Shakespeare’s queen margaret: Unruly or unruled?

Naomi C. Liebler, Lisa Scancella Shea

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

11 Scopus citations


As one of only two Shakespearean characters who survive through four plays, t Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI’s queen, is much underrated by critics who have written about the figures of the First Tetralogy. They variously describe her as "an archvillainess… epitomiz[ing] the worst qualities of her own sex" (Lee 216), "monstrous" (Howard and Rackin 96), and "conniving" (Bevington 57). Indeed, as Nina Levine has recently pointed out, York’s characterization of her as "a tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide" has "come to dominate discussions of Margaret in the years since" (Women’s Matters 68). Generally missing from discussions of Margaret is a recognition of her amazing endurance despite the pervasive corruption, duplicity, and political intrigue of which she is sometimes the agent and at other times the intended victim. In this regard she evolves into a most worthy opponent to the chameleon king, Richard III. She warms up for this, her apotheosis, by first taking on Suffolk in 1 Henry VI, Eleanor and Gloucester in 2 Henry VI, and York in 3 Henry VI, at each turn honing her confrontational skills, working toward her ultimate challenge to the king in Richard III. What is at stake in each of these contests is, above all other considerations, her personal and political autonomy-as a woman and a queen.2 At each successive stage of her career she takes on one of the archetypal roles Jung was later to describe for the life cycle of a woman-Virgin, Wife, Mother, and the "Wise Old Woman" or Crone (Jung 5-21; 41-53). Margaret sustains a feminine autonomy by resisting patriarchal definitions of femininity; she will not be subjugated or silenced, or defined by those around her, despite their persistent attempts to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHenry VI
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Essays
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781134828388
ISBN (Print)0815333013, 9780815333012
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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