little in common with Mortimer, but perhaps Shakespeare associated the two men because he associated the two versions of death by penetration, which the one revenged and the other perpetrated.
In other words, both Edward's passion for Gaveston and his death had already left traces in Shakespearian plays before Richard II and they would do so again afterwards.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 6658
It may seem nonetheless that neither Edward's passion nor his violent death by penetration has any part in Richard II Richard's trio of minions is unimportant and erotically neutral compared to Edward's Gaveston—it is hard to imagine Richard wishing to be 'another Bushy' or 'another Bagot', for example. Unlike Gaveston, these friends are just friends, although Bolingbroke nonetheless accuses them of coming between Richard and his Queen in bed.23 Yet these friends are far more important to Richard than would first appear. In fact, it is the thought of his friends' betrayal and news of their death that marks the turning point of Shakespeare's play—the moment at which Richard first collapses and gives up all hope. As Richard Harrier puts it, 'The impact of their deaths seems to penetrate Richard as no other event has as yet been able to do .. . some secret depth of the King has been sounded.'24 In his speech at this point—which Harrier calls Richard's 'real abdication'—the words Richard chooses are extremely revealing.25 To signal his defeat, Richard gives the first of Shakespeare's 'kings-are-just-peopleafter-air speeches. It is like King Henry V's claim that 'the king is but a man, as I am' (Henry V 4.1.101-2) or King Lear's recognition that he is not 'ague-proof, or even like the related claims made by outsiders like Jewish Shylock ('Hath not a Jew eyes?') or female Emilia in Othello ('And have we not affections? / Desire for sport? and frailty, as men have?' 4.3.101-2). But the specific evidence that Richard cites to prove his common humanity is unusual and none of the others cites it. While they invoke the five senses and the affections that make them human, Richard invokes as well his need for friends:
For you have but mistook me all this while.
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends—subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?
(Richard II 3.2.174-7; italics added)
The need for friends, which thus 'subjects' Richard, is precisely the need he tries to deny in a brief moment of bravado when he first comes face to face with Bolingbroke: You think that 'we are barren and bereft of friends', he says,
Yet know, my master, God omnipotent,
Is mustering in his clouds, on our behalf,
Armies of pestilence
By 'friend', Richard may simply mean an ally or supporter, as Burleigh did in the list of Edward II's friends and enemies that he drew up at about the same time Shakespeare was writing Richard II But 'friend' was a many-faceted word, and so was the relation it designated: Jonson used it to refer to men he cared about deeply, and Marlowe used it to refer to Gaveston. I think that Richard's newly recognized need for friends is personal as well as political. He cannot think of himself as a king unless, unlike Henry V banishing Falstaff, he needs no friends—or unless he has friends who will never leave him needy, who love him more than all the world, as if they were another Richard. I don't want to claim that Richard's friends are his doubles, as Gaveston was for Edward. But like Gaveston they do serve as Richard's flattering mirror; and their subterranean role in his life may give yet another meaning to the literal mirror that intrudes into Richard's abdication scene. There, bereft of all friends, Richard has to call for a mirror to see 'what a face I have / Since it is bankrupt of his majesty' (4.1.266-7). And when it reflects his face unchanged, he thinks immediately of those false friends:
O flatt'ring glass,
Like to my followers in prosperity,
Thou dost beguile me.
(Richard II 4.1.279-81; italics added)
Here Richard, like the poet in Shakespeare's Sonnet 62, compares the mirror's literal reflection of his face to the very different 'self he had seen reflected in the glass of his friend's face.26 When he shatters the mirror27 he shatters the fantasy of perfect friendship as well as shattering the image of himself. Richard's famous echo of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus in this speech—with himself playing Helen's face as well as Faustus asking, 'Was this the face . .?'—bears out the importance of male devotion to Richard's sense of himself. 'Was this face the face', he asks, 'That every day under his household roof / Did keep ten thousand men?' (4.1.281-3).28 If Helen's face could send forth a thousand men, Richard's had power to keep ten times that number with him.29 Finally, in a last reversal of his feeling about friends, when Richard does begin to accept his defeat, he sweetens it by embracing it as a 'sworn brother'; 'The truth of what we are shows us but this', he tells the Queen,
. . . I am sworn brother, sweet,
To grim Necessity, and he and I
Will keep a league till death. Hie thee to France
And cloister thee in some religious house.
This is the truth of 'what we are': Richard banishes the Queen to a solitary cloister, but he imagines his own death as a transcendent brotherhood.
Marlowe's Edward is not only passionate about his friend and sworn brother Gaveston but is also engaged in a passionate as well as political rivalry with Mortimer for Queen Isabel. By contrast there seems to be no overt sexual rivalry in Shakespeare's plot; Bolingbroke is simply Richard's political enemy. Nonetheless, a more personal rivalry is suggested when we hear, for example, that one way in which Richard has alienated Bolingbroke was by preventing Bolingbroke's French marriage (Richard II 2.1.167-8), or that Richard resents Bolingbroke for having made a divorce between Richard and his queen (Richard II 5.1.72-3).30 More strikingly, the England for which the two men compete is herself a woman, 'a teeming womb of royal kings' (Richard II 2.1.51),31 whom both men image as their own with a passion that has helped make this play seem so much more universal and profoundly patriotic than Marlowe's. In one sense they fight over the Queen as well, insofar as she figures England when she appears in a real, if allegorical, bit of England's green garden, strangely prescient about 'some unborn sorrow ripe in Fortune's womb' (2.2.10). Assimilating the womb to herself, she calls Greene 'the midwife to my woe', herself 'a gasping new-deliver'd mother', and Bolingbroke 'my sorrow's dismal heir' (2.2.62, 65). Not only has England's 'teeming womb of royal kings' produced Bolingbroke as well as Richard, but the human Queen too has Bolingbroke in her womb. In the Queen's prophecy, Bolingbroke and Richard are not only cousins but rival twins, as Murray Schwartz calls them,32 two brothers fighting for space in the same womb.33 John Barton's famous production of the play emphasized this twinning between Richard and Bolingbroke by having Richard Pasco and Ian Richardson alternating as Richard and Bolingbroke—and by having Richard stare through the empty frame of his shattered mirror at Bolingbroke's face.34 But any production reveals the similarity between Richard's and Bolingbroke's will to power and shows each to be similarly possessive of the motherland each sees as his birthright.
Richard's opening attack on Bolingbroke also suggests a more passionately personal rivalry between these enemies than he admits. It becomes clear, for example, that something else is going on besides judicial process or even power politics in the 'chivalrous design of knightly trial' (I.1.81) that Richard stages in the opening scenes of the play. That 'something else' emerges as soon as the trial is over, when Richard, alone with Aumerle, for the first time drops his royal mask. With a 'threatening sneer', as Peter Ure calls it, he tells Aumerle what he really intended by banishing his kinsman Bolingbroke:
He is our cousin, cousin, but 'tis doubt,
When time shall call him home from banishment,
Whether our kinsman come to see his friends.
Editors disagree about what Richard is referring to in the line about 'friends'. No 'friends' have been mentioned before, nor any merely personal antipathy to Bolingbroke. But I think we may hear in Richard's lines a whisper of Iago's malignity in the opening scene of Othello, when he hints to Roderigo about his plan to ruin both Othello's marriage and Othello's new alliance with Cassio. In any case, only now do we begin to suspect that getting rid of Bolingbroke may have been Richard's 'darker purpose' in staging the tournament in the first place. Then, within a few lines, Richard goes on to sneer at Bolingbroke's courtship of 'an oyster wench' and the common people, 'as were our England in reversion his' (I.4.35),35 and his motives become still clearer: Richard is not just worried that Bolingbroke wants to steal the crown; he is afraid that the English want him to do so. He is jealous of Bolingbroke's popularity, of his 'friends', perhaps of his father, Gaunt, who would rather have Bolingbroke in England than support Richard by banishing him.
Not only is Richard jealous of what others feel about Bolingbroke; he may feel it himself. Deborah Warner's recent production made more, perhaps, of the erotic tie between Richard and Bolingbroke than the text does,36 but some of Richard's lines suggest a masochistic attraction between them. Especially after his defeat, Richard sounds at times as if he were embracing Bolingbroke like his sworn brother Necessity—as if Bolingbroke's triumph over Richard was as erotically tinged as Lightbourne's triumph over Edward in Marlowe's play. At the end of the play, for example, in an exchange paralleling his earlier remarks to Aumerle about Bolingbroke's banishment, Richard tells his one loyal groom what he feels about Bolingbroke's return. When the Groom talks about Richard's fickle roan Barbary, whose back Bolingbroke had so easily usurped at the coronation, Richard makes the horse into a symbol of fickle England. Then he bitterly interrupts himself midsimile to unfold a more personal and erotic metaphor. The horse, he realizes, 'Wast born to bear', but
I was not made a horse,
And yet I bear a burthen like an ass,
Spurr'd, gall'd, and tir'd by jauncing Bolingbroke.
Shakespeare usually associates horses with heterosexual dominance—Petruchio taming Kate ('Women are made to bear and so are you' (2.1.200)), Iago telling Brabantio that his daughter is 'cover'd with a Barbary horse' (I.1.11), or even Cleopatra's longing ('O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony' (I.5.21)). But Edward II's fate in Marlowe's play may help explain where Richard found this equine image of male humiliation and sexual submission (it is not in Holinshed). Edward had had to bear the real burden of Lightbourne smothering him, and he was spitted rather than being merely 'spurr'd, gall'd, and jaded';37 but the resemblance is there.
The groom who brings Richard news about the roan Barbary, the one loyal follower left, may also derive partly from Marlowe's play. Holinshed and Daniel had briefly mentioned a loyal Gascoigne, Jenicho, who wore Richard's badge (the symbolic 'hart') long after other men had defected; but that Jenicho had come and gone much earlier in the story. Shakespeare makes his version of Jenicho more important by sending him to Richard just before he dies—just at the point when Marlowe had sent Lightbourne to Edward. In other words, Shakespeare uses the true friend, Jenicho, who comes 'to look upon my sometime royal master's face' (5.5.75), to counter Marlowe's false friend, Lightbourne, who comes to spur, gall, and jade for real.
I think that Shakespeare may have recalled Edward's death even earlier than in Richard's speech about his roan Barbary, as early in fact as when Richard's friends first betray him. Consider the famous speech where Richard fantasizes about his own death by a different sort of penetration:
. . . for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and, humour'd thus,
Comes at the last, and with a Utile pin,
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
(Richard II 3.2.160-70; italics added)
To be sure, Edward's death is not the primary source for this fantasy.38 There were many visual and verbal emblems of Death lurking behind a king, or behind a lady looking into her glass, which could have served as models. Here, too, Death makes the foolish king think he can kill with looks before he discovers that death is not only already inside him—the skull beneath the skin—but outside too, looking on contemptuously, waiting to kill him when he is least ready. But M. M. Mahood suggests also a dramatic source for this speech, in the morality plays when Death enters with his dart and taunts the king before finally striking.39 It was Marlowe who had probably provided Shakespeare with the most recent version of a morality play Death, when Lightbourne came to kill the king in Edward II.40 Though Lightbourne had a spit rather than Death's dart, what Richard imagines Death doing in Shakespeare's play is exactly what Edward saw Lightbourne doing in Marlowe's play: teasingly promising comfort but really waiting 'to kill with looks': 'These looks of thine can harbour naught but death; / I see my murder written in thy brows', says Edward (Edward II 5.5.72-3).
It may seem a long way from Lightbourne's spit to Richard's little pin. Today we think of a pin as a trivial thing, and Shakespeare usually did too, as in Queen Isabel's offer in Richard II to change 'My wretchedness unto a row of pins' (Richard II 3.4.26). In fact, Richard's pin may seem more like Lightbourne's insidious 'needle's point' to pierce a windpipe than like Lightbourne's spit. But Richard's pin is not so trivial as he teasingly encourages us to think. For in one line the 'little' pin changes into something much more formidable when it 'bores through [the king's] castle wall'. The 'castle wall' refers literally to what Richard has just called 'this flesh which walls about our life' (3.2.167), and what Bolingbroke in a similarly depressed moment had called 'this frail sepulchre of our flesh' (I.3.196). But the figuration of body as castle wall also evokes the solid mortar or timber of real castle walls, through which no little pin could bore. This little pin in other words is not only an inconsequential sewing implement but also a hefty 'pynne auger' or ax (OED 5), a carpenter's tool as listed in Warwickshire inventories.41 When Death 'bores through' the castle wall, therefore, he is not merely sticking a pin into it—as, for example, Supervacuo threatens to do when he tells his ambitious brother, 'here is a pin / Should quickly prick your bladder' (Revenger's Tragedy 3.1.14-15).42 Instead, Death is drilling the pin or screwing it in.
Is there any evidence in Shakespeare's play that the sexual implications of Death's 'pin' are being activated here as were the implications of Lightbourne's spit? That, as Venus puts it when the bore's tusk gores Adonis in Shakespeare's poem, 'death's ebon dart' has been mistook for 'love's golden arrow'? (Venus and Adonis lines 931-3). Elsewhere on the early modern stage the pin offers many possibilities for sexual innuendo. Autolycus knows this in The Winter's Tale when he offers the country lovers 'pins and poking sticks' for sale, hawking them with a song that has 'dildo' for its burthen. Marston knows it when he refers to the 'itch allaying pin'.43 But the pin in this play is more than a fleeting anatomical metaphor, because it joins a network of potentially erotic penetrations—of bodies, castles, and country—all of which converge to convey the fragility of Richard's world.
In the play's opening scene, for example, when Bolingbroke attacks Mowbray verbally, and again at the lists, the language transforms verbal gestures into physical penetrations:
BOLINGBROKE With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat.
MOWBRAY [I return] These terms of treason doubled down his throat
Now swallow down that lie
Far from eroticizing it, Richard has an almost phobic response to such offered violence, which he repeatedly invites only to frustrate. Bolingbroke accuses Mowbray of sluicing out Gloucester's 'innocent soul through streams of blood' (Richard II 1.1.103); but Richard avoids such violence at all costs. Instead, he wants to do the impossible, to kill the spirit but not the body:44
Let's purge this choler without letting blood—
This we prescribe though no physician:
Deep malice makes too deep incision . . .
Our doctors say this is no month to bleed.
(Richard II 1.1.153-7)
Later in the play the Gardeners' words will recall Richard's fatal refusal to 'let blood', when they describe Richard's bad government in similar terms, as a refusal to 'trim . . . and dress .. . his land' as they do their garden:
. . . We at time of year
Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit-trees,
Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,
With too much riches it confound itself.
Of course, as Freud said famously of cigars, sometimes an incision is just an incision; but with such repugnance for incisions and wounds, such a need for wholeness, such inability to see that any good can come from violation of the walled self either in battling or in breeding, no wonder Richard images himself as a besieged castle, like the female Virtues in The Castle of Perseverance, or like a heroine in medieval romance.
Richard's death fantasy is realized, in a fashion, at Flint Castle, to which he withdraws in defeat after his death soliloquy. When Bolingbroke marches on Flint and hears that 'The castle royally is mann'd' by Richard against his entrance, he corporalizes the castle (and perhaps also unmans or 'womans' it) and makes it into a displacement of the fearful body hiding inside. Demanding entrance, Bolingbroke tells Northumberland to
Go to the rude ribs of that ancient castle,
Through brazen trumpet send the breath of parle
Into his ruin'd ears.
(Richard II 3.3.31-4)45
The ears here are important, but a lower orifice is suggested when Richard is forced to let Bolingbroke into his 'base court'.
Richard's actual death takes place in Pomfret castle, which is also—though only for a moment—corporealized. In Pomfret's prison Richard finds himself alone as the Duchess of Gloucester had been earlier, when she withdrew desolate to die in her home, Plashy, with its 'unpeopled offices, untrodden stones' (I.2.69). It is a measure of Richard's growth by this point that not only does he try, unlike the Duchess, to 'people' his prison with his thoughts (5.5.9); he even imagines tearing a passage out through Pomfret's 'flinty ribs' (5.5.20), as he would never have imagined doing when Bolingbroke marched on Flint Castle's 'rude ribs' earlier.46
The besieged castles associated with Richard are part of a larger pattern in which England too is besieged. At the imagistic centre of the play is Gaunt's emotional figuration of England walled in by the sea,47 a 'fortress built by Nature for herself, a 'blessed plot' which is now threatened by both internal and external violation: internal because leased out to tenants and overrun with 'caterpillars', and external because invaded by the Irish from the north and by Bolingbroke from the south. Whether coded male or female or both or neither, these multiple images of enclosures ruptured create a sense not only of England and her castles but also of the human subject as a besieged structure, bounded but always vulnerable to eruptions from inside as well as to penetration from without. And sometimes, disturbingly, it is hard to tell the difference—as with Bolingbroke himself, who both invades from the outside, from France, and from the inside, from the Queen's womb; or, even more insidious, as with Richard's flattering friends who are so close, Gaunt says, they 'sit within thy crown' (2.1.100). Or with Death, whom Richard imagines both inside the hollow crown that rounds the temples of a mortal king, and outside, waiting to bore through with his pin.
Finally, the Marlovian reverberations of Death's pin recall Edward's death not only in Richard's death fantasies but perhaps also in Richard's strikingly odd reference to love in prison just before his loyal Groom arrives: 'love to Richard,' he says meditatively, 'is a strange brooch in this all-hating world' (Richard II 5.5.65-6). Richard may simply mean here that love is a strange 'breach' or 'break' in the normally loveless routine of things.48 But most editors think Richard means that love is a rich 'brooch' or jewel worn usually in one's hat.49 As such, the brooch is an appropriate emblem for the only remnant Richard has left of Gaunt's England, that 'precious stone set in the silver sea' (Richard II 2.1.46), the only equivalent he has ever had to the 'jewels', or friends, whom Bolingbroke had grieved to leave behind when he was banished (I.3.267, 270). But there is more to Richard's brooch. A brooch can also be a 'badge' of livery, like Richard's badge which the loyal Jenicho kept wearing in Holinshed and which Richard's loyal Groom perhaps wore as well. And, I would add, by mentioning love as 'a strange brooch' Shakespeare may have been thinking of the brooches that were commonly offered as lovegifts, like the brooch Ganymede demands from Jupiter instead of Juno's wedding necklace in Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage:
I would have a jewel for mine ear,
And a fine brooch to put in my hat, [he says]
And then I'll hug with you a hundred times.
Marlowe's Edward, you remember, having showered jewels on Gaveston, offers Lightbourne a jewel (though not a brooch) to save his life—the very jewel that Isabel had sent to him in prison. And finally, if I may speculate on one last implication of Richard's metaphor, a brooch was of course fastened with a pin. For Richard, in other words, Death comes with a little pin and bores through your skull, but love is a strange brooch pinned in your hat.
Ultimately, in Richard II the violation of a safely bounded subject, along with the broken mirror, the broken ceremony, and the broken word are all made more significant by being associated with the mythic fall of Edward Ill's demi-paradise. They transcend the merely physical violation in Marlowe's play. But my point in the comparison with Marlowe is that they could not be so powerful if they did not also reproduce the sheer physicality of Edward's relation to Gaveston and its violation at the end of Marlowe's play.
The Marlovian echoes suggest that Richard II, otherwise so focused on kingship and on the relation between providence and politics, language and power, is also about the lesser concerns that Shakespeare—unlike Marlowe—is supposed to have ignored. It is also about bodies and emotions, about needing friends, about friends turning into enemies, and about the darker pleasures of enmity. This is not the whole truth about Richard II, by any means; but, like the offstage murder of Gloucester, we need to know about it in order to understand the rest.
I think, however, that the Marlovian echoes—and the fact that they are so muffled—tell us not so much about the play as about Shakespeare and the way he saw his rival, Marlowe. We already know that Marlowe was Shakespeare's 'provocative agent', in an exchange that was sometimes combative and sometimes comradely.50 But I think we still have much to learn about a working relationship so close that Forker sees it 'approaching symbiosis' (20), particularly if we examine it in the context of Edward II, which is a story about symbiosis.51 Such an examination can cast light not only on these two plays but also on the widespread process of dramatic collaboration on the early modern stage, and on the meanings, unconscious as well as conscious, that collaboration may have had for writers.
In other words, perhaps Shakespeare, like Brecht, chose Marlowe's Edward II as a model for his Richard not only to 'improve on' its portrayal of Edward and the pangs of abdication but also to rework its portrayal of Edward and Gaveston. Brecht's overt 'collaboration' with Marlowe foregrounds Edward's friendship with Gaveston. Shakespeare's 'original' play erases Richard's friendships from Richard II, perhaps as part of an effort to erase Marlowe. If so, it is interesting that Marlowe's presence remains strong in Shakespeare's play.52 Richard's death may seem nothing like Edward's—'Mount, mount, my soul . . . / Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward' (5.5.111-12); but his last words recall Faustus' unsuccessful dying effort to 'leap up to my God', before he asks, despairing, 'Who pulls me down?' and cries out in 'erotic self-surrender and horrified revulsion' as he yields to the embrace of his demon lover: 'Ah, Mephistopheles.'53 Shakespeare's Richard seems to leave behind the erotic violence in Edward's love for Gaveston or Edward's death, but he may have simply sublimated it instead.54
1 On Lamb and critical discussion since Lamb, see Charles Forker's introduction to Edward the Second: The Revel Plays (Manchester and New York, Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 36-41; on Michael Manheim, 'The Weak King Dilemma in Plays of the 1590s', Renaissance Drama, n.s. 2 (1969), 71-80.
2 Savage pessimism' is Richard Beckley's phrase, in 'Adaptation as a Feature of Brecht's Dramatic Technique', German Life and Letters, n.s. 15 (1962), pp. 274-84, 277. On the play's political implications and its place in Brecht's political career, see John Willett and Ralph Manheim, eds., introduction to Bertolt Brecht Collected Plays (London, Methuen, 1970), pp. xii-xiii; and John Fuegi, The Essential Brecht (Los Angeles, Hennessy and Ingalls, 1972), pp. 26ff. On the importance of Edward and Gaveston's relationship to Brecht, see Louise J. Laboulle, 'A Note on Bertolt Brecht's Adaptation of Marlowe's Edward II', Modern Language Review, 54 (1959), pp. 214-20; and Eric Bentley, introduction to The Works of Bertolt Brecht (New York, Grove Press, 1966), p. vii and passim.
3 Glynne Wickham, 'Shakespeare's King Richard II and Marlowe's King Edward II', in Shakespeare's Dramatic Heritage: Critical Studies in Medieval, Tudor, and Shakespearean Drama (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969). Quotations from Richard II and other Shakespeare plays which follow are from the Arden editions.
4 Ruth Nevo, Shakespeare's Other Language (New York, Methuen, 1987).
5 In the 1970s critics talked about gender identity in the play; recent discussion is more often devoted to sexual orientation and object choice in the play, and to early modern attitudes toward same-sex love. For discussion of gender identity in the play, see, e.g., Barbara J. Bains, 'Sexual Polarity in the Plays of Christopher Marlowe', Ball State University Forum, 23 (1982), 317; and Sara Munson Deats, 'Edward II; A Study of Androgyny', Ball State University Forum, 22 (1981), 30-41; for discussion of sexual orientation, see, e.g., Purvis Boyette, 'Wanton Humor and Wanton Poets: Homosexuality in Marlowe's Edward II', TSE, 12 (1977), 33-50; and Wickham, 'Shakespeare's King Richard'.
6 Forker, 34. Shakespeare may have drawn on Marlowe's portrayal of Edward and Gaveston, reappropriating them for heterosexuality in Richard II (for Richard and Isabel) and in Antony and Cleopatra. Jonathan Goldberg argues strongly against reducing homosexuality to a form of or substitute for heterosexuality (Sodometries. Renaissance Texts and Renaissance Sexualities (Stanford, Calif., 1992), p. 121). But the echoes across the gap between the two playwrights—and the two orientations—are certainly there.
7 Or 'presexual', like love between parent and child. Shakespeare, for example, may have heard Edward's lament for Gaveston as parental; it later provided him with a voice for two famous bereaved parents—for Constance in Shakespeare's King John, when her son Arthur dies, and for Lear in King Lear when he loses Cordelia. Edward: 'I shall never see / My lovely Pierce, my Gaveston again.' Constance: 'Never, never / Must I behold my pretty Arthur more.' Lear's familiar words hardly need quoting: 'Never, never, never, never, never.'
8 Sir Thomas Elyot, Boke Named the Governour (1531), 'Amity or Friendship', ed. Croft (London, 1880), p. 119. (Elyot goes on to tell about 'Titus and Gisippius', who were 'one in form in personage', as well as in affection, will, and appetites, and had 'so confederated themselves, that it seemed none other, when their names were declared, but that they had only changed their places, issuing (as I might say) out of the one body, and entering in to the other' (134). Bacon, Essays (1857), p. 265; Montaigne, tr. Florio, vol 1, p. 202.)
9 Josie Slaughter Shumake, The Sources of Marlowe's Edward II (Ph.D. diss., University of South Carolina, 1984), p. cxiii.
10 Edward's tragedy, in fact, is that he found himself not by being King but by being Gaveston. David H. Thurn speaks of the couple's imaginary 'unity, identity and totality in a structure of reflection', 'Sovereignty, Disorder, and Fetishism in Marlowe's Edward II', Renaissance Drama, 21 (1990), 115-41. Claude J. Summers says that Gaveston is 'a mirror in which the king sees reflected his own possibilities of selfhood', and identifies a pattern of sight imagery associated with mirroring in the play ('Sex, Politics, and Self-Realization in Edward II', in A Poet and a Filthy Play-Maker ': New Essays on Christopher Marlowe (New York, 1988), p. 233). Forker expands this argument with telling details from the text, observing for example that Edward defines his existence in terms of attachments ('take my heart in rescue of my friends' (4.7.66-7)).
11 Edward's youth in Holinshed actually has much in common with Hal's. Both are wanton, self-indulgent, and misled by minions as well as harlots; both were warned by venerable fathers about their companions. The difference is that Edward never reforms.
12 On Girard's 'mimetic desire', see his Violence and the Sacred (1977). See also Joel Fineman's Girardian reading of Shakespeare, 'Fratricide and Cuckoldry: Shakespeare's Doubles', in Representing Shakespeare: New Psychoanalytic Essays, ed. Murray M. Schwartz and Coppélla Kahn (Baltimore and London, 1980), pp. 70-109.
13 Ernst Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies (1957); Anne Barton, 'The King Disguised: Shakespeare's Henry V and the Comical History' (1975), in Essays, Mainly Shakespearean (Cambridge, 1994), p. 220.
14 Bruce R. Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England (Chicago and London, 1991).
15 The merging of sexuality and aggression in Edward's murder is paralleled by a similar mix in Gaveston's response to Edward's love: 'I think myself as great / As Caesar riding in the Roman street / With captive kings at his triumphant car' (I.1.171-3). Here 'Tamburlaine's sadism returns as love', says Schumake (cxxii).
16 Harold F. Brooks, 'Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare', in Christopher Marlowe, ed. Brian Morris (New York, Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 178-9.
17 Marie Axton, The Queen's Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession (London, Royal Historical Society, 1977), pp. 101-2.
18 Cf. Kent's view of adulterers as rats that 'bite the holy cords a-twain / Which are t'intrise t'unloose' (2.2.75).
19 Richard S. M. Hirsch points out a second Marlovian echo just a few lines later in the same scene of Henry IV, taken from the same scene in Edward II This time it is a nasty wish on Edward's part toward his enemies:
EDWARD II Would Lancaster and he had both carous'd
A bowl of poison to each other's health.
(Ed II 1.3.230-3)
Hotspur takes up the wish for his own enemy twin, Hal: 'I would have poison'd him with a pot of ale' (7 Henry IV 1.3.233). ('A Second Echo of Edward II in I.iii of 'I Henry Four', N&Q, 22 (1975), 168.)
20 Although he had to confuse his Mortimers before the threat could make any sense in the context of Henry IV and Hotspur.
21 Fineman describes them in these terms in 'Fratricide'.
22 William Dinsmore Briggs, Marlowe's Edward II (1914), p. 194; John Bakeless, The Tragical History of Christopher Marlowe (Cambridge, Mass., 1942), pp. 11, 209.
23 Some editors dismiss Bolingbroke's accusation as a thoughtless carry-over from Edward II—the archetypical 'mere verbal echo'; others take it as evidence for a sexual relation between Richard and his flatterers. Forker sees it as Bolingbroke's Machiavellian invention to help justify his murder of the flatterers (38-9).
24 Harrier, 'Ceremony and Politics in Richard II', Shakespeare: Text, Language, Criticism; Essays in Honor of Marvin Spevack, ed. Bernhard Fabien and Kurt Tetzeli von Rosador (Hildesheim, Zurich, and New York, Olms-Widman, 1987), pp. 80-97.
25 Richard has three soliloquies of defeat: here when he returns from Ireland to deal with the rebels, then during the official abdication at Flint, and finally in prison in the tower.
26 But when my glass shows me myself indeed
Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read . . .
Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.
(Son. 62, 9-11, 13-14)
27 At the equivalent moment in Marlowe's play, Edward tears up Mortimer's written name. Edward, that is, attacks his enemy and holds on to his faith in his friends. Richard is more cynical.
28 Ure notes that Richard's speech probably echoes Holinshed's account of Richard's 'noble housekeeping' ('For there resorted dailie to his court above ten thousand persons that had meat and drink there allowed them' (508/1/8)). But this rational connection is supplemented by the Faustus echo, which suggests that the tie between Richard and the men he kept was also like the erotic tie between Helen and the men she 'launched'. The allusion to Helen may also lead back indirectly to Marlowe's Gaveston, who, as Forker reminds us, was called a 'Greekish strumpet' (39).
29 What has not been noticed is that Richard may already have put himself into a well-known woman's position even earlier in the mirror scene, when he offers to 'submit' to Bolingbroke:
I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage;
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown;
My figured goblets for a dish of wood;
My sceptre for a palmer's walking staff;
My subjects for a pair of carved saints.
In the old King heir play Cordelia meets the Gallican king disguised as a Palmer and offers to give up her royal estate to marry him:
My mind is low ynough to love a Palmer,
Rather then any King upon the earth . . .
Ile hold thy Palmers staffe within my hand,
And think it is the Scepter of a Queene.
Sometime Ile set thy Bonnet on my head,
And thinke I weare a riche imperiali Crowne,
Sometime Ile help thee in thy holy prayers,
And thinke I am with thee in Paradise.
There is something of Cordella in Richard's perversely loving submission to Bolingbroke.
30 Wangh, 'A Psychoanalytic Commentary on Shakespeare's The Tragedie of Richard the Second', Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 37 (1968), 212-38.
31 Murray Schwartz, 'Anger, Wounds, and the Forms of Theater in King Richard II: Notes for a Psychoanalytic Interpretation', Assays, 2 (1982), 115-29.
32 Schwartz, 'Anger, Wounds', 120. Richard's entire struggle with Bolingbroke is framed by Bolingbroke's two references to the rival brothers Cain and Abel, in connection first with Richard's murder of Gloucester and then with Bolingbroke's murder of Richard (I.1.104; 5.6.43).
33 As did the unborn twins in Plautus' Amphytruo, one of Shakespeare's sources for The Comedy of Errors. Wayne Koestenbaum's Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary Collaboration (New York and London, 1989, p. 11) notes images of a shared womb among twentieth-century collaborators, and cites as an example Dead Ringers, the film about twin gynaeco logists sharing the single womb of a patient-lover who thinks there is only one of them.
34 See Miriam Gilbert's review essay, 'Richard II at Stratford: Role-Playing as Metaphor', in Shakespeare: The Theatrical Dimension, ed. Philip C. McGuire and David A. Samuelson (New York, 1979), pp. 85-102.
35 Perhaps Richard here is recalling Bolingbroke's parting dig, when banished, with his pious but quietly overweening farewell: 'Then, England's ground, farewell; sweet soil, adieu, / My mother and my nurse that bears me yet' (I.3.306-7).
36 See, e.g., Alan Riding's review, 'A Female Richard II Captivates the French', New York Times, 27 January 1996.
37 Perhaps Shakespeare was also recalling some scabrous horseplay in the morality plays when the devil carried the Vice off to hell on his back. 'Now here's a courteous devil, that for to pleasure his friend, will not stick to make a jade of himself, as Miles says of a similar devil come to take him away (Friar Bacon 15.53-5).
38 Nineteenth-century commenters identified the origins of this passage in 'the spirit of the numerous medieval paintings and designs on the subject of death'. Matthew W. Black, note to line 3.2.163-73, The Life and Death of King Richard the Second, New Variorum Edition, ed. Matthew W. Black (Philadelphia and London, 1955).
39 M. M. Mahood, Shakespeare's Wordplay (London: Methuen, 1957), p. 85.
40 See David Bevington, From Mankind to Marlowe, on Edward II's morality play structure.
41 Hilda Hulme, Explorations in Shakespeare's Language. It was powerful but small. Cf. Coriolanus downplaying his wound as something that could fit into an 'auger's bore' (Cor. 4.6.87). Janet Adelman suggests that Richard's attitude toward death's pin in fact depends on its ambiguous size—on the way in which a seemingly little thing can be strong enough to do such damage.
42 Black compares Shakespeare's 'little pin' with the possibly derivative lines in The Faithful Friends (1620), which return the pin to its traditional role by likening 'the King's intrancet' to 'a bag / Blown with the breath of greatness', so that 'a little pin / Prick but the windy outside, down falls all / And leaves naught but emptiness' (2542-8).
43 Frankie Rubinstein cites several instances of sexually charged pins in A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance (London and Basingstoke, 1984, p. 194), and there are others. See, e.g., Heywood's 4 P's for jokes about a wife's pincushion, wide pincase, and so on.
44 Like Brutus trying to deal with his love/hate relationship to his rival Caesar.
45 When he first returned to England from Ireland, Richard had imagined himself the attacker ferreting out a hidden Bolingbroke, as does the sun 'dart[ing] his light through every guilty hole' (Richard II3.2A3)', but the roles are now reversed.
46 If Bolingbroke and Richard corporealize castles, Isabel performs the reverse transformation when she architecturalizes her body by speaking of it as a house for a 'guest of grief (Richard II 2.2.7) instead of 'so sweet a guest / As my sweet Richard' (8-9); and later of Richard's body as a 'beauteous inn' where grief is lodged, while triumph is become an 'ale-house' guest, in the vulgar house of Bolingbroke (5.1.13-15). Richard similarly describes himself as a container for grief ('an unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortur'd soul' (4.1.295)); and the Duchess of Gloucester reduces Edward II's sons to seven fragile 'vials of his sacred blood' (Richard II 1.2.12)—one of which Richard broke, and another of which will be broken when 'Richard's sacred blood is spilt' at the end.
47 The ideal of an England bound in by walls was not just Shakespeare's; it appears as one of the magical achievements sought—unwisely—in both Marlowe's Dr Faustus ('I'll have them wall all Germany with walls of brass' (B Text, 1.1.88)), and Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (ii. 30).
48 Cf. Black, note to 5.4.67; Ure, note to 5.5.66.
49 A dandyish affectation gone out of style by the time Shakespeare mocked it in All's Well That Ends Well
50 Nicholas Brooke, 'Marlowe as Provocative Agent in Shakespeare's Early Plays', Shakespeare Survey 14 (1961), pp. 34-44; Brooks, 'Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare'; Muriel Bradbrook, 'Shakespeare's Recollections of Marlowe', Shakespeare's Styles, ed. Philip Edwards, Inga-Stina Ewbank, and G. K. Hunter (Cambridge, 1980); Marjorie Garber, 'Marlovian Vision/Shakespearean Revision', Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 22 (1979), 3-10; James Shapiro, Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Jonson, Shakespeare (New York, 1991), pp. 75-132.
51 And in the context of Richard II, which seems in so many ways to be a bridge for Shakespeare between older Marlovian and newer styles of language, of rhetoric, and of dramaturgy.
52 It has been pointed out that besides Edward II, Tamburlaine is echoed (and mocked) in 1.1 and 1.3; and that Doctor Faustus is quoted in Richard's abdication speech.
53 Wilbur Sanders, The Dramatist and the Received Idea. Studies in the Plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare (Cambridge, 1968), p. 242.
54 This essay has benefitted from the comments of Alan Grob, Janet Adelman, and James Lake, each of whom read and responded to early drafts, as well as from questions posed by members of the psychoanalytic seminar at the Shakespeare Association of America (1996) and by audience respondents at the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford (1996).
Source: "Marlowe's Edward II: Penetrating Language in Shakespeare's Richard II" in Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production, Vol. 50, 1997, pp. 41-55.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support