Isabella for Students


The character of Queen Isabella is a fairly complex one. Towards the opening of the play we find her sorely tried by the vagaries and perversions of her husband and very unhappy at being slighted by her husband. She seems to hungry for the king’s affection and is prepared to do virtually anything to gain it. To win love for Edward she is prepared even to request the baron for Gaveston’s recall from banishment. She does not become attracted to Mortimer.   After the recall of Gaveston and at the time immediately preceding it her behaviour was not quite blameless however. It was probably she who advised Mortimer to advocate Gaveston’s recall with the express purpose of having him assassinated at a future date. After she went over to France to plead her own case before her brother, her affections undergo a sea change and her love for Mortimer become explicit.
      Marlowe’s delineation of the queen is some times adversely criticized.   It is held that “the transition from her faithful, but despairing attachment to the King to a guilty love for Mortimer” has not been indicated.   There are certainly many passages, especially in the first act, which must be taken to indicate that the queen loves Edward, and some of these have the informative value that attaches to soliloquy.   On the other hand, the growing intimacy between the queen and Mortimer had also been adequately suggested.   It is to Mortimer that Isabella from the beginning is made to turn for sympathy and help in her trials.   Their conversation together in Act I, Scene 4 with Mortimer’s ready acquiescence in her plan, is in itself mean to be significant, and   certainly would be made more so on this stage; but there are other casual hints.   Both Gaveston and the King allude to the intimacy.   At the beginning of Act II Scene 4,   Edward spurns the queen, talks of her lover Mortimer, and leaves Isabella lamenting his stony heart.   Mortimer enters and in his direct strong way arranges that they...