The Abdication Scene of Edward II

The play Edward II reaches its emotional climax in scene I, Act V where the king’s image as an irresponsible and weak person undergoes a total transformation, and he emerges as a tragic figure in his understanding of the worthlessness of a king stripped of power.

The scene well represents Edward’s nature. He dwells, with a remarkable poetic passion, on his acute suffering and torment. He reflects on the greatness of his rank which sets him always much above men, in adversity as well as in prosperity.

                              “The griefs of private men are soon allayed

                              But not of kings.”

He muses with no less poetic vigour, on the irony of his lot, as a helpless captive at the hands of his powerful nobles—

                              “My nobles rule. I bear the name of king

                              I wear the crown, but am controlled by them.”

The scene brings out clearly Edward’s passionate nature in which his violent and ineffectual fits of anger are particularly noticeable. His refusal to surrender the crown to the Bishop of Winchester is a symbolic overture to defy Mortimer’s authority. The temporary bliss of wearing the crown makes him refuse to surrender it and he again breaks in hysterical anger. Finally, when Leicester reminds him of the fact that if he refuses to put down the crown, the prince may lose his right, he immediately surrenders his crown.

His final gesture of his love for the queen does not sound as tragic as his last words to his son:

“Commend me to my son, and bid him rule better than I...”

Edward now understands that whatever happens from now onwards, will take him closer to death. He resolutely affirms:

“...of this am I assured

That death ends all, and I can die but once.”

These words prepare the audience for the catastrophe the king is awaiting, but nobody perhaps, can anticipate the gruesome, inhuman and shocking death Edward is going to face. The abdication scene is well employed to win sympathy and compassion for the king. In his poetry and passion, he is not simply pathetic, but tragic, too.