Machiavellian Mischief: Gender Distinctions Between Machiavels in Heywood's The Second Part of King Edward IV


  • Samia Anderson


In Thomas Heywood’s drama, The Second Part of King Edward IV, the pages include a wide range of characters who exude Machiavellian characteristics. Most notably, the male characters in Heywood’s drama, such as Richard III and Dr. Shaw fit the standard definition of "Machiavellian" almost perfectly. Each of these men are distinctly Machiavellian in that they are schemers who typically prefer convenience over morality, and they commit many evil deeds which they never repent for. These lawless actions propel them to or keep them in power, making them Machiavellian. On the other hand, women such as Jane Shore, Queen Elizabeth, and Mistress Blage may also be viewed as Machiavellian as their sins are also for their own gain, but so are their acts of kindness. While the men typically execute feigned acts of kindness to further their own gain or access to power, the women perform genuinely good deeds for the same purpose. Thus, the women aid in displaying that not all Machiavellian characters are completely without morality. While Machiavelli makes clear in The Prince that characters must be evil or feign kindness in order to gain or keep power, I believe that does not necessarily reign completely true. I analyze the parallels between male and female characters in The Second Part of King Edward IV to argue that the women, while somewhat Machiavellian in their traits and tendencies, are not complete Machiavels like their male counterparts but still further their personal goals of power through their Machiavellian characteristics.