Richard III

by: William Shakespeare

Margaret

I do find more pain in banishment Than death can yield me here by my abode. A husband and a son thou ow’st to me; . . . And thou a kingdom; —all of you, allegiance. The sorrow that I have by right is yours, And all the pleasures you usurp are mine. (Act I, Scene iii, lines 168–173)

When Richard points out that Queen Margaret was banished from the kingdom on pain of death, Margaret responds with these lines, explaining that she basically can’t keep herself away from the court. The queen’s words show that she is making a choice to hold onto her bitterness for the murder of her family. Rather than attempt to move away, she returns to the castle where the terrible murders happened in hopes of spreading her grief to the Yorks.

Edward thy son, that now is Prince of Wales, For Edward our son, that was Prince of Wales, Die in his youth by like untimely violence. Thyself a queen, for me that was a queen, Outlive thy glory, like my wretched self. Long mayst thou live to wail thy children’s death And see another, as I see thee now, Decked in thy rights, as thou art stalled in mine. Long die thy happy days before thy death, And, after many lengthened hours of grief, Die neither mother, wife, nor England’s queen. (Act I, Scene iii, lines 201–211)

Early in the play, Queen Margaret, a Lancaster, curses the Yorks for killing her husband and son. Her words here mark the beginning of her curse, which comes to encompass the entire York family and its allies. The witnesses to Margaret’s invective accuse her of being a hysterical liar and rightly point out that members of her family have also initiated wholesale murder against the Yorks. Margaret, however, will prove to be prophetic, not crazy, when these ills come true.

Now Margaret’s curse is fall’n upon our heads, When she exclaimed on Hastings, you, and I, For standing by when Richard stabbed her son. (Act III, Scene iii, lines 15–17)

Grey, the speaker, and Rivers and Vaughn were all included in Queen Margaret’s curse, a fact they recall on their way to their execution. These men, Queen Elizabeth’s brothers, were included in the curse because they helped the Yorks overthrow King Henry VI. Their deaths show the actualization of Margaret’s curse—her words do have power.

I had an Edward till a Richard killed him; I had a husband till a Richard killed him. Thou hadst an Edward till a Richard killed him; Thou hadst a Richard till a Richard killed him. (Act IV, Scene iv, lines 42–45)

As Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York learn of the deaths of the young princes, Queen Margaret belittles their grief. She feels that her own loss feels greater because she has carried her pain for longer. Her words, however, indicate that the women have far more commonalities than differences. Her words also demonstrate how women, who were forced to define themselves through their relationships to the men in their families, possessed little power over their own identities and destinies.

Thy woes will make them sharp and pierce like mine. (Act IV, Scene iv, line 125)

This sentence, spoken to Queen Elizabeth, stands as Queen Margaret’s last line in the play and is part of her response to Elizabeth’s request to learn how to curse successfully. Elizabeth feels that she does not speak well enough to bring about results, but Margaret explains that if you are truly sorrow stricken, your words will have resonance and power. Margaret’s final statement reinforces the idea that she exists now simply to hate and hurt others because these emotions have overcome her.