Today we’re going to be breaking down one of StageMilks all time best Shakespeare monologues. Coming to you from none other than Queen Margaret of Anjou in King Henry VI Part 3. This speech is filled with direct attack, high stakes and even higher emotional depth. Let’s take a look.
The previous two instalments of this trilogy document the beginning and ongoing long and bloody civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster. The red and white rose (A war of the roses if you will), and here we come to the beginning of this play. York is sitting on the throne and the current King Henry VI promises to pass the crown onto York when he dies but Margeret of Anjou is not happy about this.
And so we fast forward. York’s sons Edward and Richard try to convince their father to take the throne now, before King Henry has died but York resists. At that moment a messenger arrives to tell them all that Margeret and her army are about to attack.
And attack they do. The two sides fight it out, but ultimately Margeret comes out on top, capturing York and saying…
Brave warriors, Clifford and Northumberland,
Come; make him stand upon this molehill here
That wrought at mountains with outstretched arms,
Yet parted but the shadow with his hand.
What, was it you that would be England’s king?
Was’t you that revell’d in our Parliament
And made a preachment of your high descent?
Where are your mess of sons to back you now?
The wanton Edward and the lusty George?
And where’s that valiant crook-back prodigy,
Dicky your boy, that with his grumbling voice
Was wont to cheer his dad in mutinies?
Or, with the rest, where is your darling Rutland?
Look, York: I stain’d this napkin with the blood
That valiant Clifford with his rapier’s point
Made issue from the bosom of the boy;
And if thine eyes can water for his death,
I give thee this to dry thy cheeks withal.
Alas, poor York! but that I hate thee deadly,
I should lament thy miserable state.
I prithee, grieve, to make me merry, York.
What, hath thy fiery heart so parch’d thine entrails
That not a tear can fall for Rutland’s death?
Why art thou patient, man? Thou shouldst be mad;
And I, to make thee mad, do mock thee thus.
Stamp, rave, and fret, that I may sing and dance.
Thou wouldst be fee’d, I see, to make me sport;
York cannot speak unless he wear a crown.
A crown for York! – and, lords, bow low to him.
Hold you his hands whilst I do set it on.
She puts a paper crown on York’s head.
Ay, marry, sir, now looks he like a king!
Ay, this is he that took King Henry’s chair,
And this is he was his adopted heir.
But how is it that great Plantagenet
Is crown’d so soon and broke his solemn oath?
As I bethink me, you should not be king
Till our King Henry had shook hands with death.
And will you pale your head in Henry’s glory,
And rob his temples of the diadem,
Now in his life, against your holy oath?
O, ’tis a fault too too unpardonable!
Off with the crown and with the crown his head;
And, whilst we breathe, take time to do him dead.
High Descent: Important Ancestors
Brave warriors Clifford and Northumberland,
Come, make him stand on this molehill over here,
He tried to capture mountains with his outstretched arms,
But only got their shadows.
What were you supposed to be the King of England?
Wasn’t it you who had a tantrum in halls of our parliament
And carried on about your great lineage?
Where is your gang of children to back you up now?
The wild Edward and the sex crazed George?
And where’s that brave hunchbacked child of yours, Dicky?
With his grumbling voice was likely to cheer on his dear dad as he committed mutiny?
What about the rest? Where is your dear Rutland?
Look at this York, I’ve got a hanky stained with his blood from where
The valiant Clifford just stabbed him in the chest.
And if you cry over his death I’ll give this hanky to dry them.
Oh poor York! If I didn’t hate you so much I might feel bad about how sad you are.
I bed you, cry for me to make me happy.
What? Has your fiery heart dried up all your tears and now you can;t shed one for Rutland?
Why are you so calm? You should be going crazy! I’ll make you crazy by mocking you.
Stamp! Go crazy! Panic so I can sing and dance!
Oh I see, you must be paid to entertain me.
York can’t speak unless he has a crown?
A crown for York! And you two soldiers hold him down while I put it on.
Yes, there you go, now he looks like a King!
Yes this the one that stole King Henry’s throne.
And this is the man who became his adopted heir.
But how did the great Plantagenet become King so quickly?
Did you break your solemn vow?
I thought you weren’t supposed to be King until after Henry died?
And will you steal his crown while he’s still alive and break your holy oath?
Oh, that would be unforgivable!
Take off the crown and his head along with it!
And while I take a break, kill him slowly.
Notes on Performance
It can be really easy to fall into playing the bad gal, or the evil queen in this speech. Don’t just go for surface level ‘evilness’. Think on the history these two characters have together and what the truth of this situation is for Margaret.
Speaking of, if you can, I would highly recommend understanding the journey of this character by reading parts 1 and 2 of Henry VI. Margaret has one of the most interesting and long character arcs of any of Shakespeare’s characters so if you have time to investigate that I would.
You can play within this speech. Even though the subject matter is quite grim it doesn;t mean she isn’t having some fun with it. She is almost revelling in the fact that she can enact her revenge now on York.
For more Female Shakespeare Monologues