The Famous Chronicle of King Edward the First
|This article does not cite any sources. (December 2009)|
The play concentrates on the power struggle between Edward I and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, also glancing at the reign and fall of John Balliol. The play's presentation of Llywelyn's life while in rebellion against Edward is based on the legend of Robin Hood. Although some sympathy is extended to the Welsh the playwright effectively endorses the aim of uniting Britain by force.
Heavily influenced by ballads, the play is rambling and episodic. It has been argued that the text is corrupt and that Peele did not write certain scenes, particularly a (ballad-based) deathbed confession by Queen Eleanor that of all her children, only the last, Edward of Caernarfon, is her husband's. In 1999, a "retroform" of the play was published, with the dubious scenes removed and the remaining text streamlined. Although this would be considerably easier to stage than the full text, there has to date been no modern production.
In Shakespeare the Player (2000), John Southworth (following the Victorian scholar F. G. Fleay) argued that the actor who had originally portrayed Edward was not, as is commonly supposed, Edward Alleyn, but William Shakespeare.