Christopher Marlowe. The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe (vol. 3): Edward II. Ed. Richard Rowland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. xxxvii + 150 pp.
Review by,
Robert Lindsey
Oriel College, Oxford

Lindsey, Robert. "Review of The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe (vol. 3): Edward II." Early Modern Literary Studies 1.1 (1995): 6.1-8 <URL:

  1. The most detailed edition to date of Edward II has recently been provided for Marlowe enthusiasts in the form of a modern-spelling edition prepared by Charles Forker (Manchester UP, 1994). Excellent though this edition is, its emphasis on the history of the play's reception draws attention to the need for a critical, old-spelling edition which historically situates Marlowe's last play. In Richard Rowland's 150 page volume for OUP this task might seem to have been fulfilled with a text which purports to be faithful to original orthography, accompanied by a twenty-page general introduction, a four-page textual analysis, a set of accidentals and thirty six pages of commentary. This edition also appends summarized details from the 1587 edition of Holinshed.

  2. Textually speaking, Edward II should pose very few problems for the editor. The only authoritative text of the play is a copy of the first quarto at Zurich (Q is dated 1594 and printed in octavo form). Q is relatively sound, containing only a handful of minor errors. Subsequent editions (issued in 1598, 1612, 1622: Q2-4, respectively) are printed more economically and are of little interest, revealing the efforts of the compositor(s) to modify the spelling of Q as well as demonstrating some incidence of correction to the punctuation.

  3. My main criticism of this edition centres on the handling of the copy-text, as I feel that a number of editorial decisions were made which obscured the historicity of Q. The editor should of course make editorial interventions, but in a manner which gives the reader an appreciation of how that particular text was prepared in the printing house, as well as producing an apparatus which avoids pastiche. Old-spelling editions should enable the advanced reader to use the apparatus to reconstruct and recover the original state of the copy-text. If the compositor mistakenly printed a "u" for an "n", then I would hope to see such examples of foul-case recorded in the apparatus. Likewise, should the editor emend the copy-text then I would expect every incidence of emendation to be noted with exacting detail. But the accidentals of this edition offer only a partial picture of the copy-text. For example, the first two speaking lines of the play (which are printed in roman) are italicized in the edition, indicating that a letter is being read aloud. This alteration is duly recorded, but Rowland overlooks a missing full stop at the end of line two in Q--which reads "friend" when it should read "friend.". The necessary punctuation is added, but there is no note of this. Neither is there any reference to the corrections of Q2-4 or to the Cassel edition, an uncorrected copy of Q held at Cassel, Germany, since destroyed, and provided in photostat in W.W. Greg's Malone Society Reprint (1926).

  4. The edition also contained a number of inconsistently recorded details. In scene 15, for example, the words "patron" and "trumpets" (ll. 13, 28, respectively) are abbreviated in Q, reading "patro~" and "tru~pets". These abbreviations are enlarged, using readings from Q4 (1622) and accordingly noted. However, "Frenchma~" (Q) is emended to "Frenchman" (sc. 2 l.7) without mention.

  5. I also question the editor's decision, noted at the outset, silently to regularize certain features of Q as this obscures the reader's sense of the copy-text. We cannot then tell, for example, that most of the place names were originally printed in roman type and only a smattering printed in italic (e.g. Tinmouth, Cobham, Tanaise, Europe) because they have been silently italicized. Neither can we ascertain that the most commonly used place names (such as England, France, Killingworth) were printed using roman type. The same is true regarding the use of roman type in printing personal names in the later scenes of the play (especially Lancaster and Warwick). This could denote that the supply of italic (which had hitherto been used when setting their names) had run out, or perhaps that a second, less diligent compositor worked on the latter sheets of the text. Such details can only be recovered using a facsimile. The decision to regularize the use of "i", "j", "u" and "v" should also be questioned: silent use of the modern "s" rather than the retention of long "s" seems acceptable, but any further degree of regularization is inappropriate. To what extent can the edition still be described as old-spelling if we are given no awareness of the typographic conventions which affect our understanding of orthography?

  6. The commentary of this edition is, however, first class. Rowland's emphasis on the texts which inform the play as well as those Elizabethan-Jacobean texts which were in circulation does much to imbue the reader with a sense of the culture and history within which Edward II was written. The commentary is fresh and very much his own, drawing upon a considerable knowledge of non-dramatic texts such as Roger Ascham's Toxophilus and Whitney's A Choice of Emblems which have not hitherto been used in any edition of this play. The only inaccuracy I could find was the biblical reference which denounces cross-dressing: this derives from Deuteronomy 22.5 and not 12.5 (see Rowland's gloss on 1.61, sc.1). A thorough exploration of the STC has certainly proved worthwhile, providing the reader with a sociological perspective of the play.

  7. The introduction is concise but not mean, written with a clear and lively style affording the reader a complete and enjoyable read. Rowland focuses on historical records making connections between the play's theme of homoerotic desire between a king and a minion and James VI's relations with certain young courtiers. The argument is a difficult one, but skilful use of sources makes for an interesting and plausible interpretation of events which may well have informed Marlowe when writing Edward II.

  8. Despite the many strengths of Forker's edition, which claims to be the "most complete and detailed edition of Edward II ever published" (i), Rowland offers the Marlowe enthusiast something new and worthwhile. It is unfortunate, though, that its quality is somewhat reduced by the minor textual problems noted above. Greater attention to the bibliographical characteristics of the copy-text would have done much to complement and enhance the historically conscious commentary and introduction.
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(RGS, 12 December 1997)