There are five female characters in the play Richard III. Of these
five there are four central female characters; the Duchess of York,
Richard's mother; Anne who later becomes Richard's wife; Queen
Margaret who was the former queen and Richard's arch enemy and Queen
Elizabeth, the current queen. The final female character who plays a
minor role in the play is Queen Elizabeth's daughter, Elizabeth, but
she is merely a pawn in Richard's plan and we never meet her. Each
woman has a significant role in Richard III and is vital to the
Anne is the first female character that we meet in the text (act 1
scene 2), which is where she is wooed by the ultimate villain in the
play, Richard. Anne has just lost her husband and is wallowing in
self-pity when Richard appears. Anne is a vulnerable and weak
character throughout the play although she appears bold and vengeful
at the beginning of this scene, trying to disarm Richard with words,
'Dost grant me, hedgehog? Then God grant me too/Thou mayst be damned
for that wicked deed!' Anne is confused and emotionally unstable which
makes her more susceptible to Richard's charms.
Anne's dramatic role in the play is to reveal Richard's power to charm
and manipulate which he does exceptionally. Although the audience know
of his true intentions and that he does not plan to 'keep her long' we
are glad that he has succeeded because he is the typical villain that
we love to hate, although Anne must be corrupt to succumb to him and
his charms. He admits that he killed her husband and her father-in-law
'Nay, do not pause; for I did kill King Henry/But 'twas thy beauty
that provoked me/'twas I ...
... middle of paper ...
...use they have all been
victims of King Richard and finally realise that they have to support
each other because they have no-one else. Queen Elizabeth asks Queen
Margaret for instructions in cursing 'O thou well skilled in curses,
stay a while/And teach me how to curse mine enemies!' which I believe
is her way of saying sorry and treating her as an equal.
The women in this play are vital to the script and although they have
no power whatsoever in this play, without them neither would Richard.
Part of each of the female characters role was to show that in their
era it was the men that held the power and the women were entirely
powerless which Shakespeare presented superbly.
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997), 515-600.
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