Language of Ladies

How does the language of Lady Anne’s speech in Act 1 Scene 2 of Richard III present the consciousness of a woman as distinct from that of a man. What words or phrases enable Shakespeare to suggest this difference?

Lady Anne’s speech highlights the distinctive nature and thoughts of a woman compared to a man as she mourns her father in law. As it directly follows a monologue of Richard, the stark differences in language use become glaringly obvious. While the short sharp words of Richard still hang in the air, Anne enters and begins a speech that flows elegantly and uses detailed imagery to communicate her grief. She mournfully exclaims, “set down, set down your honourable load, if honour may be shrouded in a hearse,”

The lament of Lady Anne over her murdered father in also law demonstrates the gentle way that women are perceived by Shakespeare even when experiencing such intense emeotions. While Lady Anne has lost her husband and her father in law, no actions can be taken by her because of her gentle nature; instead, she uses words to wish curses upon the man who did this. She cries through her angst “curs’d be the hand that made these fatal holes” which uses powerful language and yet, from Shakespeare’s perspective, cursing is a woman’s weapon as a man in the same play may have been more likely to cry in anger “I will cut off the hand that made these fatal blows.” This act of cursing on Lady Anne’s part hence presents the ways in which Shakespeare demonstrates the differences in thinking between a man and a woman.


Lady Anne as portrayed by Rose Riley. Photo Credit: Limelight Magazine

The stark differences between the speech of women and men in Shakespeare is not in any way used to belittle women, but to show that they had power in a different way to a man and a different way of presenting emotion. In many ways, Shakespeare presents this as a more favourable alternative to the violent nature of men as they often suffer severe consequences for their actions. Lady Anne’s speech is in no way indicative of powerlessness, but rather an example of women taking an issue into their own hands and reacting in a way that is applicable and appropriate for the self.

8 thoughts on “Language of Ladies

  1. danielwhite96 says:

    Hey Tamara welcome back to another semester of literature with Michael!

    I have to say you’ve written a fantastic blog post focusing on Lady Anne’s speech in Act 1 Scene 2 of King Richard III. I see you draw the distinct difference between Lady Anne’s tone being elegant and full of imagery while Richards tone as you put it “short sharp words”

    I think you could add in why you may think women Shakespeare were portrayed so gently, maybe it was because Shakespeare had a love for women? Just a thought 🙂

    Keep up the good work

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ronnykamaledine says:

    RONNYKAMALEDINE March 26, 2017 at 11:21 am REPLY

    This is a really good response to the question! I completely agree with everything you stated about how women are portrayed within Richard III as Lady Anne doesn’t do anything to harm King Richard, even though she knows he killed Edward. I especially agree with you where you stated how the women seem passive in contrast to the men who do all the murdering within the play.

    Nice work Tamara, I look forward to reading your future posts.

    Kind Regards,


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