Early Twentieth-Century Productions of Edward II

  • George L. Geckle
Part of the Text and Performance book series (TEPE)


William Poel’s Elizabethan Stage Society production, which took place at the New Theatre in Oxford on 10 August 1903, is historically significant not only because it was the first known professional performance of Edward II in almost 300 years, but also because the King was played by Harley Granville-Barker. The anonymous reviewer from The Times of 11 August 1903 rather liked Granville-Barker’s interpretation and tells us that ‘he acquitted himself admirably in what is undoubtedly a very difficult part. His conception was scholarly and intelligent, and he brought out with considerable feeling the weak and vacillating side of the character’. However, the reviewer also had a reservation — and that was that ‘the kingly temper’ of Edward was not evident in Granville-Barker’s performance:

The gradual approach of the tragic end was to him only pathetic, and in his dying Edward there was no touch, however faint, of majesty; so that, for example, those lines which, by reason of the sublime imaginative contrast which they afford, are perhaps the most deeply charged with tragic intensity in the whole play — “Tell Isabel, the queen, I looked not thus, When for her sake I ran at tilt in France And there unhorsed the Duke of Cleremont” — brought back none of Edward’s faded glory, but were delivered, as was all the rest of the scene, in a uniform voice of quavering despair.


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© George L. Geckle 1988

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  • George L. Geckle

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