A Critical Commentary on the "Murder Scene" in Edward II

The “Murder Scene” [V.v] of King Edward is the horrible climax of the “Deposition Scene” [V.i]. Here we find the king facing indescribable ignominy and humiliation. According to Charles Lamb, “The death scene of Marlowe’s king moves pity and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern…” 

The king is shown confined in a dungeon at Berkeley Castle where the filth of the entire castle falls. Edward must keep standing here, and lest he falls asleep, one keeps beating the drum all the time. Such inhuman is the condition that Edward”s guard Gurney remarks:

“I opened but the door to throw him meat,

And I was almost stifled with the savour” 

His guards, Matrevis and Gurney, torment him by words in order to accelerate his end. And finally the horrible murder is performed with utmost devilry by Lightborn.

 Thus the horrors which the scene presents are too shocking for our senses. The very setting of the dungeon makes the death sordid and undignified. The language with its particulars of the murder: a table, a feather bed, a red hot spit etc. focuses our attention on his sufferings. Edward’s frantic cries such as “I feel a hell of grief!” or his death cry evokes an atmosphere of terror. Another phenomenal aspect of this scene is the complex panoply of Christian image – including the physical and psychological assaults modeled on some that Jesus supposedly endured. 

 This scene is of an utmost significance to draw the sympathy for the king. The incredible cruelty with which he is put to death, no doubt turns the balance of sympathy in the favour of the king. The king is cleansed of all impurities and all that is found about him is truly pathetic and pitiful. The scene, indeed, serves to evoke tragic awe.

From the structural stand-point, the scene ends the tragedy of the king and prepares the ground for the retribution of Mortimer’s tyrannical ambition.