Sometimes the air crackles as soon as two characters lock eyes … Brando and Leigh had it in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, and I think Marlowe achieves it towards the beginning of Edward II …
The usual rules apply – 250 words to forensically analyse a short extract: 3 … 2 … 1 … Go!
How does Christopher Marlowe use language for dramatic effect in this extract?
In this first significant exchange between Isabella and Mortimer junior, Marlowe uses several techniques to suggest an attraction, possibly a nascent intimacy between the characters.
Both seem aware of the on-stage audience of nobles, speaking in controlled iambic pentameter; the punctuation indicating that their tones are subdued. Despite this, the multi-clause sentences betray the exchange’s importance.
Mortimer immediately, overtly, declares his allegiance to Isabella. His metaphor dehumanises Gaveston, reducing him to a fish – albeit a dangerous one, and in this Marlowe could be foreshadowing the eventual fate of the two lovers. Mortimer’s hope that Gaveston is floating could have two meanings: either simply on his way to Ireland, or floating as a dead ‘torpedo’ (electric ray) would. Interestingly, Marlowe suggests the Queen is ‘angling’ for Gaveston – Mortimer may have seen through her protestations of passive misery, or senses her potential desperation and thirst for vengeance.
Perhaps most significant is Marlowe’s use of stage-space: Isabella’s invitation to Mortimer to ‘sit down by me’ is a suggestive break of decorum in a married woman. Conceivably, she simply wants plausible deniability of her ‘reasons’ – she is, after all, plotting assassination. However, she seems aware of the impact of her presence on Mortimer: his complimentary epithet, ‘fair’ focuses on her beauty, and notably, is returned with the familiar and highly positive ‘sweet’. The first two epithets the characters use seem intimate, and they lend an extra dimension to the conventional use of ‘thee’. The audience is primed for their relationship to develop beyond conspiracy.