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                          EDWARD II




The balance of scholarly opinion seems to be that Christopher Marlowe was responsible for the bulk of Henry the Sixth 1-3. If this is so, then we may date Edward II to soon afterwards, that is, to 1592-3. For it most certainly does encrypt the same pesher as its more illustrious cousin. Its allegorical techniques are sophisticated, and completely familiar to the connoisseur of the Folio plays as allegory. It again concerns the psychic death of the Puritan subject (Edward II), and his resurrection into Gnostic nobility (Edward III): the pathogenic principle being identified always as the raw libido or will-to-eros which bursts back in a thoroughly Freudian way into the conscious ego which has denied it. The pesher value of this principle is born by the character of the king’s friend Gaveston. Once again, there are many instances of the familiar technique of substituting ‘I’ for ‘Ay’, to suggest the phallos, an expression of the unseen world of the unconscious in the seen; and, further, the unseen world in general. Let us note all the instances in the first Act, and see what an indefectibly consistent picture they paint.





Third Poor Man   Farewell, and perish by a soldier’s hand…

Gaveston  I, I, these words of his move me as much

As if a goose should play the porpintine

And dart her plumes, thinking to pierce my breast…

I have some business: leave me to myself.

Exeunt poor men

These are not men for me.

I must have wanton poets, pleasant wits,

Musicians, that with touching of a string

May draw the pliant king which way I please.

Music and poetry is his delight…


The two ‘I’s identify Gaveston with the unseen world. The poor men are being left outside the court, because richness is about to prevail, as the unseen world is magnified in and engaged by the Gnostic written word, with the initiate (Edward II) in the first stages of psychic transformation. That is, Marlowe is showing us the ideal progression, which however soon be sabotaged as the subject is seduced into Puritanism.  A similar technique will be used in Hamlet, with the character of Francisco – who represents Sir Francis Bacon himself as minister of the Gnostic (or Rosicrucian) tradition: on the absence of which Hamlet’s decline into pychosis will be predicated – speaking just two of the play’s opening lines, before his exit, never to return.


Kent  And let these their heads

Preach upon poles, for trespass of their tongues!

King Edward  I, yours! And therefore I would wish you grant…


We remember in Macbeth and elsewhere that beheading always betokens psychic transformation; and this will be the fate in Act V of the nobles who have so bitterly opposed Gaveston’s return. This is also the point of it here: for, as it stands, their minds do not embrace the unseen world.


Bishop of Coventry  But is that wicked Gaveston returned?

King Edward  I, priest…


Lancaster  That villain Gaveston is made an earl.

Elder Mortimer  An earl?

Warwick  I, and besides Lord Chamberlain of the realm.


Here is a fascinating one:


Queen Isabella  Farewell, sweet Mortimer; and, for my sake,

Forebear to levy arms against the king.

Younger Mortimer  I, if words will serve; if not, I must.


Clearly implied here is the ‘I’ principle inherent in the written word, that prime means of psychic transformation in the Folio plays and here. If the subject prove susceptible to the Gnostic written word, then all will be well; but if not, and Puritanism supervenes, then disaster will result. The first Act describes the failure of this proviso.


Younger Mortimer  Curse him, if he refuse [Gaveston’s exile]; and then may we

Depose him, and elect another king.

King Edward  I, there it goes…


Younger Mortimer  But, madam, would you have us call him home?

Queen Isabella  I, Mortimer…


It is important to appreciate that the Mortimers, Lancaster, Warwick, and the other lords hostile to Gaveston represent an aspect of the subject’s ego: namely, that part of it which anathematises and would keep at arm’s length the underworld. This is, in the first instance, its Roman Catholic aspect, the reference being to the young Will Shaksper:


Bishop of Coventry  But is that wicked Gaveston returned?

King Edward  I, priest, and lives to be reveng’d on thee,

That wert the only cause of his exile.


The nobles here however represent the Puritan world-view, which is now in the ascendant:


King  My lord, you shall be Chancellor of the realm;

Thou, Lancaster, High Admiral of our fleet;

Young Mortimer and his uncle shall be earls;

And you, Lord Warwick, President of the North…


We recall that in HVI1-3 that the Tower of London bears the pesher value of the Gnostic tradition. This will be important in Act V, with regard to the fate of Queen of Isabella. It appears here too, in Act I. This is the longed-for fate of the Church of Rome, to be extinguished in the flame of enlightenment and wisdom:


Gaveston  He shall to the prison, and there die in bolts.

King Edward  I, to the Tower, the Fleet, or where thou wilt.


Her is a distinctly Jungian admission:


King  Rend not my heart with thy too piercing words.

Thou from this land, I from myself am banished.


-Where the unconscious (Gaveston, the unseen world of the psyche) is identified as an inviolable component of the self.


We recall that the image or painting bears in the Shakespeare plays the value of the forms of the visual imagination, the vigour of which faculty is consistently asserted to be a sine qua non of psychic transformation. Here is more of the same:


King  Here, take my picture, and let me wear thine:

They exchange pictures


Note that in this Act it is Queen Isabella who persuades the factious lords to allow the repeal of Gaveston’s exile: for she represents, like all her kind in the Shakespeare plays, including Isabelle in   , the underworld Goddess, the Queen of Hell-Grail Queen, that utterly central figure of the Bacon pesher.


There are many references in the Shakespeare plays to the speed of an agent or messenger, where the act of thought is itself being portrayed; and so here, where the subject is contemplating the Gnostic written word, with the ideal transformation still in the offing:


King  I, Isabel, never was my heart so light.

Clerk of the crown, direct our warrant forth,

For Gaveston, to Ireland!

Enter Beaumont with warrant.

                                          Beaumont, fly,

As fast as Iris or Jove’s Mercury.





The Duke of Gloucester bears in HVI 1-3 the pesher value of the Gnostic ideal – a kind of Solomon or Alexander or Gnostic Christ, the embodiment of perfect Gnostic nobility. And so does he here; and his daughter must therefore bear the value of the underworld Goddess – the Queen of Hell-Grail Queen.  So it is utterly consistent that she and Gaveston are in love. Here is another perfectly placed ‘I’ for ‘Ay’:


Baldock  But he is banish’d; there’s small hope of him.

Younger Spenser  I, for a while…


Baldock represents the Gnostic written word; which is identified with the ‘I’ principle of the underworld; and, fascinatingly, an abundance of neologisms (such as Bacon so pre-eminently possessed) is suggested:


Baldock  Then hope I by her means to be preferred,

Having read unto her since she was a child…

I am none of these common pedants, I,

That cannot speak without propterea quod.

Younger Spenser  But one of those that saith qua doquidem

And hath a special gift to form a verb.


-Where ‘verb’ is used in its Latinate broad sense of ‘word’ (verbum). This is not an ‘I’ for ‘Ay’ in the above; but, doubling in this way, its meaning is the same, as we have seen many times in the Shakespeare plays. Gloucester’s daughter receives a letter from Gaveston, which she reads and puts in her bosom. This is an instance of the principle of referral, in which the manifestation of the unseen world in the seen (Gaveston) is understood by reference to the principle that underlying it, namely, the unseen world itself: Gloucester’s daughter.


Gaveston  My lord, I cannot brook these injuries.

Queen Isabella  I me, pour soul…


Gaveston’s blade-wounding by Mortimer on his return is cognate with Polonius’ by Hamlet, in so far as they both betoken the activation of their principle: the excitation of the will-to-eros, rather than victory over it through engagement with it by the reasoning imagination, in the ideal masonic way. And what we see now is the persecution of the libido, in the typical Puritan way.


What is all this business about the Scots’ taking Mortimer senior hostage, and demanding a ransom? Both Scotland and France are identified, here and in the Shakespeare plays, with the Gnostic/Freemasonic/Rosicrucian tradition, as they indeed were in history. So that the Scots capturing Mortimer portrays the (ideal) Gnostic victory over Puritanism. King Edward refuses to pay the ransom, but, oddly, permits the rebels to gather it from his realm. This is surely a reference to the Fisher King of Wolfram’s Parzival – a key source for the Shakespeare plays, as I have shown – with his crippling injury and famished kingdom. We are incubating a tragedy here, however, and the opportunity for psychic transformation is for the present denied: and so Mortimer père is ransomed. Consistently, it is by way of a letter (Gnostic written word) that Edward is informed of Mortimer’s capture.


Here is a beautiful cameo. The rebels wish to speak to the king, but a guard stands before his chamber, to forbid them. Edward and Kent now leave the chamber of their own accord, to speak with them. The guard is identified with the unseen world:


Younger Mortimer  I, marry, such a guard as this does well.


The guard and chamber represent the imprisonment of the ego by the libido as blind will rather than idea in the properly Gnostic way. It is the king who voluntarily flees this prison to embrace Puritanism, his lifeline and escape route (albeit it will prove to be a sham).


The character of Kent is truly fascinating here. We have seen in King Lear (and the present play provides a nice confirmation of it) that the name ‘Kent’ is a pesher reference to a near homophone of a colloquialism for the female pudenda, and so represents the Goddess herself. This was not a direct hit, however, as the present scene shows. For it is clear here that Kent, as a noble, represents the higher faculty of thought, and specifically here thoughts of the Goddess, which are totally of her in blind erotic guise. It is the thoughts of her that are tormenting the subject, and it is to Puritanism that he turns for balm.


Here is a further beautiful twist. We have seen that the fatal flaw of Puritanism is its denial of the Goddess, in a way we know so well from history, and the Puritans in our own midst. The Aphrodite-figure as possible object of eros is banished from the mind, a repression which must have its tragic consequence, in a typically Freudian way. And the only way for this to be achieved is for the faculty of the imagination in general to be suppressed, an impoverishment and disability which must make the attainment of Gnostic nobility impossible. (The imagination is betokened in the Shakespeare plays by the many torches and flares, and the character of Michael). Consistently therefore, Kent now abandons the king, to return at a later stage when his transformation into Gnostic nobility is well under way.


King  Art thou an enemy to my Gaveston?

Kent  I, and ‘tis likewise thought you favour him (Younger Mortimer).


This serves to identify Queen Isabella with the unseen world; and immediately the earliest stage of psychic transformation is adumbrated, as the king’s hostility to his wife is shed:


Niece  Sweet uncle, speak more kindly to the queen.

Gaveston  My lord, dissemble with her; speak her fair.

King  Pardon me, sweet; I forgot myself.


‘I forgot myself’ is a startlingly Jungian admission. Marlowe is beginning to look as much a cognoscentio of depth psychology as Sir Francis Bacon (cf.’Cordelia’, ‘cor-de-lia’, ‘the heart of Lear’). Gaveston’s ‘speak her fair’ is yet another reference to the ‘fair and foul’ Goddess of the Song of Solomon, which Bacon raided for this key symbol of the Folio plays. Right on cue, Baldock (Gnostic written word) enters, along with the Younger Spenser (Gnostic tradition), to help the king in his battle with the Mortimer faction. But first we must see the fate of the unseen world at the hands of Puritanism.


There is a reference here to Autolycus (cf. The Winter’s Tale), the thief in the early pages of Plato’s Republic whom a contrarian Socrates presents in a positive light:


Younger Mortimer  We will not wrong thee so,

To make away a true man for a thief.

Gaveston  How mean’st thou, Mortimer? That is over-base.





The pesher now enters a new and wonderful realm, with the crucifixion imagery of the death of.Gaveston. The character of James accompanies him; and we remember that James Justus was the brother of Jesus Christ. This role for James could hardly be made more explicit:


Pembroke  I do commit this Gaveston to thee;

Be thou this night his keeper…


We remember that France bears always the pesher value of the Gnostic tradition (cf. especially Henry the Fifth). It is utterly consistent, therefore, that the capture is announced of Normandy by the French king. The Elder Spenser arrives with men-at-arms. It is evident that the young Prince Edward will represent, as king, Gaveston reborn: the unseen world reborn as positively rather than negatively perceived by the subject:


Queen Isabella  I, boy, this towardness makes thy mother fear…



Gaveston will be beheaded’ but Christ died on the Cross (‘hanging on the tree’): and this technical problem is resolved by the following:


Gaveston                                                      Then I perceive

That heading is one, and hanging is the other,

And death is all.


Young Spenser is ennobled, made Earl of Gloucester, which signifies that the Gnostic tradition is now being created in the reasoning imagination of the subject. Consistently, Edward now pours wealth into France’s coffers, as the Gnostic tradition swells in the ego-in-transformation.





We now enter the final stanza of the pesher story, as the ego proceeds full steam ahead toward transformation.


Edward has succeeded in paying off King Charles of France. Money bears always the pesher value of the strength of a principle; while France, as we have seen, is the Gnostic/Rosicrucian/Freemasonic tradition: that we are seeing here the aggrandisement of that tradition in the ego-in-transformation. Queen Isabella (Grail Queen), Prince Edward (ego reborn into Gnostic nobility), Kent, and Younger Mortimer, now become associated with the Frenchman Sir John of Hainault. His name analyses to the French haine, ‘hatred’, ‘dislike’, ‘abhorrence’, and the German a[u]lt, ‘old’, ‘long established’; so that its pesher value is clear, of the long-standing pathology of Puritanism. Marlowe is therefore returning to square one, to initiate the transformation.


The Tower of London represents, as we have seen, the Gnostic tradition. This may well have been suggested by the Hebrew magdala, ‘tower’ which is the basis of the name Mary Magdalene, the wife of the Gnostic Christ and original Grail Queen. The letter always bears the pesher value of the (usually Gnostic) written word, which was the central plank of Sir Francis Bacon’s therapeutic approach to the treatment of Will Shaksper. So that the significance of the letters from the Lieutenant of the Tower in IV.iii to the king is obvious.


He pesher is not straightforward here. Its lines are obscured due to he association of the Queen and Prince Edward with the Puritan Younger Mortimer. But it becomes clear enough as its resolves. The Queen’s faction wins the battle, and the prince is made Lord Warden of the realm. The king is captured and sent to Killingworth (Kenilworth) castle. There can be no doubt at all that this represents the underworld – the goal of all properly Gnostic enquiry – and his is the Journey of the Hero:


King Edward  A litter hast thou? Lay me in a hearse,

And to the gates of hell convey me hence.

Let Pluto’s bells ring out my fatal knell,

And hags howl for my death at Charon’s shore…


Edward throws off his disguise (real ego emerging). He says of Spenser and Baldock, ‘For friends hath Edward none but these and these’. Beheading bears always the pesher value of psychic transformation; and their fate serves to emphasise what is happening here.





In the first scene, set in Edward’s cell in Kenilworth castle, we see the psychic transformation continue (Edward’s relinquishing of his crown – hesitatingly, to reflect the inner process taking place). Here we have another lion (always the Puritan figure in the pesher):


King  But when he imperial lion’s flesh is gor’d

He rends and tears it with his wrathful paw…


Here is powerfully suggested the scene in HVI 3 of the beheading of York:


King  More safety is there in a tiger’s jaws

Than his embracements. Bear this to the queen,

Wet with my tears, and dried again with sighs:

Gives a handkerchief

If with the sight thereof she be not mov’d,

Return it back, and dip it in my blood.


Compare HVI 3 III :


Queen  Look York, I stained this napkin with the blood

That valiant Clifford, with his rapier’s point,

Made issue from the bosom of the boy…


York  O tiger’s heart, wrapt in a woman’s hide…


Here as always the handkerchief or napkin, bloodstained or (even more graphically) strawberry-woven, betokens the Goddess, as reference to menstruation. York, like Edward, is the Puritan who is now beholding the Goddess – the truth of the natural world – which he has long denied, to undergo the rebirth into Gnostic wisdom.


Fascinatingly, the character of Berkeley (pronounced ‘Barkeley’) bears here exactly same pesher value as in Richard II, of the written word. We remember that the woods, groves, forests, and even single trees in the First Folio bear always this value, as a reference most plausibly to the Druid grove, on the barks of which were nicked their sacred texts:


Enter Berkeley, who gives a paper to Leicester

Berkeley  To do your highness service and devoir,

And save you from your foes, Berkeley would die.

King  And who must keep me now? Must you, my lord?

Berkeley  I, my most gracious lord; so ‘tis decreed.

King  (taking the paper):  By Mortimer, whose name is written here!

Well may I rent his name who rends my heart.

Tears it


Here is most vividly portrayed the vanquishing of the Puritan world-view by the Gnostic written word as descriptive of the unseen world (‘I’). Later the king will shuffle between Kenilworth and Berkeley castles, to betoken the underworld journey undertaken per medium of the word.  A further similarity to RII is the king’s speech in his cell, which so closely resembles in tone rather than content Richard’s in the Tower in RII V. It is evident that Bacon and Marlowe were of one mind and soul in this period.


It only remains to note in V.i the character of Trussel, whose name derives from ‘to truss’, meaning ‘to tie’, ‘to bind’. It is he who carries off, with the Bishop of Winchester, the crown intended for the young prince. For the ego-in-transformation is binding Gnostic wisdom unbreakably to himself.


It is important to appreciate that Queen Isabella wants, on the plane of the pesher, her husband to die, and her son to ascend the crown: the Puritan to be supplanted by the Gnostic.  She is a Queen of Hell-Grail Queen; and the Grail and Ring traditions are essentially the same, as Sir Laurence Gardner has described in his Realm of the Ring Lords. And here is yet another ring, to add to the many in the First Folio, all of which bear this significance. The Puritan will die through the offices of the Ring-Grail tradition, as expressed in the written word:


Queen Isabella  Whither goes this letter? To my lord the king?

…And bear him this as witness of my love:

Gives ring

Matrevis  I will, madam.

Exit with Gurney

Younger Mortimer  Finely dissembled! Do so still, sweet queen.


This last comment is therefore utterly consistent with the pesher. Kent wishes to liberate the king (old libidinous way of imagining the Goddess still linked to Puritanism). His beheading will signify a rebirth of the imagination, with the blind will-to-eros allowed no access. The prince is identified with the unseen word as idea:


Prince Edward  Let me but see him first, and then I will.

Kent  I, do, sweet nephew.


The shaving of the king’s beard by Matrevis and Gurney, using channel water in the environs of Kenilworth, signifies the growth of the ego into self-knowledge. This is really an extraordinarily modern work. The trch bears always the pesher value of the visual imagination, as we have seen. When this faculty is suppressed by the Puritan, in his typical way, for fear of being erotically aroused by its contents, it must inevitably come surging back in against his will. This was the scenario of Will Shaksper’s breakdown; and it is portrayed here, in the extinguishing of the torches prior to the entry of Kent, before Kenilworth. But this pathogenetic mechanism is now neutralised by the ego’s initiation into Gnostic wisdom:


Kent  Base villains, wherefore do you gripe me thus?

Gurney  Bind him, and so convey him to the court.


The libido as idea will transform his principle:


Kent  I, lead me whither you will, even to my death…


Marlowe was faced with a technical problem, in that the Younger Mortimer is responsible for the king’s death; but Puritanism of course cannot bring about the psychic transformation. Marlowe solved this by the device of the letter with double meaning, in the unpunctuated Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est.


Lightborn represents the principle of enlightenment: it is he who will directly kill the king. The wisdom he incarnates is based on knowledge of the unseen world as idea:


Younger Mortimer  And hast thou cast how to accomplish it.

Lightborn  I, I; and none shall know which was he died.


Lightborn  Know you this token? I must have the king.

Gives token

Matrevis  I, stay a while…


Mortimer’s pesher identity is alluded to:


Y. Mortimer  While at the council-table, grave enough,

And not unlike a bashful puritan,

First I complain of imbecility.


I am unable to visualise exactly what is happening on stage during the king’s murder, and so cannot describe it in terms of the pesher; but the unseen world is clearly the agent of his death (psychic transformation of the subject):


Lightborn  What else? A table and a feather-bed.

Gurney  That’s all?

Lightborn I, I: so…


The lord bears always in the Folio plays the pesher value of higher mentation: the combination of memory, reason, and imagination. So it is here that the First Lord prompts the new King Edward III to do away forever with Mortimer (subject finally defeats the Puritan world view which has afflicted him):


Queen Isabella is committed, consistently, to the Tower, for she is Magdalene type (see above). Finally, Mortimer’s stricken-off head is put in the hearse with the old king’s body: a powerful icon portraying the Puritan mentation which had defined the subject’s old self.




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