to sleep the nights, and fast the days;
dead happiness with living woe;
thy babes were sweeter than they were,
he that slew them fouler than he is.
thy loss makes the bad causer worse.
this will teach thee how to curse.
Margaret makes this speech as she teaches
the duchess and Elizabeth how to curse. Margaret says that to wrench
the full power of anguish from language one must steep oneself in
one’s misery, -staying awake at night, going hungry during the day,
and even convincing oneself that one’s children were better than
they actually were. This speech is an important insight into the
character of Margaret, who has made it her life to experience the
pain of loss. It is also an important insight into the plight of
victimized women in the play, who have no weapon against their victimizers
but language and who must continually inflict psychological violence
on themselves in order to wield their weapon as effectively as they
can. When Richard appears in the middle of this scene, the women,
one of whom is his own mother, turn on him with ferocious insults,
indicating that they have internalized Margaret’s advice and learned
how to transform their pain into curses.