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The Shakespeare Sisterhood: Lady Anne

This lady, the eldest daughter of that renowned "setter up and plucker down of kings," the Earl of Warwick, was twice married -- first to Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI, by Margaret of Anjou; and afterward to Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The scene in King Richard III, where, even in the act of following the corse of her father-in-law to the grave, she is wooed and won by his murderer, who had also "cropp'd the golden prime of the sweet prince," her husband, leaves nothing to be desired as an exemplification of her character. That demonstrates her a woman, doubtless of good intentions and a sufficiently kind heart, but lamentably deficient in intellect and the plainest common sense -- without any fixed principles or opinions, or the simply natural impulses of a saving pride. We grant the irresistible fascination, that would exist for such a woman as Anne, in the towering superiority, the flashing audacity of Richard -- and he purposely makes a display of it by threatening the gentlemen who bear the body; but nothing is truer of her than that "in a less critical moment a far less subtle and audacious seducer would have sufficed."

She is an eminent example of weakness, the effects of which are scarcely less deplorable than those of deliberate criminality; nor do they differ from those materially. In her community of good and bad fellow-creatures she exists a negative abstraction, equally ready to be good or bad, as any one, for selfish purposes, may take the pains to influence her.

With Anne, Richard appeals to her personal vanity, her propensity to inspire passion, as, subsequently with Elizabeth, he tempts maternal ambition; but in both cases it is himself -- his wily words, and, above all, his own implicit faith in the infallibility of his arguments -- that constitutes the most dangerous snare:
Anne. What! do you tremble? are you all afraid?
Alas! I blame you not; for you are mortal,
Aud mortal eyes cannot endure the devil. --
Avaunt, thou dreadful minister of hell!
Thou hadst but power over his mortal body --
His soul thou canst not have; therefore, begone!

Glo. Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curst.

Anne. Foul devil! for God's sake, hence, and trouble us not;
For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell,
Fill'd it with cursing cries, and deep exclaims.
If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,
Behold this pattern of thy butcheries:

* * * * * * * *

Glo. Lady, you know no rules of charity,
Which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.

Anne. Villain, thou know'st no law of God nor man;
No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.

Glo. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.

Anne. O wonderful, when devils tell the truth!

Glo. More wonderful, when angels are so angry. --
Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman,
Of these supposed evils to give me leave,
By circumstance, but to acquit myself.

* * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * *

Your beauty was the cause of that effect;
Your beauty, which did haunt me in my sleep
To undertake the death of all the world,
So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom.

* * * * * * * *

I never su'd to friend nor enemy:
My tongue could never learn sweet soothing word;
But now thy beauty is propos'd my fee,
My proud heart sues, and prompts my tongue to speak.
[She looks scornfully on him.

Teach not thy lip such scorn; for it was made
For kissing, lady, not for such contempt.
If thy revengeful heart cannot forgive,
Lo! here I lend thee this sharp-pointed sword!
Which if thou please to hide in this true breast,
And let the soul forth that adoreth thee,
I lay it naked to the deadly stroke,
And humbly beg the death upon my knee.

[He lays his breast open; she offers at it with his sword.]

Nay, do not pause; for I did kill King Henry; --
But 'twas thy beauty that provoked me.
Nay, now despatch; 'twas I that stabb'd young Edward: --

[She again offers at his breast.]

But 'twas thy heavenly face that set me on.

[She lets fall the sword.] Take up the sword again, or take up me.

Anne. Arise, dissembler: though I wish thy death,
I will not be thy executioner.
I would I knew thy heart.

Glo. 'Tis figur'd in
My tongue.

Anne. I fear me both are false.

Glo. Then man
Was never true.

Anne.. Well, well, put up your sword.

Glo. Say, then, my peace is made.

Anne. That shall you know

Glo. But shall I live in hope?

Anne. All men,
I hope, live so.

Glo. Vouchsafe to wear this ring.

Anne. To take is not to give. [She puts on the ring.]

Glo. Look, how this ring encompasseth thy finger,
Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart;
Wear both of them, for both of them are thine.
And if thy poor devoted servant may
But beg one favor at thy gracious hand,
Thou dost confirm his happiness forever.

* * * * * * * *

Anne. With all my heart; and much it joys me, too,
To see you are become so penitent. --
Tressel and Berkley, go along with me.

How to cite this article:
Palmer, Henrietta L. The Stratford gallery, or, The Shakespeare sisterhood. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1859. Shakespeare Online. 20 Oct. 2009. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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Lady Anne. From A Stratford Gallery.