A friend of Edward's: Identity, homosexuality, and the literature of Edward II, 1300--1630

Michael Gary Cornelius, University of Rhode Island


England's King Edward II is a figure handed down throughout history largely because of his same-sex relationships. Medieval and Renaissance authors did not choose to write about Edward II in spite of his same-sex desires, but, rather, because of them; in essence, to explore issues surrounding same-sex relationships, these writers chose Edward II as their representational figure because his name was already inextricably linked with these desires. In doing so, these authors—including Adam Davy, John Lydgate, John Barbour, Christopher Marlowe, Michael Drayton, Francis Hubert, and Elizabeth Cary—create a genre of queer literature that extends back seven centuries and that, in essence, signals the construction of a modern homosexual identity, several centuries before this identity is normally considered to have been fashioned. Edward's identity-signifier becomes his same-sex desires, and through the course of the literature, these desires are recognized as being the foundation of his character; an inherent part of his nature (and not a choice on the part of the king); an aspect of his character that aligns Edward with a separate but distinct community of both historic and contemporary individuals, a community that is viewed as being a minoritorial group; and, ultimately, as a fundamental aspect that can neither be altered, overlooked, nor swayed in any way. Because each of these works are established within a hierarchy of order, each one advances what the previous accomplishes; even when their dispositions and intentions seem worlds apart, the tradition and the historic reality that the works are built upon come together to create what essentially must be labeled the first modern homosexual identity. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Medieval|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Michael Gary Cornelius, "A friend of Edward's: Identity, homosexuality, and the literature of Edward II, 1300--1630" (2002). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3053100.