King Edward II had a favourite, Piers Gaveston, on whom he doted and gave generous wealth and titles. There is a vast body of literature examining this terribly intimate relationship, one which inspired outrage and bloodlust amongst England’s elites in an era entirely different to our own. Marlowe’s tragedy also examines this incomplete yet fascinating history, of a king and his disastrous love.
I am a prisoner to his appetites,
My appetite in him. See, by some whim
Music and artistry are his delights,
Lascivious shows, theatric fantasies.
And so I, sleeping, tremble more for them:
What’s worse, my trembling, waking miseries.
By day, see how he tortures me in jests;
By nights, feel how he crowns me in gold fire.
My Gaveston I would anoint in lusts,
And beg him be the ruin of the realm,
Sell my reign’s sceptre for a lover’s lyre.
His siren song directs the Argo’s helm.
They call us cursed: our very loves reviled.
I, soul-sick prince, must rightly be deposed:
Yet in your exile, so my heart’s exiled:
A king is man, licentious, not divine,
Yet to your open touch I’m never closed.
In this brief peace, that sovereignty is mine.
I’ll shed my robes, if you shall not forget
My cold skin, this white rose Plantagenet.