"To the Future": Derek Jarman's Edward II in the Archive
Johns Hopkins University press
This essay traces the development of Derek Jarman’s ideas about Christopher Marlowe’s tragedy from his student days at King’s College London, through the film Edward II (1991), to the unpublished screenplay of “Pansy.” I argue that the play Jarman first read as a student and admired for its rhetorical figures and portrayal of same-sex love took on a political edge in 1986, when Jarman was diagnosed as HIV-positive, and homophobic legislation was first debated by Margaret Thatcher’s Government. The truncated film treatment “28” and the scripts for Sod ‘Em composed in response to these events use Marlowe’s tragedy as a structuring device that lends historical depth to the struggles of Jarman’s modern protagonist. In 1988, Jarman physically stood this script on its head as he started to rework it as Edward II in a script that imagined a Renaissance setting for the tragedy and stuck remarkably close to Marlowe’s words and Ranulph Higden’s chronicle account of the life of King Edward II. The screenplay Jarman eventually used for Edward II moves back in the direction of the political rage and focus on the present of Sod’Em and shows Jarman hesitating over the ending of his film and the significance of young Edward III. The return to Sod’Em is completed in Jarman’s Marlowe-inspired screenplay for the satirical musical “Pansy,” which imagines a hopeful future for its young queer king Pansy, who vanquishes the conservative forces of repression and dedicates his rule to sexual freedom.
Volume 32,, Issue 3, pp. 429 - 450
Place of publication