Character Analysis of Young Mortimer in Edward II by Christopher Marlow

Character Analysis of Young Mortimer in Edward II by Christopher Marlow

Character of Junior Mortimer


The character of Mortimer Junior has been drawn with a firm hand by Marlowe. He has been delineated as the most spirited creature in the play, one who has the traits of leadership. His one hand readily goes to the hilt of the sword as if by reflex action. Historically too he is a very powerful baron, one who ruled England till October 1330. Right from the beginning he is seen contradicting the king. The ferments in him are, obviously, the ferments of the most rebellious spirit. He is the type of man who would beard the lion in his own den, and he does it, though in the second round of his character rather cunningly, ignoring even the public opinion which might be there casting aspersions on him.

King Edward II and Mortimer

These two characters have been conceived in a diametrically opposite way. The king is without power and is one who considers it to be a privilege to be honoured as such. The character of Mortimer is of a different cast altogether. The real power exists in him. In one respect King Edward II and Mortimer are of the same fibre both are proud of their station in life. King Edward considers kingship as a ‘talisman’ to be used even in the last phase of his life, and Mortimer is proud of his stock. He has the power, and the courage of conviction to contradict the king from the beginning and ends up in the murder of King Edward II in the play.

Is he a typical Marlovian Hero?

Yes, he bears a close resemblance to him, but only in the second phase of his career in the drama. In the first phase he is a rebel in the making, but in the latter phase of the drama he comes very near being a typical Marlovian hero. Boas also holds that he is remarkably akin to Marlowe’s earlier heroes, especially Tamberlaine. “The lines of his characters are, of course, toned down to suit the altered environment.” (Boas)

Outstanding Traits to his Character

Among the outstanding traits of his character are impetuosity, high-spiritedness, lawlessness, ruthlessness and want of scruples. He has respect only for the exigency of the necessity, be it that of his high aspiration, or circumstantial. He is equal to the hazards of life. He does not consume himself in Hamlet-like thinking, but strikes when the iron is emerging hot right from the furnace. Impetuous he is in his expressions. His outbursts have an impetuous quality. He is the type of character who does not recognize the authority of law. He is eager to depose the king and persuade the queen to ‘cry quittance from him.’ He does not mince matters, and soon comes down to the brass tacks. He is the legislator of his own laws, and also keeps the executive powers reserved in his will.

Young Mortimer’s Ruthlessness

Another remarkable trait in him is his ruthlessness. He is without the milk of human kindness, and acts in a manner which does not recognise the value of human sentiment. How unscrupulously and ruthlessly he gets the murder of the king committed through Lightborn.

Young Mortimer’s Cult of Violence

In this character the cult of violence is most operative. As such he does not stop anywhere and goes elbowing out his way through thick events. After getting the murder of the king done, he does not get panicky losing the sense of proportion like Macbeth. He perhaps looks on death as an inevitable phenomenon. King Edward II shrinks from the idea of death in the last hour of his death, though facing it with a premonition which comes to his consciousness. Young Mortimer faces death with a defiance. His feeling dwells on “base fortune” more than the loss of the physical death which is to come. Violence is the part of his spirit and the expression of power within him.

Young Mortimer’s Young Blood

His silent and secret affair with the queen is shorn of any romantic colouring. It is the part of his lack of obedience to authority. As Kent observes he kisses and conspires’ with the queen. The young blood in Mortimer is stronger than that of all the characters described in the drama. His defiance, his violence, his lusty absorption into the events, all are traced to his youthful nature. He gains the love of Isabel in France, though it begins in England. The queen does not mind it if her husband is murdered, but she certainly cries that they must not spill his blood.

Young Mortimer’s Egoism

His confidence in his power can be traced to his egoism. He is keenly aware of the formidable strength which is in him. While the death of Gaveston he says: “We’ll hate him from the bosom of the king, and at the court-gate hang the peasant up.” His threat is never empty bravado, is carried out with the aid of power. His egoism is best expressed in his words addressed to his fellow-men. “The name of Mortimer shall fright the king.” He knows that his destiny is assured. He is very self conscious of the fruition of his ambition. His egoism expresses itself in his triumphant mood : “The prince I rule, the queen do I command… the proudest lords salute me as I pass.” His aspiration-pitched mind is framed the staff of his ego.

Expression of Power

Young Mortimer simply exudes power in his words and postures. He is imperious in his bearing. Being conscious of his power and strength as well, he considers the deposition of the queen. The power which should have resided in the king is pumped into this character by the dramatist. The king is not even the rubber-stamp in the drama, for he does not command power. The barons have vitiated the atmosphere about him. The consciousness of power within him gives him a push towards the prospective designs. The power in him is inborn. He can be called a power-packed human cell. The blood in him is of the reddest corpuscles. But the power in him is not accompanied by any spiritual strength. It is brute power, indeed. He wields his power most fearlessly. He is not to be cowed down by any force from any quarter. He makes the forward movement from which retreat is not possible.

A Sober Man

Young Mortimer is sober to the hilt. The King symbolizes frivolity, and he sobriety. He has a serious turn of mind. He never laughs. His mind is intent on those problems which would promote his prospects. He is a man of purpose, and a kind of puritan who, unlike the king, does not take pleasure in the artistic plays and shows.

Character that Changes  

The character of Mortimer does not follow any dead line, but it evolves and can be called a round one. In the first phase he reminds us of being frank, sincere, audacious, high-tempered, reminding us much of Hotspur. In the second he is the queen’s lover, a traitor to the king, a crafty dissimulator, a cruel and treacherous murderer. He becomes ‘increasingly Machiavellian’ in his moves. His career can easily be divided into two water-tight compartments. In the beginning he is brave and high-spirited but unspoiled by any motive afterwards some sinister motives creep into his nature and take him to his ill-starred death. Thus we find that this character changes to a great extent.

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Young Mortimer’s Rise and Fall

He rises and falls, but it is significant to note that he does not dwell on the mountain-top for long. The death of Edward II whom he manages to murder, and the rise of Prince Edward spell his doom. The career of his life is the graph registering an upward trend and then a sharp downward tendency in the drama. Bad motives seldom pay in life, which is evinced through the character of Mortimer and the Queen.


Violence is the creed which he professes with loud fanfare. The cult of the sword is one to which he is wedded. Royalty he scorns plainly. Junior Mortimer is susceptible to love indeed. Though he is of commanding nature, yet at the end he is commanded by fate to perish. The poetic justice has been done to him by the dramatist. To be spirited is just nice for a person like Him, but the way it leads him is bad. His character proves that there reside the seeds of death in glory.

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