Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cursed to Read Richard III

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If you want to learn how to curse, read Richard III. Curses were definitely some of the most important features of this play. From the very beginning, Richard sees himself as a cursed man and kind of has an “If you can’t be good, be good at it” mentality. His actions only worsen his plight, however, and readers are introduced to some really spectacular curses brought in by an old woman named Margaret, who suffers at his hands.

I highlighted curses everywhere I found them throughout the play, and it was really interesting to go back through and see how each was fulfilled. Margaret’s curses serve as a type of foreshadowing for the rest of the piece, and it was so cool! She would curse the characters with something, and so I knew it was bound to happen, though I didn’t know how. Shakespeare does a great job throwing in some unexpected twists so that each fulfillment is still unexpected.

Mary and I discussed curses and the part that they played in the culture back in Shakespeare’s day. I found a video of Martha Henry, a Shakespeare expert. In it, she is super creepy and says, “Curses were believed in medieval times…so it wasn’t simply somebody saying to somebody, ‘Oh, may you rot in hell!’ It was literally whatever it was you said had substance.” This brought a whole new meaning to the curses, in my opinion! Each one uttered was expected and sincerely wished to be fulfilled. This ups the level of the passion in the play, as well as the hatred.

Perhaps my favorite part of the play, the scene that I would focus on the most, is when the Duchess and Queen Elizabeth question Margaret about how she became such an accomplished curser. She explains to them that it’s brought on by exaggerations of reality, by dwelling on the dark parts of life. “Bettering thy loss makes the bad curser worse. Revolving this will teach thee how to curse.” After she leaves, the Duchess and Queen Elizabeth proceed to rip into Richard with a string of curses that left me extremely impressed.

Cursing is a very prevalent part of Richard III and allows readers to feel the deep emotions of the characters, as well as anxiously anticipate events to come within the play.


  1. This is such an interesting topic! Highlights throughout are a great way to keep track of it all. I found this article that COULD help expound on Margaret's cursings. Great job!

  2. I think it would also be interesting to compare the curses in Richard III to the prayers and curses in King Lear. While they were praying to nature and to pagan gods, were they really sincerely wished and expected to be fulfilled the same way that curses were?

  3. On a silly note, have you heard of the Scottish curse? If you say the word Macbeth during a play, the production becomes cursed.
    It comes from the witches curse in Macbeth. Reminds me of the magic Prospero has. Otherworldly.