Richard III

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Queen Elizabeth Character Analysis

Wife to King Edward and mother to Edward Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, and a daughter (also named Elizabeth) whom Richmond eventually marries, Elizabeth is progressively devastated by Richard's rise as he murders first her allies, Earl Rivers, Lord Grey, and Sir Vaughan, then her young sons, and then tries to marry her daughter.

Queen Elizabeth Quotes in Richard III

The Richard III quotes below are all either spoken by Queen Elizabeth or refer to Queen Elizabeth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Richard III published in 1996.
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

Cannot a plain man live, and think no harm,
But thus his simple truth must be abus'd
With silken, sly, insinuating Jacks?

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), Queen Elizabeth
Page Number: 1.3.52-43
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Queen Elizabeth and her brothers are worrying about King Edward's health. Though her brothers try to comfort her, Elizabeth is afraid that if the king dies, Richard will seize power, since he hates her and since her sons are too young to rule. After King Edward announces that he wants Richard and Queen Elizabeth's brothers to make peace, Richard enters, furious, and complains that he is being slandered to the king.

Here Richard suggests that he is a "plain man" who thinks "no harm." He claims that he has been "abus'd" by "silken, sly, insinuating Jacks." These lines are extremely ironic, since Richard himself has been slandering pretty much everyone else on stage, and he has the most eloquent (and least "plain") tongue around. Richard has been slandering Queen Elizabeth to Clarence, for example, and so everyone blames her for Clarence's imprisonment. Richard is doing what he does throughout the play: using lies and carefully constructed language to manipulate others and gain power, all while seeming innocent.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Richard III quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Ay me, I see the ruin of my house!
The tiger now hath seiz'd the gentle hind;
Insulting tyranny begins to jet
Upon the innocent and aweless throne.
Welcome, destruction, blood, and massacre!
I see, as in a map, the end of all.

Related Characters: Queen Elizabeth (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Page Number: 2.4.54-59
Explanation and Analysis:

Edward is dead, and his son, Prince Edward of Wales, is in line to be crowned king. But Richard and his sidekick Buckingham plot to have Richard crowned; they imprison and plan to kill Queen Elizabeth's relatives Rivers, Dorset, and Grey. In this scene Elizabeth's younger son, Duke of York, has recounted a strange interaction with Richard, and Elizabeth sees through Richard's manipulation of her son. A messenger then enters and informs Elizabeth of her relatives' imprisonment.

To this news Queen Elizabeth responds with the lamentation excerpted in the quote. She claims to see the "ruin of her house," since by imprisoning or killing everyone, Richard has disempowered her family. She refers to him as a "tiger" that has pounced on his opportunity, characterizing him as tyranny ascending to the throne that should be pure ("innocent"). She dramatically welcomes "destruction, blood, and massacre," saying that she sees the end of everything like she's viewing a map. This language is powerful and dramatic, but Elizabeth is essentially correct--she sees what will happen, but can do nothing to stop it.

Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

Ah, my poor princes! ah, my tender babes!
My unblown flowers, new-appearing sweets!
If yet your gentle souls fly in the air
And be not fix'd in doom perpetual,
Hover about me with your airy wings
And hear your mother's lamentation!

Related Characters: Queen Elizabeth (speaker), Edward, Prince of Wales, Duke of York
Page Number: 4.4.10-15
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene begins with Queen Margaret alone on stage delivering a soliloquy in which she explains that she has been "slyly" lurking in the Palace, secretly watching the downfalls of her enemies. She pauses and hides, however, when Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess enter the stage. The pair is distraught over the deaths of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York.

Elizabeth begins with this monologue, crying out to her dead sons, whom she calls her "tender babes" and her "unblown flowers." In this powerful speech, she invites the "gentle souls" of her children to "hover about her" and hear their "mother's lamentation," that is, unless they are "fix'd in doom perpetual." We see in Elizabeth the pain of losing her children and her desire to speak to them even in their deaths; she cries out to them, wanting them to know that she grieves for them. At the same time, we see the uncertainty that death brings; she doesn't know if they are doomed to hell or exist as "airy" angel-like spirits who can hear and be near her.

Watching a mother lose her children is extremely painful, though not for Margaret, who comments (below) that Elizabeth and the Duchess deserve their grief for their crimes against her. Margaret will ultimately tell Elizabeth that the power behind curses is bitter grief.

I had an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
I had a Harry, till a Richard kill'd him:
Thou hadst an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
Thou hadst a Richard, till a Richard kill'd him.

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, Queen Elizabeth, King Edward IV, Ghost of King Henry VI, Ghost of Edward of Westminster
Page Number: 4.4.42-45
Explanation and Analysis:

Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess continue to lament the deaths of the Prince of Wales and Duke of York, while Queen Margaret offers asides suggesting that she has suffered worse and that the other women are deserving of their grief. When Elizabeth and the Duchess sit down, Queen Margaret reveals herself and asks them to privilege her grief over their own since she had been grieving for longer than they have. She then compares the woes of each side, suggesting they can see their own losses as mirrors of her own.

With beautiful parallel phrasing she shows how the losses and grief are related. Margaret had an Edward, "till a Richard kill'd him." She had "a Harry, till a Richard kill'd him." The Edward she speaks of first is her son Edward of Westminster, and the Harry is King Henry IV, her husband. Both men have been murdered by Richard III. Likewise, Elizabeth "hadst an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him," and had a "Richard" as well, "till a Richard kill'd him." The Edward Margaret mentions second is King Edward, Elizabeth's husband, and the lost Richard is the Duke of York, Elizabeth's son. The parallel phrasing and similar names and relationships of the deceased are linked masterfully by the same words which end each of the lines in the quote. Richard III killed everyone mentioned. These lines illuminate the gruesome extent of Richard's murders, and help turn Elizabeth and the Duchess more fully against Richard.

Forbear to sleep the nights, and fast the days;
Compare dead happiness with living woe;
Think that thy babes were fairer than they were,
And he that slew them fouler than he is:
Bettering thy loss makes the bad causer worse:
Revolving this will teach thee how to curse.

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III, Queen Elizabeth
Page Number: 4.4.121-126
Explanation and Analysis:

Margaret, the Duchess, and Elizabeth have been angrily bickering, trading insults and blaming each other for their losses. Queen Margaret reminds the other women of her curse, now fulfilled, and begins to exit, when Elizabeth begs her to teach her how to curse: "O, thou well skilled in curses, stay awhile / And teach me how to curse my enemies." The lines in the quote are Margaret's response, a recipe for powerful curses.

She instructs Elizabeth to stay awake at night and fast (not eat) during the days. Next, she says to compare the happiness that is now dead with the woe that she now experiences. Remember your lost children as perfect and better than they ever really were, and imagine the one who killed your children to be even worse than he is; such thinking will make the loss seem more terrible ("better") and make the killer seem more evil ("worse"). Understanding these instructions and constantly thinking about your revenge will give Elizabeth the power ("teach thee how") to curse.

Here we see that the curse-language and power attributed to women in the play is fueled by loss and woe. Elizabeth calls out in response to this instruction, "My words are dull. O, quicken them with thine!" But rather than giving further instruction or giving Elizabeth secret words, she simply responds that "Thy woes will make them sharp and pierce like mine." It is woe that hones the women's words and woe that embodies their words with the ability to curse others.

Bear her my true love's kiss; and so, farewell.
[Exit QUEEN ELIZABETH]
Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), Queen Elizabeth
Page Number: 4.4.453-454
Explanation and Analysis:

This exchange comes after a long conversation between Richard and Elizabeth. Richard has already been cursed by his mother, the Duchess, who has exited. In his dialogue with Elizabeth, he tries to convince her to help him to marry her daughter. Richard believes that such a marriage will secure his seat on the throne (as discussed above in 4.3). But Elizabeth is appalled, saying that she'll do anything she can to protect her daughter from the man who murdered her sons, suggesting to Richard that she knows of his evil deeds.

After a long argument with many shifting tactics, Richard appears to convince Elizabeth to talk to her daughter and write back with her answer. Richard, believing himself victorious, tells Elizabeth to bring her daughter Richard's "true love's kiss," and bids the Queen farewell. The moment the Queen leaves the stage, Richard calls her a "relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!" behind her back. This line plays on the stereotype that women are fickle and untrustworthy, constantly changing their minds. Richard knows that Elizabeth would be a fool to get tricked again and change her mind (relent), but in this case Elizabeth is actually fooling Richard, pretending to agree to support him when in reality she will not.

Get the entire Richard III LitChart as a printable PDF.
Richard iii.pdf.medium

Queen Elizabeth Character Timeline in Richard III

The timeline below shows where the character Queen Elizabeth appears in Richard III. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Power Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...that he will be murdered by a ‘G.' Richard explains that Edward's domineering wife, Queen Elizabeth, must be behind this, as she recently convinced her husband to imprison Lord Hastings, who... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
..."we speak no treason," he says, he and Clarence are just complimenting King Richard, Queen Elizabeth, and their relatives. Brackenbury apologizes. Richard promises Clarence he will do everything possible to free... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth's brother Earl Rivers, and Lord Grey worriedly discuss King Edward's health at the Palace.... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...King Edward. They report that the king wants to make peace between Richard and Queen Elizabeth's brothers. Richard enters complaining that Elizabeth and her friends have slandered him to the king.... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
...and mother of Edward of Westminster, enters unnoticed. She berates everyone under her breath, accusing Elizabeth of stealing the throne that belongs to her, and accusing Richard of killing her husband... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Queen Margaret starts hurling curses. She curses Elizabeth to "outlive [her] glory," her children, her husband, and her throne, as Margaret has. She... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Sir William Catesby enters with a message from King Edward, who calls Elizabeth, Rivers and the other lords to his bedside. All exit but Richard, who recounts with... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Back at the Palace, King Edward announces to Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, Rivers, Hastings, Buckingham, Grey, and others that, though he is near death, he feels... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...to keep friendly peace and claims he has no enemies in all of England. Queen Elizabeth asks the King to forgive Clarence and, when Richard interjects that Clarence is dead, everyone... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Richard notes to Buckingham how pale "the guilty kindred" of Queen Elizabeth looked upon hearing Clarence was killed. "O, they did urge it still unto the king!"... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Queen Elizabeth enters distraught with Rivers and Dorset, and reports that King Edward is dead. The Duchess... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Dorset and Rivers interrupt the women to urge Queen Elizabeth to have her son, young Edward Prince of Wales, crowned immediately. Richard, Buckingham, Stanley, Hastings,... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
...maternal and fraternal uncles are factious and include the dangerous Richard and haughty relatives of Elizabeth. "…were they to be rul'd, and not to rule," the citizen speculates, "This sickly land... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Language Theme Icon
In a room at the Palace, the Archbishop of York, Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess, and the young Duke of York (young Edward Prince of Wales' younger brother)... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
...Thomas Vaughan have been imprisoned by Richard and Buckingham. He doesn't know for what offense. Elizabeth laments "the ruin of my house" and the Duchess cries out that she'd rather die... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...The Lord Mayor of London enters and welcomes Edward. Hastings enters and reports that Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of York have taken sanctuary and thus can't come to meet the... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...discuss how to crown Richard instead. Richard further tells Catesby to inform Hastings that Queen Elizabeth's captive relatives (Hastings' enemies) will be killed the next day at Pomfret Castle. Catesby exits.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...Buckingham, and Hastings, but hopes that his own shed blood will exempt his sister Queen Elizabeth and her sons from any misfortune. They exit to be executed. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Power Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...killed. Richard extends a withered arm as evidence of witchcraft worked against him by Queen Elizabeth and Mistress Shore. When Hastings' hesitates to agree the women are guilty, Richard orders Hastings... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
At the Tower, Queen Elizabeth enters on one side with the Duchess and Dorset while Anne, now Richard's wife, and... (full context)
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Stanley enters and summons Anne to Westminster to be crowned Richard's queen. Elizabeth wails in grief at the news of Richard becoming king. Anne, too, is distraught and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...mine enemies" before she heads off to France. She steps back into hiding when Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess enter. The two of them are crazed with grief at the murder... (full context)
Power Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Elizabeth dittoes the Duchess' curse and starts to leave but Richard stops her and says he... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Elizabeth rebuts all Richard's attempts to coax her into taking his side, calling him an evil... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...will behead him if he finds out about Stanley's betrayal. Stanley also tells Urswick that Elizabeth has gladly agreed to give Richmond her daughter's hand in marriage. Urswick lists the many... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...white rose and the red rose (the Houses of York and Lancaster) by marrying Queen Elizabeth's daughter. He declares "smooth'd-fac'd peace" for England from now on and prays to God for... (full context)