Though she plays a very minor role in the play’s plot, mostly prowling around the castle cursing to herself, Margaret is nevertheless one of the most important and memorable characters in Richard III. The impotent, overpowering rage that she directs at Richard and his family stands for the helpless, righteous anger of all Richard’s victims. The curses she levels at the royals in Act I, which are among the most startling and memorable in all of Shakespeare, foreshadow and essentially determine future events of the play. Her lesson to Elizabeth and the duchess about how to curse paints a striking picture of the psychology of victimization and the use of language as a means of alleviating anguish.
As the wife of the dead and vanquished King Henry VI, Margaret also represents the plight of women under the patriarchal power structure of Renaissance England. Without a husband to grant her status and security, she is reduced to depending on the charity of her family’s murderers to survive—a dire situation that she later wishes on Elizabeth. Margaret is a one-dimensional character, representing rage and pain, but she is vital to the play for the sheer focus of torment she brings to the world surrounding Richard’s irresistible evil.
More characters from Richard III