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An interview with a Queen Margaret

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I want to follow up by jumping way ahead now. When you say that’s where Margaret really loses it, for Henry VI Part 3, apparently, in the sources, after the Battle of Barnett she breaks down. There’s a scene called “the Melancholy Margaret.” Shakespeare cut it out.

OK.

Shakespeare didn’t include that, and it seems like he didn’t so that in Part 3, Margaret is always the tiger, always the she-wolf.

Right.

However, Henry describes her suing King Lewis as a “woman to be pitied much, her sighs will make a battery in his breast, her tears,” and all that. We never see Margaret like that.

No.

Do you think Suffolk’s death is the only time she is? Or does that steel her, because, as you pointed out, after Ned dies she’s cursing everybody.

I think that she’s definitely distraught at the end of Part 3 when she loses Ned, but I think there’s still that fierceness and the viciousness, and she is absolutely cursing. That’s where you begin to see who’s going to come back in Richard III. You really do.

Well, when she comes to King Lewis of France, he says, “What’s going on, what’s wrong?” and she says “It’s from such causes stops my tongue and fills my eyes with tears.” I think that she is milder there. I think she’s realizing that she has to play a game.

I can see why Shakespeare cut [“the Melencholy Margaret”] out. I can absolutely see why Shakespeare cut it out. I think there is a part of her that is lost after that Suffolk death, but we don’t get to see much of that in Part 3. I feel like the driving force for her is to protect her son for the majority of Part 3. I think that is the driving force. And she does it like a lioness would protect her cubs. She’s vicious about it.
Or a tiger.
Or a she-wolf, if you will [laughs]. But I do believe it’s coming from a place of, “This is what my son deserves.” In the first scene when she comes out and speaks to Henry, she says, “Had thou loved him half so well as I or felt the pain I had for him once or nourished him as I did with my blood,” she is speaking from a mother’s point of view that no one else can have. She’s basically telling Henry, “You obviously don’t love your son as much as I do, nor would it even be possible for you to.” I just think that there’s a viciousness that’s always underlying her in Part 3. I think that’s open to interpretation, too; I guess you could play a softer Margaret. But I just don’t see very many opportunities for it in the text.

In many roles, especially in a direct comparison to your portrayal of Tamora, you combine sexuality, wiles, and will power in playing evil women. Not so Margaret. And I think you’re drawing on textual descriptions of her being anything but a true woman: she’s a tiger, she’s a she-wolf, she’s a man, she’s an Amazon, she’s the captain. The men describe her almost in very respectful terms, but don’t want to.
Yeah, yeah.
And I kind of picked up on this when I was reading the bloody napkin scene: you’re not sweet, you’re not even fake sweet, you’re acting just like Clifford.
Yeah.
You’re not acting like a woman. Is that textual?

I think that it is. I think the last time you sort of see the sexual prowess of Margaret is in Part 2 before Suffolk dies. That’s probably where Margaret is sexiest. Part 1 is probably where she’s sweetest or funniest or lightest, I guess would be the best thing to say, where’s she’s lightest. And Part 2, I think you really start to get her sexual prowess, certainly with her lover and her ways of gaining power, but she’s more indirect about it in Part 2. In Part 3 I think she’s just taken the reins. Edward says something to that effect: [to Henry] “Even though you’re a king, but she really is.” I think that’s how it’s perceived by the kingdom. Everyone in a position of power has seen that Margaret really is the one who rules the roost. Henry is there in name and as a figurehead and as a way to continue the line, but he’s not making the decisions. She is. So I do think that she’s transitioned into being much more of the masculine power, and we don’t hear anything about her being a lover, having a lover, or anything like that anymore. So there’s no place for her to put any of that sexual nature in Part 3; there’s just not a place for it. There’s no outlet for it.

You’ve brought up a couple of times the mother and mother’s love. In Ned’s last scene, he has this speech where he says [to the Yorkists], “You bow to me. You’re a jerk and you’re a jerk and you’re a jerk.”
That’s my boy. [Laughs]
And you say ...
“If thy father had been so resolved.”

Describe your relationship with your son.

It’s something that Miriam and I played with a little bit, too. Because when we first started rehearsing, she would always say, “Coming, mother” whenever we were going to do something [laughs]. Then we got a little bit more into it, and once we were getting around to those final scenes she was like, “I still think there’s a bit of 'coming, mother' in there, but I think it’s definitely more of he is Margaret’s son."

Margaret’s son and Henry V’s grandson.

Yeah. Yeah. And who’s to say, maybe Suffolk. Who knows? [Laughs]

Have you thought about this before or did that just come to your mind?

I did think about that before, actually. I think if Shakespeare really wanted us to think that, he would have given us more of even a hint of it. The only hint we get that he’s a bastard is when Richard is saying, “Well, whoever begot you, there your mother is.” But they talk s*** about her all the time. That goes on back and forth without any sort of actual real claim to validity. People are just being horrible to one another and they’re saying terrible things, so you can’t really take Richard’s word that maybe he’s a bastard. I just feel like if Shakespeare wanted us to believe that, we would have had something at the end of Part 2, even if she would have had a moment where she says, “The fruit of my womb,” something, if that’s what he wanted us to think.

My relationship with Ned, I think, is very strong. There is a lot of love and loyalty there, and I think that young boy has grown up seeing a fierce woman take control and he’s learned a lot of who he wants to be by watching her. That is absolutely evident by his last scene in this play. Because, yeah, he’s taunting them, he’s telling them to know their place, he seems to show no fear with three grown men with weapons brandished.
And two of them are deadly.
Yes. And he’s saying these really incendiary things and seems to do it with no problem at all. I think that is Margaret’s son right there. I really do.

How old is Ned supposed to be at that point?

We were thinking fifteenish.

Henry isn’t much of a father, obviously. He wasn’t in the nursery.

No. I think that Margaret was. I don’t think that this was a woman who left her son to be raised by nannies and ladies-in-waiting. I think she definitely had an integral role. And seeing as how he’s the only son and only heir, she’s got a lot more investment there, too.

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