This is the 1612 edition of Christopher Marlowe’s historical tragedy, The troublesome raigne and lamentable death of Edward the second. The blank verse play dramatises Edward’s turbulent reign from 1307 to 1327.
Marlowe portrays the king’s downfall as a result of his love for his favourites, Gaveston and Spencer; his neglect of his queen and earls; and the rise of Queen Isabella and her lover Mortimer. The play explores the tragic tensions between sexual passion and marriage, royal responsibility and self-fulfilment, noble privilege and raw ambition.
When was the play first performed and printed?
Though it is difficult to date precisely, the play was probably first performed around 1587–92, towards the end of Marlowe’s short life (1564–1593).
It was first printed in 1594, with a title page declaring that it had been many times ‘publiquely acted’ in London by ‘the Earle of Pembrooke his servants’ – a company of players known as Pembroke’s Men, which Shakespeare may have been part of. Only one precious copy of that first edition survives in a library in Zurich, Switzerland. A second copy was destroyed by a Second World War bomb that fell on a library in Cassel, Germany.
What is special about this edition?
The play was reprinted with only minor changes in 1598, 1612 and 1622. But in these later versions, the title page was expanded to reflect the dramatic role, not only of ‘Edward the second’ and ‘proud Mortimer’ (from the 1594 title), but also of ‘Peirs Gaveston, the great Earle of Cornewall, and mighty favorite of King Edward the second’.
In early copies like this one, there are no acts or scenes, though later editors often divide the play into five acts.