In Christopher Marlowe’s play “Edward II,” the character of Young Mortimer, also known as Sir Roger Mortimer or Mortimer Junior, is a key figure in the story. He is a nobleman and a powerful antagonist to King Edward II. Young Mortimer is the second important character of Christopher Marlowe’s, Edward II (1592?), which was one of the earliest successful English historical dramas and a model for Shakespeare’s Richard II and Richard III. He is portrayed with great spirit and power to A. E. Boas,” the lines of his character, are of course, toned down to suit the altered environment, but there is the same note of lawlessly aspiring ambition. Boas has presented the bird’s eye view of Mortimer’s character.
Young Mortimer is introduced as a patriotic figure, deeply committed to the dignity and unity of his country. He vehemently opposes the king’s favoritism towards Gaveston and rallies the barons to rebel against the king’s actions. Mortimer’s strong voice and leadership inspire others to join his cause. However, his character undergoes a significant change during his exile in France with Queen Isabella. The influence of their illicit relationship alters Mortimer’s personality and ambition.
Mortimer emerges as an ambitious and Machiavellian character, willing to manipulate and deceive to achieve his goals. His lust for power becomes evident as he becomes the true power behind the throne, placing a young prince as a puppet ruler. His relationship with Queen Isabella further complicates matters, raising questions about his true motives and loyalty to his country.
As Mortimer’s reign progresses, his tyranny and arrogance alienate both his initial supporters and the general population. Dissent grows, and his enemies, led by Edward III, gather support to overthrow him. Mortimer’s downfall is the result of his own hubris and overconfidence. He is eventually captured, imprisoned, and brought to trial for treason.
The play concludes with Mortimer reflecting on his rise and fall, acknowledging the consequences of his ruthless ambition. His character serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the dangers of unchecked ambition and the complexities of loyalty and betrayal.
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Mortimer’s character undergoes a transformation throughout the play, partly due to his time spent in France with Queen Isabella. However, this change can feel abrupt given the compressed timeline of the events. Nonetheless, the play initially presents Mortimer as a patriotic individual, deeply devoted to his country’s honor and unity. He ardently expresses his loyalty to the late king and vows to protect the dignity of the realm, vehemently opposing the influence of Gaveston on King Edward II.
Driven by his intense hatred for Gaveston, Mortimer instigates the barons to revolt against the king and advocates for Gaveston’s banishment. His character embodies the archetype of the angry young man, fearlessly challenging the authority of the king and serving as a fervent spokesperson for the discontented barons. Mortimer’s blunt and resolute nature gains him the support of his peers, further fueling the opposition against the king.
Mortimer’s character takes a complex turn when he becomes involved in an illicit relationship with Queen Isabella, raising questions about his patriotism. Influenced by the queen’s distress, a result of King Edward II’s attachment to Gaveston, Mortimer succumbs to her persuasive feminine charms and agrees to the recall of Gaveston from exile. This questionable love affair may contribute to Mortimer’s animosity towards the king.
As Mortimer gains power and returns from France, he becomes the de facto ruler behind the throne, overshadowing the young King Edward III. Openly proclaiming his relationship with Queen Isabella, Mortimer discards his former noble virtues and becomes a seducer, a dissembler, and a traitor driven by an insatiable thirst for power. His Machiavellian ambitions become evident when he plots the murder of King Edward II, orchestrating the killing with cunning precision to ensure his own safety.
However, Mortimer’s reign as the dominant force in England is marked by increasing tyranny and arrogance. He alienates many of the nobles who initially supported him, and his oppressive rule leads to growing discontent among the populace. Simultaneously, Queen Isabella becomes disillusioned with Mortimer’s behavior, realizing that she has traded one tyrant for another.
The tides begin to turn when Edward III, who has matured and gained support among disillusioned nobles, starts to challenge Mortimer’s authority. Recognizing his puppet status, Edward III asserts his own rule and unites influential allies to plot against Mortimer. Ultimately, Mortimer’s hubris and overconfidence lead to his downfall, as he is captured and imprisoned.
In the final acts of the play, Mortimer faces trial for his treasonous actions. Found guilty and condemned to death, he reflects on the consequences of his ruthless ambition. Facing his fate with a mix of defiance and regret, Mortimer serves as a poignant example of the perils of unbridled ambition and the eventual downfall of those who wield power without restraint.
Through the multifaceted character of Young Mortimer, Marlowe explores profound themes such as the corrupting nature of power, loyalty and betrayal, and the complexities of human ambition. Mortimer’s journey from a patriotic nobleman to a power-hungry tyrant provides a cautionary tale that urges reflection on the ethical implications of pursuing personal gain at the expense of others.
In conclusion, Young Mortimer’s character in Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward II” embodies the intricate dynamics of power, ambition, and morality. This expertly crafted character, combined with Marlowe’s compelling storytelling, creates a thought-provoking narrative that resonates with audiences, transcending time and offering valuable insights into the human condition.