Richard III

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Widow of Henry VI and mother of Edward of Westminster (both murdered by Richard), Margaret is bitter, sharp-tongued, grief-addled, and determined to make the living pay for her lost husband, son, and throne. The curses she casts at the start of the play are successively fulfilled in later subsequent scenes.

Queen Margaret Quotes in Richard III

The Richard III quotes below are all either spoken by Queen Margaret or refer to Queen Margaret. 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

Can curses pierce the clouds and enter heaven? –
Why, then, give way, dull clouds, to my quick curses!

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.203-205
Explanation and Analysis:

Old Queen Margaret, wife of King Henry VI and mother of Edward of Westminster, has entered unnoticed. While Richard and Queen Elizabeth bicker, Margaret delivers a series of angry asides under her breath, accusing Elizabeth of stealing her throne and Richard of killing her husband and son. Eventually, Margaret gets tired of waiting and speaks out loud, calling everyone "wrangling pirates." She then directly accuses Elizabeth and says that Richard owes her a husband and a son. Soon everyone gangs up on Margaret.

Furious with everyone on stage, the old queen then launches into an eloquent tirade against the house of York. In the quote she asks a rhetorical question: can curses really make their way into heaven? In that case, she instructs the "dull clouds" to separate and make way for her "quick curses." Indeed, what follows is extremely quick, in the sense that it conveys her fierce intelligence, and her predictive powers. The curse language that she begins with this quote is future-shaping or predictive, as the curses she makes ultimately come true.


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Thou elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog,
Thou that wast sealed in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell.

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Related Symbols: The Boar
Page Number: 1.3.239-241
Explanation and Analysis:

In Margaret's stream of prophetic curses, Richard is saved for last. She curses him to be tortured by his conscience, to mistake his friends for traitors and traitors for friends, and to be kept sleepless by nightmares of hell. She then begins a long list of horrible epithets. We can note that the list is strengthened by Anaphora--the repetition of a single word (or words) at the beginning of consecutive lines. In this case, the repeated word is "thou." Margaret continues for six lines and seems to have more material before being interrupted by Richard saying "Margaret." Note that she responds masterfully with only "Richard!"

The quoted expert gives the first half of her six-line list of epithets against Richard. She calls him an "abortive, rooting hog" and a "slave of nature" and "son of hell." Note that even without precisely understanding the meaning of these lines one can perceive the sting of Margaret's language. Her reference to a "rooting hog" is a clever play on Richard's heraldic symbol, the Boar. She twists the supposedly noble Boar into a disgusting, aggressive Hog, outlining Richard's true personality.

But everyone on stage has already been cursed by Margaret, and so they are blinded to her accurate assessment of Richard's character. Though Margaret seems to know her predictions will come true, the others discount them. After her exit, Richard pretends to forgive her and spares her life (since she technically has been banished on punishment of death). By doing so, Richard further discounts Margaret's slew of curses and impresses everyone with his gentleness.

Act 4, Scene 4 Quotes

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.

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Queen Margaret Character Timeline in Richard III

The timeline below shows where the character Queen Margaret appears in Richard III. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 3
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Queen Margaret , the wife of King Henry VI and mother of Edward of Westminster, enters unnoticed.... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Queen Margaret 's accusations grow louder and Richard notices her. He asks why she is in England... (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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...guilty closure" of Pomfret Castle in which King Richard II was murdered. Grey notes that Queen Margaret 's curse on them has come true. Rivers responds by hoping that God will fulfill... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...his own horse's strange unwillingness to approach the Tower that day. He cries out that Queen Margaret 's curse on him has been fulfilled. Ratcliffe and Lovel shush Hastings and hurry him... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
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Women Theme Icon
At the Palace, Queen Margaret enters alone, saying that she's been hiding in the Palace all along, watching "the waning... (full context)