Vital Signs

Gaiety Follies

Edward II
Produced by Steve Clark-Hall and Antony Root
Directed by Derek Jarman
Screenplay by Derek Jarman, Stephen McBride, and Ken Butler
Based on the play by Christopher Marlowe
Released by Fine Line Features

Howards End
Produced by Ishmail Merchant
Directed by James Ivory
Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Based on the novel by E.M. Forster
A Sony Pictures Classic Release

I went to Edward II, expecting to hate it. In New Haven the week before, I had seen the extraordinarily fine production of the play Stan Wojewodski, the new dean of the Yale Drama School, had mounted at the Yale Rep, and I was skeptical of any screen version, particularly a gay-rights polemicization. Whatever Marlowe's own sexual orientation, it seems clear that his rendition of Edward II's homosexual liaison with Piers Gaveston was intended as yet another and almost incidental perversion. The promotion by Edward of his lowborn minion over the nobles was the primary violation of order and the main affront to Mortimer and other peers. In any event, the drumbeat for the gay-liberation parade had not begun to sound either in Edward's time (early 14th century) or Marlowe's (the play was registered in 1594).

Mostly, though, I had been amazed at the power of Wojewodski's production, the...

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