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An interview with a Queen Margaret

[Return to Introduction]

Have you ever been in Henry VI before?

No. this is my first time. In fact, before starting Henry VI, Part 1, which we did two years ago in the Ren Season, I had not even read the entire trilogy. I had been in Richard III before, but I did not play Margaret. I played Elizabeth. So, I was familiar with Richard III but not familiar with the Henry VI plays.

And you had not read it.


Had you seen it?

Nope. I still haven’t.

How much did you know about Margaret of Part 2 when you played her in Part 1?

Well, René (Thornton Jr., who played York in the first two parts of the series) is a big fan of the Henry VI plays so we talked a little bit about it. What I did know is that Suffolk dies and there’s a great scene where Margaret’s walking around with his head in her arms. But that’s pretty much all I knew about what was going to happen in Part 2: I was going to lose Suffolk.

And it’s so interesting because in Part I, you get the one scene. That’s it. So we all are introduced to Margaret in a very different way than you’re ever going to see her ever again. It’s this delightful, romantic comedy scene in the middle of a history that’s so much fun to play. But you don’t ever see that Margaret again, and her interaction with Suffolk is this light moment. I really, really enjoyed that one scene and it was like, "I know this woman, I know who she is in Richard, I know that she gets everything sort of stripped away, but that is not the woman we’re meeting right now." I felt like we were meeting a really young woman who is not without her ambitions, but she also knew her place.

Now doing Part 3, what struck me about that scene in Part 1 with Suffolk is that in Part 3, there’s a very similar scene between Lady Grey and Edward, a wooing-without-wooing scene where Lady Grey is saying, “I’m not fit to be your queen. I’m not of the right birth to be your queen.” Margaret says the same thing to Suffolk in Part 1. She says, “I’m not worthy of being Henry’s queen,” and basically Suffolk says whatever the king wants we can make you. She doesn’t push the issue in the same way that Elizabeth does, but I wonder if Shakespeare—because there’s scholarly questions about whether or not Part 1 was written last—used this kind of wooing scene where there are asides happening. They’re not between Edward and Lady Grey but between Richard and Clarence over there in the corner, and the funny thing about the scene in Part 1 is it’s all of Suffolk’s asides while Margaret is trying to get him to engage. She’s been taken prisoner, and he keeps talking to the audience and she’s going, “Are we going to have a conversation here?” But I really noticed similarities between those two scenes, hearing the one in Part 3 and having done the one in Part 1.

You were opposite Gregory as Suffolk in Part 1, and the one we saw he was toying with the audience and didn’t even notice Reignier [her father] coming on until you motion with your head.

Well, that’s a problem with the text, too, because Reignier enters above, and then he says, “I’ll come down,” but there’s no text between Margaret and Suffolk in that time. The next line comes from Reignier. So, we had to figure out something kind of fun to do to allow for that time. In the original Blackfriars or wherever these plays were performed initially, it’s quite possible that there was an easier way to get from the up above to even being seen by the audience, so it would probably be much more efficient, but we don’t have that in our space. Sometimes it would be a matter of four lines before a character re-enters the scene coming from above.

So, did you move some lines to there?

No. We didn’t move any lines around; there was this moment of while we’re waiting for him to come down we just did this sort of, “Are you gonna ... oh, you’re not gonna speak? ... are you gonna ... uh, do you have anything ... nope ... oh ... uh ... oh, you’re just gonna stare at me? ... Oh, here’s my dad!” There was just this kind of playful, awkward “Who’s got the next line?” But there wasn’t any text to fill that.

And when Suffolk is talking to himself and you’re going like, “Hello,” and he finally pays attention to you, and you’re making fun of him…

Throw it all back in his face, yeah. So brilliant.

I know you weren’t looking ahead to Margaret, but is that—Margaret is a wiley woman.

She is. She is.

Is that the first signs we’re getting of that?

Absolutely. Because we start off that scene with her being taken prisoner, and here’s her captor, supposedly, who is off in la-la land, and she doesn’t seem to have any fear or trepidation about throwing all these things back in his face. She realizes very quickly, I think, that something’s going on with him, and that he doesn’t really intend violence toward her from the moment that he gets engaged by her beauty, because that’s all he really knows about her in that moment.

That’s all that men care about.

Really, it’s all that the Shakespeare men really care about for the most part [laughs]. Are you a virgin? Are you pretty? Great, that’s wonderful.
Are you rich?
Are you rich? Fantastic! [Laughs]
Do you have political means?
Wonderful! Bonus! What can you do for me?

What I find funny with you saying that you didn’t really look ahead is that you were holding the [donation] basket the night we saw the play. You were answering somebody about how you were sweet as Margaret, and I said something like, “You’re not going to be the next time,” and you turned to me and said, “I know. I can’t wait.”

Yeah, yeah, again, just knowing the little bit that I did about her in Richard, and for Shakespeare geeks, she’s one of these women who just gets people revved up. So I heard a lot, especially from René and Ben [Curns, who played Richard, Duke of Gloucester], I heard a lot of talk about her in generalities. Then, knowing where she gets to in Richard III, I knew that it was not sunshine and light forever, and not even for very long.

So where do you see that happening, where do you see Margaret the she-wolf evolving?

I think evolving is a great way to put it, because I do think that she is a woman who starts out with the prospect of everything: she’s going to be queen, and I don’t think she ever really expected that. And then she arrives and finds out the man she’s marrying not only is a young boy or a child but that he’s also really into God and not really into making the tough decisions that Margaret, at least, feels a king needs to make. I think it starts the moment she figures out, “Oh, this king that I’ve got is not a powerful man.” I also think in Part 2, when she loses Suffolk, who has been her partner in crime and also her lover, I think that is a further descension into where she is headed and what she’s willing to do and what is important to her. Then in Part 3, we see a completely different side of her because she’s a mother now and she’s got the line to protect and she has a lot of things that she believes in very strongly. She’s got something to fight for as a mother, and we’ve never seen Margaret as a mother before, so that’s a new development in Part 3.

You don’t just become evil. And I don’t think she’s evil. But she’s got balls. She is a ballsy woman, and she is not afraid of standing in a courtroom full of men, full of very powerful men, and saying, “This is the way it’s going to go, and you need to look at it from my perspective.” And she doesn’t have a problem being the man in the relationship with her husband, because he’s clearly not going to step up and do it. So I think that losing Suffolk, that’s where the real loss starts, because by the time we get to Richard III, it’s a woman who’s lost absolutely everything. But it’s a progression. She starts out with the world at her fingertips, she’s going to be queen, and then she loses her lover, which is also an access to power for her, and then in Part 3, she loses her son and loses her husband, and then she’s exiled, no longer queen or powerful.
Or anything.
Or anything.

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