Richard III has a plethora of strong, female characters, and Queen Elizabeth is not an exception. Throughout the play, Elizabeth is portrayed as a headstrong woman willing to do whatever it takes to protect her husband, children, and the future of her family’s position in society. Elizabeth demonstrates her ability to keep up with her husband, King Edward, and her ability to command the respect of her husband’s courtiers numerous times over the course of the play, which allows the reader to understand the position of a medieval queen and the respect given to her by her husband’s acquaintances. While speaking with Lord Marquess Dorset, Rivers, Hastings, Buckingham on his deathbed, Edward tells Elizabeth, “madam, yourself is not exempt from this” (II. i. 18). This line clearly indicates Edward’s respect for Elizabeth and as the play goes on, the reverence given to Elizabeth during Edward’s rule endures long after his death, even throughout times of conflict between her and Richard.
My motif for the semester is water, tides, and oceans, and one of the best examples of this motif in the play is when Elizabeth conveys the sheer force of water, tides, and oceans while addresses her niece and nephew, the children of Clarence, and her mother-in-law, the Duchess of York. After the death of her husband, Elizabeth exclaims, “all springs reduce their currents to mine eyes, that I, being governed by the watery moon, may send forth plenteous tears to drown the world” (II. ii. 70-72). The power she emotes in these lines demonstrates a wife’s sorrow in the death of her husband all while harkening back to the echoes of her young niece and nephew as they cry for their departed father who was murdered by drowning. Furthermore, the back and forth dialogue Elizabeth, Clarence’s children, and the Duchess engage in while expressing their sadness for the loss of their loved ones produces one of the most thought provoking scenes in the entire play. Who is at more of a loss? A wife who lost her husband, children who lost their father, or a mother who lost both of her sons?
Elizabeth is one of the most powerful characters in the play. Despite her sometimes desolate circumstances, Elizabeth manages to remain strong and puts the protection of her children above her own safety. Elizabeth expresses sorrow at the loss of her sons and husband, but never allows it to affect her instincts as a mother. Elizabeth is the most pragmatic and loving wife, mother, and queen throughout the entire work.