Ah, he is young, and his minority Is put unto the trust of Richard Gloucester, A man that loves not me nor none of you. (Act I, Scene iii, lines 11–13)
Early in the play, Queen Elizabeth presciently expresses her concerns to her brothers about what may happen to her son, Prince Edward, who stands next in line to the throne. With King Henry ailing, Richard takes the role of her son’s guardian, and she knows the prince is not truly safe. Elizabeth, despite being the mother, lacks power either to protect her son herself or to appoint a guardian whom she trusts.
A holy day shall this be kept hereafter. I would to God all strifes were well compounded. My sovereign lord, I do beseech your Highness To take our brother Clarence to your grace. (Act II, Scene i, lines 78–81)
Queen Elizabeth convinces King Henry to free Clarence from jail. The king spent the day patching old wounds between his wife’s kinsmen and their enemies in the house of York. Elizabeth seeks to extend this forgiveness to the king’s own brother. This time, the king listens to Elizabeth’s voice of reason and forgiveness instead of Richard’s voice of trickery. Unfortunately, King Edward’s change of heart comes too late to save Clarence.
O, thou well-skilled in curses, stay awhile, And teach me how to curse mine enemies. (Act IV, Scene iv, lines 117–118)
Queen Elizabeth, who lost her husband to illness and her brothers and sons to Richard’s murderous schemes, beseeches Queen Margaret to teach her how to curse. Though the women have been enemies—Elizabeth’s husband killed and overthrew Margaret’s—Elizabeth turns to the older woman for help once she experiences the same loss and grief as Margaret. Elizabeth wants Margaret’s power to curse as cursing will serve as her only means to cause Richard harm.
Send to her, by the man that slew her brothers, A pair of bleeding hearts; thereon engrave “Edward” and “York.” Then haply she will weep. (Act IV, Scene iv, lines 274–276)
King Richard shocks Queen Elizabeth, a woman at the pinnacle of her grief, by suggesting he marry her daughter. Elizabeth’s brutal, vivid imagery drives home the venal nature of Richard’s request. She makes clear that the murder of innocent children exists as a bestial crime, which renders Richard’s request to marry the dead boys’ sister all the more detestable.
Withal, say that the queen hath heartily consented He should espouse Elizabeth her daughter. (Act IV, Scene v, lines 7–8)
Here, Lord Stanley delivers the good news to Richmond that Queen Elizabeth consented to his marriage to her daughter. In the last scene in which Elizabeth appeared, she seemed to be persuaded by Richard’s manipulative language to let him marry the girl. This piece of news becomes a sign of a world righting itself once again. The news also indicates Richard’s failures at using language, which may foretell losing the kingdom.
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