This double-sided sketchbook was created by Derek Jarman (1942‒1994), the film-maker, artist and gay rights campaigner. It contains plans for two projects that would eventually lead to Jarman’s Edward II (1991) ‒ a film inspired by Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century play about a medieval king’s love for his male favourites.
How did Jarman make this sketchbook?
When starting a new project, Jarman often used a luxurious Italian photo album as a kind of dynamic scrapbook, filming script and notebook. He usually painted over the plush leather cover in black, and then added a glamorous square of gold and a title in gold marker pen.
On one side, this book has the title ‘Sex and Violence: Sod ’em’. But at some stage Jarman flipped it over, painted ‘Edward II’ on the back cover and started filling it from the other side. The thick, expensive paper and protective interleaved sheets become a multi-layered collage of images, printed text and handwritten notes in calligraphic script, stuck one on top of the other.
‘Sex and Violence: Sod ’em’
The first part of the sketchbook, dated March 1988, contains the typescript for a screenplay first entitled ‘28’, and later called ‘Sod ’em’. These titles were inspired by Jarman’s interest in Marlowe’s portrayal of a ‘gay love affair’, but also his own experiences of life as a gay man with HIV, and his fury over Clause 28 of the Local Government Act (1988) which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality.
The screenplay is typed on pages from an old dot-matrix printer, but Jarman then transcribes and adapts them in notes written by hand. The story is set in a dystopian future – a kind of tragicomic parody of Thatcher’s late 20th-century Britain and ‘the homophobia generated by the AIDS crisis’. Jarman’s witty list of characters includes God as a ‘bearded lady’, Margaret Reaper as a ‘protofascist’ prime minister, the royal family as soap opera stars, and a group called ‘the straight and the sexist’.
The plot involves an actor named Edward who is playing the part of Marlowe’s Edward II, but is on the run from the police after ‘queer literature’ is banned. The ‘love that bears no name’ bookstore is raided for works by Marlowe and Shakespeare which are then incinerated.
On the other side of the sketchbook, Jarman makes more direct use of Marlowe’s Edward II to prepare his own film version. He pastes in photocopied pages of the play, and then adds his own notes on grey paper.
The collage of photographs was almost certainly intended to inspire ideas for film scenes. The images reflect Jarman’s trademark mix of the ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’, as set out in the two titles on the second page. There are photocopied images of Gothic vaults and castles, and statues by Caius Gabriel Cibber of Melancholia and Raving Madness (1680). But there are also photos of young men from Physique Pictorial, the first all-male nude magazine, and two versions of Paul Strand’s Young Boy (1951), one with a crown added in gold pen. There are powerful reminders that Jarman was ill when he made Edward II – the pressed lily of the valley was given to him when he was unwell, by his partner Keith Collins.
- Article by:
- Martin Wiggins
- Renaissance writers, Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage, Histories, Power, politics and religion
The complex portrayal of Edward II’s love for his male favourite Gaveston has fascinated audiences for centuries. Here Martin Wiggins discusses the play’s depiction of same-sex love, homophobia, power and tragedy.
- Article by:
- Andrew Dickson
- Renaissance writers
Andrew Dickson looks at the infamous mysteries and controversies surrounding Christopher Marlowe's life, and celebrates the ambition, daring and skill of his work.
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