Lightborn is the murderer of Edward II. in Edward II. He is ordered by Mortimer in [Scene 21] to kill the deposed king without anyone being allowed to find out how he died. Lightborn crushes Edward and is afterwards killed by the latter’s guards at Mortimer’s behest in the following scene.
There is no historical model for this character. He is the first professional assassin on the theatre stage.1 From the second half of the 16th century, assassins became visibly more active. They went about it rather bumblingly, which did not prevent them from occasionally succeeding. Like Jacques Clément, they were either killed immediately or, like Balthasar Gerards and François Ravaillac, they experienced such a cruel execution that they wished they had been killed right away too. Men could – much like Robert Poley – spend their lives as professional agents, but the professional killer had not yet been born – except in the theatre. Even before Marlowe, murder was being commissioned on stage. The perpetrators were anonymous figures with at best allegorical names. Marlowe, however, had recognised the stage potential of criminal characters.2 In Edward II, the murderer is given an identity and a biography.

Blass, Jakob. 1913. “Die Entwickelung der Figur des gedungenen Mörders im älteren englischen Drama bis Shakespeare.” Dissertation, Gießen: Hessischen Ludwigs-Universität.

  1. Blass (1913)↩︎
  2. Cunningham (1990)↩︎

Aktualisiert am 18.01.2023

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