Review: Margaret’s Story Comes Front and Center in Shakespeare’s Rose Queen

Rose Queen

Megan Rippey and Brian White

While she may not be as recognizable as Beatrice, Viola, Lady Macbeth or many of his more popular leading ladies, Margaret of Anjou is nonetheless a significant presence in Shakespeare’s history plays – specifically the first tetralogy of the War of the Roses. In this 4-part series (Henry VI Parts 1, 2 & 3 and Richard III) she is a remarkable figure.

We first meet her as a young girl at the end of Henry VI, Part 1 when she is taken prisoner by Suffolk and becomes part of a peace deal between France and England to marry King Henry. In the subsequent plays, she rapidly grows into her power, transitioning from queen to conspirator to warrior, eventually ending up a bitter old woman by the time we get to Richard III. Now beholden to those who murdered her family, she lavishes curses on everyone who has wronged her, many of which mysteriously come to pass.

In truth, much of Margaret’s story is fiction. She never met and carried on a love affair with Suffolk and scenes that show her hand in destroying the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were also wrought from Shakespeare’s imagination. Her purpose, then, became a way for the playwright to track the evolution of evil in a formidable character. She is nothing if not memorable.

Now Ensemble Shakespeare Theater takes that progression and builds a complete play around it with Margaret in the starring role. The piece is a thought-provoking study that pulls her story out of the Shakespeare canon and places it front and center, painting a fascinating picture of a complex and powerful woman. More

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