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QUEEN MARGARET-LADY GREY.
York to Margaret. Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible ;
Thou, stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless. In the first part of Henry VI. we become acquainted with MARGARET, as the timid maiden, and humble prisoner, sending her commendations to the King—espoused as she is to him—by the DUKE OF SUFFOLK. In the first act of the second part of this play, she is presented to us as the affianced Queen, for whom HENRY, instead of receiving “large sums of gold and dowries,” has given up Anjou and Maine to the French.
The retiring modesty of MARGARET soon drops, as a veil, before the eyes of the courtiers. Shakspeare paints her jealous nature, which now appears in bold colours. Speaking of ELEANOR, the Duchess of Gloucester, she says
“Not all these lords do rex me half so much
As that proud dame, the lord protector's wife.” And as circumstances unfold her character, her haughtiness and self-will become accordingly developed. Amongst other instances, a most amusing scene is presented in a quarrel between her and the Duchess, in which they are scarce restrained from a personal encounter, so bitter is the enmity between them. In the second and following acts, King HENRY is exhibited as completely under the hands of the ambitious Queen. She endeavours to sow dissension between him and GLOUCESTER ; the King defends him; but MARGARET is resolved that -
“The welfare of us all
Hangs on the cutting short that fraudful man.” Carrying her point, the Duke is condemned to die, and is at last murdered by her command.
Her arrogance now knows no bounds; and the King is depicted as daily becoming the
prey of remorse and fear, which is increased by the rival factions, with which he is encompassed. In the third part of the play, we see the misfortunes of Henry constantly accumulating He is surrounded by treason; and RICHARD, DUKE OF YORK, is proposed, by WARWICK, as king in place of “bashful Henry,” who is to be deposed. QUEEN MARGARET, however, appears, and, reviling the King for his timidity, brings forward Prince EDWARD as heir to the throne, claiming that he cannot be disinherited by any act of his father. Tearing herself from Henry, who has become a pitiable spectacle, she leaves him to his fate, and goes with her son to their army, boldly entering into battle with all her foes, and daring their worst endeavours. Thus she is painted by Shakspeare with the fiercest of characters—one almost beyond the possibility of a woman's power to possess.
LADY GREY is introduced as the wife of Sir John Grey, whose lands have been seized. She appears before EDWARD, who is now King, and he tries her feelings of affection towards her family, in the most severe terms possible. He, however, satisfies himself of her truthfulness, and ends by offering his hand, restoring all her lost lands to her. MARGARET, in the end, is sent back to France, and EDWARD reigns with his Queen in peace; Henry, for the time, enjoying a respite from the troubles caused by his impetuous wife.
Queen Margaret. Great lords, wise men ne'er sit and wail
King HENRY VI., Part III.-Act V. Sccnc IV.