Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Doris Barkin

Second Advisor

Andras Kisery


Shakespeare, Margaret of Anjou, gender bending, blurring gender, gender lines, first tetralogy


Queen Margaret of Anjou is a uniquely placed character in Shakespeare’s tetralogy beginning with I Henry VI. Margaret is the only female character to be featured in and survive all four plays. From her entrance in I Henry VI, she is a force to be reckoned with; she uses her femininity as a weapon, and as the Henry VI plays continue, her power grows. Her feminine prowess is demonstrated in several ways including her use of her beauty as well as her enchantment of both Suffolk and Henry. She continues to use her femininity to her advantage, and, as she amasses political power, she rivals her masculine counterparts in the king’s court, endangering the normative masculine political order. Thus, she presents a threat to both her husband’s allies and his enemies. Margaret’s foray into politics and the battle for the throne of England showcases her ability to bend gender as she embraces the masculine, partaking in violence attributed to men. Throughout the Henry VI plays, she embraces the masculine characteristics that are associated with power. Her foes, note this, calling her “unnatural”. Margaret uses her ability to blur gender lines as a power throughout these plays. When Margaret eventually falls, and is then stripped of her power, she reverts to the feminine, using the power of oaths and curses to harm her enemies. In the final play of the tetralogy, Richard III, Margaret is at her most feminine; Margaret’s lack of power and status in the final play puts her in a position where the effeminate act of cursing is the only effective means of harm she can use to inflict pain upon her enemies. Margaret, throughout the plays, is unique as a female monarch in her use of gender bending as a strategy to survive and outlive those who have crossed her.

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