Subscription and Proscription in Marlowe's Edward II

Abstract : The celebrated amphibolic letter in Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II which, left “unpointed”, both saves and kills the King is the last of a long list of pieces of writing in the play. This paper will bring into focus the manner in which the final coup de théâtre is prepared by earlier acts of writing, notably by repeated efforts by characters to convince others to “subscribe [their] names” to writs ordering the proscription of perceived enemies of the realm. It first shows how the various references to (acts of) writing in Edward II are the fruit of material peculiarities found in Marlowe’s narrative sources (Holinshed, Foxe, Stow), lending the play a semblance of historical verisimilitude. Letters, however, also serve a host of specifically dramatic purposes, contributing to underline key structural elements in the play and serving as props capable of inflicting physical wounds. But if these letters may have a life of their own, producing meaning or provoking pain, they are also the result of an act of writing. Studying the letters’ agency helps reflect the shifting allegiances both in and outside of the play, illustrating Marlowe’s struggle between the public and private “hand”, between policy and passion, belonging and exile, subscription and proscription.
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Yan Brailowsky. Subscription and Proscription in Marlowe's Edward II. Etudes Epistémè : revue de littérature et de civilisation (XVIe - XVIIIe siècles), Association Études Épistémè, 2012, ⟨10.4000/episteme.405⟩. ⟨hal-01639953⟩

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