Richard III

Unholy Mothers: Mothers as Negative Characters in Richard III, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest

Unholy Mothers: Mothers as Negative Characters in Richard III, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest

by, Barret Buchholz

April 15, 2005

The mothers presented in Shakespeare's plays encompass a broad range of social positions, personalities, goals, and prominences in their respective plays. From young and powerful to old and vulnerable, to long deceased, mothers in Richard III, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest act in ways that cause them to appear as largely negative figures. By upsetting familial and social bonds and boundaries, engaging in witchcraft and spouting prophecies and curses, the women in question act as destructive characters by disrupting the natural order of the world.

For example, Queen Margaret acts in a variety of unnatural and subversive ways. Her mere entrance in the third scene of Richard III represents an audacious legal and political rebellion, as she was banished from the kingdom on pain of death. Before she is noticed by the others, she spews vitriolic barbs at Glouster and Queen Elizabeth, the intensity of which dwarfs that of the argument between the two objects of her passionate hatred. Finally coming forward, she escalates her fury to an even more forceful level, demanding attention as...

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