Feb 6: Marlowe and the Royal Mustache

Why am I doing this again? That’s right, I don’t know. I think it’s just for the fun of a stunt. And it’s easier on my shins than running a marathon, although, after I’m done reading this except from Marlowe's “Edward II" (Vol. 47, more double-dipping), I won’t have burned off enough calories to eat 15 pancakes. Which is not to say that it won’t happen.

So we’re in act V, and it seems cheating, somehow, to look up who Edward II is, although I have a vague idea (I believe he was medieval, and a ponce). Enter Queen Isabella and Young Mortimer, who is woofing:
The proud corrupters of the light-brain’d king
Have done their homage to the lofty gallows,
And he himself lies in captivity.
Be rul’d by me, and we will rule the realm.
“Young” Mortimer? More like “Smooth” Mortimer. Isabella, by the way, is cold towards her husband; suddenly the rut of my everyday existence, which the Harvard Classics is designed to take me out of, doesn’t seem so bad. My wife’s not planning on throwing me in prison. That I know of. Then a messenger comes in with news of him and she’s all like, “Alas, poor soul, would I could ease his grief!” Arranged marriages – not all they’re cracked up to be in the popular press.

Even more so:
Q. Isab. But, Mortimer, as long as he survives,
What safety rests for us, or for my son?
Y. Mor. Speak, shall he presently be despatch’d and die?
Q. Isab. I would he were, so ’twere not by my means.
Plausible deniability! The Royal Mustache must be brought in, so she can twirl it. Marlowe is delivering the goods. He knows how to put the hay down where the goats can get at it.

In scene III we meet Edward:
Must I be vexed like the nightly bird,
Whose sight is loathsome to all winged fowls?
When will the fury of his mind assuage?
When will his heart be satisfied with blood?
If mine will serve, unbowel straight this breast,
And give my heart to Isabel and him;
It is the chiefest mark they level at.
It’s funny – it sounds like Shakespeare, because of rhythm and syntax I guess, but it’s v. plain – Shakespeare would be aiming at something that controls the whole speech (here are some ways that the king dies). But maybe that’s what makes it juicy – it’s just a straight-up messed-up Royal Family, there’s no additional Meaning-assembly (probably a word in German) required.

But then, in scene IV, Mortimer comes in with this brilliant plan:
And therefore will I do it cunningly.
This letter, written by a friend of ours,
Contains his death, yet bids them save his life. [Reads.]
“Edwardum occidere nolite timere, bonum est
Fear not to kill the king, ’tis good he die.”
But read it thus, and that’s another sense:
“Edwardum occidere nolite, timere bonum est
Kill not the king, ’tis good to fear the worst.”
Check it -- the Latin is ambiguous! Marlowe loses all the juicyness there, but I guess these college boys can’t help themselves. Nevertheless Mortimer charges his hired goon (“I learned in Naples how to poison flowers” – Naples, even then!), and basically gives a long “nothing can go wrong” speech.
And to conclude, I am Protector now.
Now is all sure: the queen and Mortimer
Shall rule the realm, the king; and none rule us.
Contemporary melodrama theory states that there must be a comeuppance. But will there be? Once again, ignorance is strength!

Now, in scene V, two different henchmen are trying to torture Edward, but good melodrama hero that he is (I suspect him of being a shithead earlier and being redeemed by suffering), he resists:
Mat. He hath a body able to endure
More than we can inflict: and therefore now
Let us assail his mind another while.
“Let us assail his mind another while” – that’s some timeless villain talk, there. And then King Edward is murdered – in a stage direction. How? I dunno! That must have been one hell of a production meeting.

then, in scene VI, upon hearing the news, Young Mortimer calls for the Royal Mustache again:
As for myself, I stand as Jove’s huge tree,
And others are but shrubs compar’d to me.
All tremble at my name, and I fear none;
Let’s see who dare impeach me for his death!
I think I heard this on a hip-hop album once. But, true to the melodrama, someone comes -- Edward III comes with a letter proving all, and then, in a rush, Mortimer is sent off to be killed, Mom (Q. Isabella) is sent to the tower, and Mortimer’s head is brought back to be lectured too. This takes about a page and a half. It’s like Marlowe had to write the last scene on deadline.

Or maybe the comeuppance of the wicked isn’t as interesting to him as when they’re living large. He wouldn't be the first writer to think so.

No comments: