Thursday, February 24, 2011



Margaret of Anjou, whom the English still (550 years later - they do take a while to accept a French woman as English) call "Margaret of Anjou" (rather than Queen Margaret), was Queen (or "queen consort") of England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471.

Shakespeare gave Margaret some of the best scenes, and one of the most enduring, sustained character arcs, of any of his characters (certainly the most important for any female character).

She first appears as a captive of the English in Henry VI Part 1, when the Earl Of Suffolk, her captor, falls immediately and passionately in love with her.

In Henry VI Part 2 she is Queen, but Suffolk is out of favor and must flee. His goodbye is one of Shakespeare's most poetic, passionate, and heartbreaking scenes.

In Henry VI Part 3, Margaret, in the midst of wars, speaks one of the most bitter, cruel vengeful speeches in Shakespeare, mocking and then killing her enemy, York, who addresses her, saying: "O tyger's heart wrapt in a woman's hide!".

In Richard III, Margaret, now an old woman, stands up to Richard III with curses, and decries the evils that have been done.

The Red Bull Theater has just held a two week "lab" developing a play that encompasses the sway of her appearance in all the plays. The result is the play -- which will be presented Friday (2/25) through Sunday (2/27), together with a benefit on Saturday evening -- Margaret: The Tyger's Heart (the title coming, as above, from York's description in Henry VI Part 3 -- "O tyger's heart wrapt in a woman's hide!" actually, one of several references to Margaret as a tyger).

The play was developed in collaboration with The Shakespeare Society.

See below for more about Margaret of Anjou. First, here's some information about this production from the Red Bull Theater:

In the Raw
Developing the Classics of the Future.

February 25-27, 2011
Shakespeare's MARGARET: A Tyger's Heart
Adapted from Henry VI and Richard III
Directed by Michael Sexton

An In the Raw Developmental Lab Production
In collaboration with The Shakespeare Society
Featuring Michael Stewart Allen, Craig Baldwin, Jacob Fishel, Kate Forbes, Jason Butler Harner, Randy Harrison, Robert Stanton, David Townsend

Focusing on Margaret of Anjou from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Pts 1, 2 and 3, and Richard III, this workshop will explore the journey of one of Shakespeare’s most remarkable characters, a woman of astonishing variety with an extraordinary arc over four history plays.

The aim of the two-week Lab is to create an evening-length theatrical work for nine actors that tells the riveting story of Margaret’s progress from young woman to queen, lover, wife, mother, political operator and battlefield commander, exploring the comic, macabre, as well as the human and loving sides of Shakespeare’s Margaret.

Produced by Red Bull Theater in collaboration with The Shakespeare Society, the workshop offers four public presentations.

Friday Feb 25, 8pm
Saturday Feb 26, 2pm
Saturday Feb 26, 8pm* Benefit
Sunday Feb 27, 3pm

Theater at St. Clement's
423 West 46th Street

$40 Regular
$60 Premium
$30 Under 30/Shakespeare Society Members
$20 Students/Industry

$100 Regular
$150 Premium
*Benefit features private party with actors, special guests Kathleen Chalfant, Michael Stuhlbarg, and others following the performance

Seating Limited!



A new work laboratory series, IN THE RAW creates an artistic bridge between Revelation Readings and Full Productions, providing space, time, and support for projects ready to move beyond a staged reading, but that require further development and exploration prior to full production.

Each IN THE RAW project receives a workshop with a director, top-notch actors and designers, and includes public presentations. We are pleased to share this part of the creative process with our audience.

Margaret of Anjou lived for 52 years, from March 23, 1430 to Aug 25 1482. She was born in the Duchess of Lorraine, the second eldest daughter of René I of Naples, Duke of Anjou and Bar, King of Naples and Sicily... and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine.

On April 23, 1445, at the age of 15, she married King Henry VI of England, who was 23. She was described (by Shakespeare, his sources, and others) as beautiful and strong willed.

She entered the English political scene as strife between warring factions in England escalated. In May 1455, a Great Council solidified the split and enmity with the Yorkists, which initiated thirty years of the War of the Roses.

Many of the wars were fought in and over French territory. Even the terms of Henry's marriage to Margaret were seen by some as too favorable to the French. This may be one cause, or one result, (or both), of the fact that Margaret, a French woman, was not popular among some factions of the English court. The father of Henry VI, Henry V, had conquered most of France. Henry VI fought many wars to hold France, much of the war unsuccessful. Indeed, Margaret's campaigns on behalf of Henry may well be considered more successful than his.

Although allies of Margaret managed to defeat Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York, in 1460, and Margaret had him beheaded (described in the famous scene in Henry VI part 3 above), the Yorkists managed to depose Henry VI in 1461. He regained the throne briefly in 1470. Though Henry VI was imprisoned, and then killed (by the future Richard III) in 1471, Margaret, after being imprisoned, was ransomed by the French king, and lived until 1482.

During the quieter period of her reign, between 1445 and 1455, Margaret was a champion of education, and founded Queens' College in Cambridge.

Floating past Queens' College on the river Cam is like travelling 550 years back in time.

Founded by Margaret of Anjou 1448
View from the river Cam
Photo by Eric Roffman

Here is Queens' College's chronology of its creation:

before 1446 - Andrew Dokett was already Principal of St Bernard's Hostel on a site now occupied by the New Court of Corpus Christi College. He was also Rector of St Botolph's, the church of the parish within which Queens' College lies.

1446 Dec 3 - Andrew Dokett obtained a Charter from King Henry VI to found St Bernard's College on a site now part of St Catharine's College.

1447 Aug 21 - First Charter revoked. Andrew Dokett obtained a new charter from King Henry VI to found St Bernard's College on the present site of Old Court and Cloister Court.

1447-8? - Petition of Margaret of Anjou to her husband the King to have the foundation and naming of the new college. Second Charter returned to the King and the lands of StBernard's College surrendered to him.

1448 Mar 30 - Letters Patent from King Henry VI to Queen Margaret granting her the lands of St Bernard's College and licence to found a college.

1448 Apr 15 - Charter of Queen Margaret to found the Queen's College of St Margaret and St Bernard.

1448 Apr 15 - Sir John Wenlock, Chamberlain to Queen Margaret, lays the foundation stone at the south east corner of the chapel.

1448 - First part of Old Court completed: the Library, Chapel, E stairs, Gatehouse, A stairs and part of B stairs.

1449 - King Henry VI gives 200 for the buildings.

1449-50 - Old Court completed: remainder of B stairs, C stairs, Kitchens, Hall.

1454 - Chapel licensed for services.

Founded by Margaret of Anjou - 1448
Courtyard view through the arch.
Photo by Eric Roffman

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