Marring Marlowe: A Low Pun in Edward II?

    Contemporary humanists often seem to operate on the principle that any possible pun in Shakespeare and his contemporaries is real or intended (loaded word!) or somehow present to the alert reader, inevitably adding to the meaning of the passage. It seems to me that one can go too far with this principle. One example should suffice to prove it.(1)

    After the climactic regicide in Marlowe’s Edward II, the young king calls Mortimer “Villaine” and then delivers this accusation ( 27-32):

Thinke not that I am frighted with thy words,
My father’s murdered through thy treacherie,
And thou shalt die, and on this mournefull hearse,
Thy hateful and accursed head shall lie,
To witness to the world, that by thy meanes,
His kingly body was too soone interrde.

In the previous scene, the king his father complained that he was imprisoned in a sewer (V.v 56-57):

This dungeon where they keepe me, is the sincke
Wherein the filthe of all the castell falles.

It would therefore be entirely appropriate, in one way, to take the last word of his son’s speech as a pun, and hear “interrde” as a disyllable and at the same time as two monosyllables. However, this would be so utterly inappropriate in every other way, that I cannot believe Marlowe intended any such pun. Sometimes meaningful word-play is purely coincidental – or at most subconscious and better suppressed. Apologies to my readers for bringing this one out into the no-longer-quite-so-fresh air.

(1) Text and line numbers are taken from Fredson Bowers (ed.), The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, Vol. II (Cambridge, 1973). The line numbers of the two quotations are 2595-2600 and 2504-05 in C. F. Tucker Brooke (ed.), The Works of Christopher Marlowe (Oxford, 1910).

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