Edward II of England (Steven Waddington) is constantly seeking pleasure and has a new relationship which piques interest in the kingdom. He is romantically involved with his friend, Piers Gaveston (Andrew Tiernan), an English nobleman from Gascony. The king shows him genuine affection, offers him several titles and always surprises him with gifts. But once the rumor of their affair travels the kingdom, the Bishop of Winchester (Dudley Sutton) decides to banish Gaveston. When the latter returns, he tortures the Bishop and is berated and marginalized by most people.
Although most of the kingdom despises Gaveston’s vaulting and hedonistic attitude, Edward II is completely infatuated with the man. In fact, his romantic obsession causes him to frequently neglect important matters pertaining to the state. Moreover, his own wife, Queen Isabella, feels constantly rejected and disheartened whenever she tries to win her husband back. This continues for some time and Isabella finally decides to turn to Gaveston in order to satisfy her sexual needs. The latter entertains her request only to later mock her. Defeated and frustrated, the queen looks forward to having her husband’s lover banished once again. Eventually she begins a romantic relationship with Lord Mortimer (Nigel Terry), with whom she plans to rule the kingdom. Threatening Edward with exile, the army forces manage to convince him to send Gaveston away and begin plotting dethroning their king.
“In showing the antigay prejudices behind Edward’s violent fall, Jarman makes Edward II more than a visually arresting stunt; it’s a piercing cry from the heart.”
— Rolling Stone
“His decision to have Annie Lennox serenade the departing Gaveston and his lover with a rendition of Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye” is a brilliant stroke”
— Washington Post
“Although the screen adaptation remains more or less faithful to Marlowe’s text, Mr. Jarman has augmented the drama with provocative visualizations of homosexual love and the persecution of gay people that infuse the play with sex, sadomasochistic violence and a hysterically pitched moral fury.”
— The New York Times
Did You Know?
It was American novelist Edmund White who suggested to Derek Jarman that he film Edward II. Because the initial text was difficult to read, the director extensively altered it – only half of the script references the original play. In particular, Jarman wanted the ending to be modified in order to have a more positive message about open love. Review our Gay Themed Films Here