Act 1, Scene 1
Piers Gaveston enters reading an intimate letter from King Edward II, informing him that the old king has passed away and that he may return to England, which is received with much joy. Three poor men than accost Gaveston begging for assistance, and he ultimately tells them to come back later after he has spoken with the king. At this point, Gaveston steps aside, and the king and the lords enter from Parliament. The Mortimers, the Earl of Lancaster and others are unhappy with the fact that Gaveston has been recalled from exile and that he is being shown so much favor; the king is only defended by his brother, the Earl of Kent. Edward II does not care what the lords have to say and informs them that he has no intention of sending his beloved Gaveston away. The lords depart in anger, threatening open war if Gaveston is not expelled. Gaveston then comes forward and is received joyously by the king, who then proceeds to make him lord chamberlain, the royal secretary and Earl of Cornwall and promises him any protection he needs against his enemies. The Bishop of Coventry, the man who passed the sentence of exile on Gaveston, then enters and is immediately upset to see the exiled man back in England. Coventry promises that there will be retribution for breaking the law, and the king responds by stripping the bishop of all his possessions, giving them to Gaveston and imprisoning him.
Act 1, Scene 2
The Earls of Lancaster and Warwick and the Mortimers discuss how they shall rid the realm of Gaveston and are disgusted with the new titles and positions he has been awarded, as well as the fact that the Bishop of Conventry's possessions now belong to Gaveston. The Archbishop of Canterbury enters and, also unhappy with the treatment of the bishop, agrees to join forces with the lords against Gaveston, but not the king. Queen Isabella then enters, lamenting the fact that the king cares not about her but dedicates all his attentions to Gaveston. The lords comfort her and tell her that they will deal with Gaveston. Isabella pleads with them not to raise arms against the king, but Mortimer says he must, if words do not work.
Act 1, Scene 3
Gaveston informs Kent that the lords have gone towards Lambeth.
Act 1, Scene 4
The lords have drawn up a document once again exiling Gaveston from England and mean to make the king sign it. Kent, Gaveston and the king enter and the lords immediately begin to plead their case. They have both Gaveston and Kent led off and urge the king to rid himself of the former. Despite the king's offerings of high offices for them, the lords persist on ridding themselves of Gaveston (Mortimer even threatens deposition if the king does not comply), and Edward ultimately signs the document, prompting the lords to depart in happiness. Gaveston enters and he and the king share an emotional farewell, before Edward leads off his friend to his exile in Ireland (but not before the queen arrives and engages in a heated argument with Gaveston over the the king's affections and the queen's inappropriate relations with Mortimer). When the two men leave, the queen laments her situation and decides that the best way to win the king's love is to stand up for Gaveston. The lords arrive and comfort the queen in her sadness, and she informs them that she wishes Gaveston to remain in England in order to please the king. Most of the lords are against this, but Isabella takes Mortimer aside and reasons with him that it would be more beneficial for Gaveston to remain, so that he may be killed. With this reasoning, the lords agree to repeal Gaveston's banishment. The king then enters, mourning, and is informed by the queen that Gaveston shall not be exiled. At this news, Edward is extremely happy and says kind words to the queen and all the lords present, who all kneel to him. The king says that tournaments shall be assembled to celebrate his friend's return and that Gaveston shall marry his cousin, heiress to the Earl of Gloucester. All depart except for the Mortimers. Mortimer senior tells of how he must go to Scotland, and that his nephew should look after things at court, but not to worry much about Gaveston, since every king and great ruler has had his favorites. The younger Mortimer is worried that a man of such low birth has such a high influence on the king but vows to stay loyal to him nonetheless.
Act 2, Scene 1 Setting: Gloucester's house
Baldock asks Spencer Junior whose service he shall be in now that the Earl of Gloucester has passed away, and Spencer replies that he wishes to serve Gaveston (so he may receive the king's favor), who has recently been recalled from exile, before lecturing Baldock on certain courtly manners. They talk about how happy the king's niece must be that Gaveston is recalled, and the lady then enters, joyously reading a letter that tells her of her love's return. Margaret and Spencer then depart to see Gaveston.
Act 2, Scene 2 Setting: Tynemouth
As he waits for Gaveston to return, Edward II irritates the lords by continuously talking about his friend and ignoring the matters of state that Mortimer is attempting to speak of. Mortimer and Lancaster then use poetic innuendos to tell the king of their hatred against Gaveston, which greatly angers him. Gaveston then arrives much to the king's joy. The lords, however, only give him a sarcastic and insincere welcome, which further angers the king and causes a squabble that ends in Mortimer wounding Gaveston, who is then led off. Edward reprimands the lords for their actions and threatens to muster an army to subdue them before departing in a rage. The lords then decide that they must do all they can to eliminate Gaveston. A messenger arrives and informs the lords that Mortimer Senior has been captured by the Scots. Mortimer immediately suggests that the king should pay his uncle's ransom since he was captured fighting in his war. The king reenters and Mortimer informs him of his uncle's capture and suggests he pay the ransom, which Edward outright refuses. Edward's refusal to ransom Mortimer Senior acts as the catalyst to set off Mortimer Junior and Lancaster, who then go off on a lengthy tirade, informing the king of all he has done wrong in the kingdom. They claim that Scotland, Ireland, France and northern England are out of control because of his lack of attention to them; the queen is left ignored and neglected; the people are in rebellion; and the one army the king led (at Bannockburn against the Scots) was a complete disaster. After they speak their minds, Mortimer and Lancaster depart, threatening rebellion. The king vents his anger to his brother Kent, who tells him the lords are right about the Gaveston situation, furthering the king's anger and resulting in Kent's dismissal. Gaveston, the queen, Spencer and others enter, and the king complains of the rebellious behavior of Mortimer and the lords and promises advancement for Spencer and Baldock. Edward announces the marriage between Gaveston and Margaret before swearing revenge against the lords to end the scene.
Act 2, Scene 3 Setting: Near Tynemouth Castle
Kent wishes to join the lords in their fight against Gaveston. Though they are suspicious at first, he being the king's brother, they ultimately receive him openly. The lords then prepare to fight with their enemy to the last, once again stating that they mean no harm against the king, only Gaveston and his followers.
Act 2, Scene 4 Setting: Near Tynemouth Castle
The king, Gaveston, Spencer and Margaret are pursued by the lords and, panicking frantically, they flee (but not before the king, once again, accuses the queen of lusting over Mortimer). At this point, the lords enter and attempt to comfort the queen, who then tells them the king's strategy and where he and Gaveston have fled to. The lords pursue the king and his followers by boat, and the queen is left along to lament her sad situation, claiming that, if Edward does not start showing her the attention she deserves, she will leave England with her son for France, where her brother is king.
Act 2, Scene 5
The scene begins with the lords capturing Gaveston, who they then inform will be promptly executed for his misleading of the king. The Earl of Arundel arrives and tells the lords that the king knows of Gaveston's capture and pleads with them to allow him to see his friend one last time before he is executed. At first, the lords are firm in their resolve not to let Gaveston out of their sights until he is dead, but the Earl of Pembroke pledges his honor that he will take Gaveston to the king so they may have their final meeting and quickly return him to the lords to face his execution. To this, the lords agree, and Gaveston is left in the charge of Pembroke's servant James.
Act 3, Scene 1
Warwick arrives to seize Gaveston from Pembroke's men. After the earl is criticized for his treacherous behavior, he claims to be doing what's best for his country and departs with Gaveston as his prisoner.
Act 3, Scene 2
Edward laments the absence of Gaveston, and Spencer advises the king to be more firm with the rebels, which he agrees with. Spencer Senior then arrives with armed men to support the king's cause and, when Edward discovers who he is, he promptly creates him Earl of Wiltshire for his loyal services. The queen and Prince Edward arrive and inform Edward that the King of France has seized the English territories in Normandy. To this Edward sends the queen and prince to France to handle the situation. The Earl of Arundel enters and informs the king that Gaveston is dead, having been abducted from Pembroke's custody by the Earl of Warwick. The king is devastated by this information and vows revenge on all the rebel lords. He then creates Spencer Junior Earl of Gloucester and Lord Chamberlain. A herald from the lords arrives and informs the king that they now wish him to dismiss Spencer from his presence if he wants peace to return to his kingdom. The king dismisses the herald with a message that the lords should prepare to do battle against him.
Act 3, Scene 3 Setting: The battlefield at Boroughbridge, Yorkshire
Edward and the Spencers rest from the battle against the rebels. The lords then enter and reprimand the king for ignoring the nobility and surrounding himself with base flatterers. To this the king says he will fight to the death and ultimately have the traitors' heads.
Act 3, Scene 4 Setting: The battlefield at Boroughbridge, Yorkshire
The king has won the Battle of Boroughbridge and has all the lords, including his brother Kent, as prisoners. He reprimands them for their treasonous actions and their deceitful murder of Gaveston before dismissing his brother and ordering the executions of Lancaster and Warwick and the imprisonment of Mortimer, before departing in triumph. Spencer Junior, Baldock and Levune then discuss a strategy against the queen, who is apparently striking a deal with her brother the French king against King Edward. Levune departs for France in an attempt to prevent this from happening.
Act 4, Scene 1 Setting: Near the Tower of London
Kent laments his brother's actions against the nobility and his favoring of flatterers and claims he will be traveling to France to aid the queen. Mortimer then escapes from the tower, and the two men depart for the continent.
Act 4, Scene 2 Setting: Paris, France
The queen discusses with Prince Edward how her brother will give them no aid in France, and the prince suggests they should return to England. Sir John of Hainault then arrives and comforts the queen, telling her that she and the prince may join him in Hainault, where they will find ample support for their cause. Kent and Mortimer then enter and the queen is happy that they have survived the rebel defeat. Mortimer vows to depose the king and place Prince Edward in his place, which the prince does not agree with. All present, except the prince, vow to do whatever it takes to bring down the king and his flatterers and restore good government to England, before departing to Hainault.
Act 4, Scene 3
The king and Spencer brag about their triumph over the rebels, and it is said that, if Mortimer remains in England, he shall be recaptured and punished. A messenger enters and informs the king that the queen, prince, Mortimer and Kent are in Hainault receiving assistance to press the prince's claim to the throne. Edward is disappointed by this news and upset that his young son is caught in the middle, but vows to once again do battle against the rebels.
Act 4, Scene 4 Setting: Near Harwich
The rebel party arrives in England, and the queen and Mortimer tell of how they will liberate the country of the king and his flatterers and place Prince Edward on the throne.
Act 4, Scene 5 Setting: Near Bristol
The king and his party are forced to retreat from the rebels. Spencer suggests that they flee to Ireland, but the king persists on staying and fighting his enemies. They are forced to retreat anyway. Kent enters and delivers a soliloquy on how he regrets deserting his brother the king and joining forces with the rebels. The rebel party then arrives and are proud of their victory against the royal army, naming Prince Edward Lord Warden of the realm. Kent inquires as to what the king's fate shall be (much to Mortimer and the queen's suspicion), and Mortimer tells him that it is up to Parliament to decide Edward's fate. Rice ap Howell enters with Spencer Senior as his prisoner and the rebels praise him for his services. They are then informed that the king, Spencer Junior and the rest of the royal party have fled to Ireland. Mortimer orders Spencer Senior to be executed, and the rebels discuss their strategy.
Act 4, Scene 6 Setting: The abbey of Neath
The king, Spencer and Baldock are in an abbey disguised as monks. They lament their tragic situation and envy the monks for their quiet and simple existence before Rice and the Earl of Leicester arrive to have Spencer and Baldock arrested for high treason. Leicester also informs the king that he will be taken to Killingworth before he is led off. Rice then leads Spencer and Baldock off to their fates.
Act 5, Scene 1 Setting: A room in Kenilworth Castle
King Edward is present with Leicester, Trussell and the Bishop of Winchester, the latter two of whom are attempting to convince the king to resign his crown in favor of his son. The king delivers a lengthy, sad lament on his downfall, where he acknowledges the fact that it will be Mortimer, not Prince Edward, who will really be governing the realm. He then refuses to give up his crown to the men, who begin to depart to give this answer to Parliament. Leicester convinces the king to call them back since, if he does not willingly resign, the prince will be disinherited. Edward calls the men back, gives up the crown and gives a handkerchief for his wife the queen, which they then depart with. Lord Berkeley then enters with orders from Mortimer that the king must be transferred to his custody, which he is.
Act 5, Scene 2 Setting: The Royal Palace
Mortimer tells Queen Isabella how the king's flatterers have been executed and how he shall be regent of England during her son's reign after the king is deposed. Isabella agrees to go along with any plans he may have when the Bishop of Winchester and a messenger arrive with news that the king has given up his crown. The bishop also informs Mortimer that Kent has made an attempt to free his brother from prison, and Berkeley is no less sympathetic than Leicester was towards the king's person, much to Mortimer's dismay. As a precaution, Mortimer calls in and assigns Matrevis and Gurney to take control of the king. He orders them to treat him harshly and move him from place to place so he may not be found. Isabella, who fells sympathy for her husband, gives the men a ring to give to the king before they depart. Kent and Prince Edward then arrive, and Mortimer agrees to speak kindly to Kent despite his attempt to free the king. Mortimer says that Kent should be regent to the prince, but the earl claims that it should be his mother who should take on that role. Kent clearly knows that Mortimer is being deceitful, who then chastises Kent for favoring a man he helped put in prison, attempting to turn the prince against his uncle. Prince Edward is upset by the situation and wishes they would let his father continue to be king so he does not have to reign at such a young age. Mortimer then forcibly leads off the prince, and Kent vows to rescue the king.
Act 5, Scene 3 Setting: Kenilworth Castle
Matrevis and Gurney convey the king to another location as they bathe him with channel water and shave his beard. Kent then enters in an attempt to rescue his brother but is instead taken prisoner himself and led off.
Act 5, Scene 4 Setting: The Royal Palace
Mortimer delivers a soliloquy where he claims that, if he hopes to maintain his status, the king must die. He then reveals a plot he has laid down to kill the king and make it look as if others were responsible (Matrevis and Gurney). Mortimer then calls in Lightborne, the man he has hired to murder the king. Lightborne is told that it cannot look as if any harm has been done to the king, who then informs Mortimer that he is well-trained in committing murders before departing. Mortimer then further brags of how he and the queen shall rule the king and the realm when Prince Edward, now King Edward III, enters from his coronation. Soon after, Kent is led in and is accused of once again attempting to rescue his brother from captivity. Despite the new king's pleadings, Mortimer orders that Kent be led off to execution. The queen does nothing to prevent Kent's execution and even does her best to convince her son that the act is justified.
Act 5, Scene 5 Setting: Berkeley Castle
Matrevis and Gurney both wonder at how the king has been living for over a week in poisonous filth without dieing when Lightborne enters and informs them of his charge. He tells the men that he will shortly require a table, a featherbed and a red hot poker before entering the chamber to speak with the king. Edward immediately knows that Lightborne is there to murder him, but the villain still pretends to be the king's friend, and a messenger from the queen to check on his well-being. After a lengthy lament by Edward and false sympathies by his soon-to-be murderer, Lightborne calls in Matrevis and Gurney with the materials he ordered. He then kills the king by sodomizing him with the hot poker. Gurney then kills Lightborne and dumps his body in the moat, before departing to bring the king's body to Mortimer.
Act 5, Scene 6 Setting: The Royal Palace
Matrevis informs Mortimer that the king has been murdered, as well as Lightborne, but that he already regrets committing the former murder and that Gurney has already fled and means to inform all of the plot. The queen enters and informs Mortimer that her son has already been told about Edward's murder and that they are responsible for it. Mortimer does not think much of this until the king himself enters and directly accuses the two of murdering his father. Despite Mortimer's denials and the queen's pleadings, the king shows them the letter that Mortimer wrote to order the murder and orders him to be executed immediately. Mortimer is then taken off to execution while the queen further pleads with her son to spare his life. The king pities his mother but tells her she will be punished if she is found to have anything to do with the late king's murder, before she is led off. A lord enters with Mortimer's head, and Edward III delivers a heartfelt eulogy for his fallen father to end the play.