Motifs and Prophets, Women in History Plays Women play very limited roles in the realm of Shakespeare’s history plays. They are almost always used as plot devices to represent an idea, to foreshadow something, or simply for the sake of making the play a bit more light-hearted. However, as limited female roles in history plays are, they are more likely that not strong-willed characters. These female characters contribute wisdom and perspective that make the audience really think about the substance and themes behind these history plays.
The Countess of Salisbury first appears in Edward Ill as a hostage being escued by the king himself. Despite being captured, she has the will to insult the Scottish invaders who besieged her castle. After rescuing the countess, the king becomes infatuated with her and demands that she become his mistress. She is quite the strong character as she is able to reject the kings advances on her and stand up for herself. This is by no means an easy task, especially against the most powerful man in the country.
The first of these women is the wife of Richard II, Queen Anne O’Beame, otherwise known as Anne of Bohemia. Queen Anne is portrayed as a benevolent person who gives money to the poor as ell as a mediator of her husband whenever his eccentric and reckless behavior gets out of hand. Queen Anne ends up dying of a sudden illness, which leaves the king in remorse. Ironically, the Queen gets sick right around the time Richard II decides to divvy up his land among his flatterers. Due to the Queen being so concerned with England’s state of affairs, this allows the audience to draw the parallel of Queen Anne embodying the country itself.
She is so intimately connected with the wellbeing of her country and her people that by King Richard splitting England among people who re going to drive it into the ground, he has essentially killed her himself. The flatterers of the king are the diseases which have destroyed England’s immune system: Queen Anne. The second notable woman in Thomas of Woodstock is the Duchess of Gloucester, who is the wife of the Duke of Gloucester, better known as Thomas of Woodstock. She is mainly in the play to support and comfort the more major characters like Queen Anne, Woodstock, and King Richard.
However in act four she becomes a prophetic being, predicting the capture and eventual death ot Woodstock by Richard and the favorites, saying “Never so fearful were my dreams ntil now. But you were made the object of mine eye / And I beheld you murdered cruelly. ” (IV. ii. 1 1-14). She is able to make this prediction through a dream that she had, depicting a shepherd being surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves lead by a lion, when all of a sudden a herd of sheep comes to the shepherds rescue. However the dream ends with the lion killing both the shepherd and the sheep.