Richard III and Lady Anne: Why Do They Marry?


How does Richard III convince Lady Anne to marry him in Shakespeare’s Richard III?

At the beginning of Act 1 Scene 2, Lady Anne is taking the coffin of her late husband’s father King Henry VI to his grave. She is angry because she knows that Richard killed him. She also knows that Richard killed her late husband prince Edward:

“To hear the lamentations of poor Anne wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughtered son, stabbed by that selfsame hand that made these wounds”
(Act 1, Scene 2)

She curses Richard to a series of horrible fates:

“Cursed the blood that let this blood from hence. Cursed the heart that had the heart to do... If ever he have child, abortive be it...If ever he have wife, let her be made more miserable by the death of him that I am by my young lord and thee.”
(Act 1, Scene 2)

Little does Lady Anne know at this point but as Richard’s future wife she is also cursing herself.

As Richard enters the scene Anne is so vehemently against him that she compares him to the devil:

“Foul devil, for God’s sake hence and trouble us not”
(Act 1, Scene 2)

Use of Flattery

So how does Richard manage to convince this woman who is so full of hatred for him to marry him? At first he uses flattery: “More wonderful, when angels are so angry. Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman” (Act 1, Scene 2)

Anne is not convinced and tells him that he can make no excuses and the only sufficient way to excuse himself would be to hang himself. At first Richard tries to deny killing her husband and says that hanging himself would just make him look guilty. She says that the King was virtuous and mild and Richard says that therefore, heaven is lucky to have him. Not getting away with denial, Richard changes tack, he says that he wants Anne in his bedchamber and that she is responsible for her husband’s death because of her beauty:

“Your beauty was the cause of that effect – your beauty that did haunt me in my sleep to undertake the death of all the world so I might live one sweet hour in your sweet bosom.”
(Act 1, Scene 2)

Lady Anne says that if she believed that she would scratch the beauty away from her cheeks. Richard says that he would never stand by to watch that, it would be a travesty. She tells Richard she wants revenge on him but Richard says it is unnatural to want revenge on someone who loves you. She answers that it is natural to want revenge on someone who killed your husband but he says that no so if his death helped her to gain a better husband. Lady Anne is still not convinced.

Richard humbles himself to Lady Anne saying that her beauty is such that if she rejects him now he may as well die as his life is worthless without her. Everything he did, he tells her was for her sake. He tells her to be less scornful:

“Teach not thy lip such scorn, for it was made for kissing lady, not for such contempt.”
(Act 1, Scene 2)

He offers her his sword to kill him, he tells her that he did kill the King and her husband but that he only did it for her. He says to kill him or to take him as her husband: “Take up the sword again or take me” (Act 1, Scene 2)

Close to Death

She says she will not kill him but that she wishes him dead. He then says that all the men he killed he did in her name and if he was to kill himself he would be killing her true love. She still doubts him and wishes she could know what he is really thinking but seems to be becoming convinced by Richard’s professions of love. She reluctantly agrees to take his ring when he offers it to her. He puts the ring on her finger and immediately asks her to do him the favour of going to Crosby House while he buries her father in law. 

She agrees and is happy that he is finally penitent for his crimes: “With all my heart – and much it joys me too, to see you are become so penitent” (Act 1, Scene 2).

Even Richard can’t quite believe that he has convinced Lady Anne to marry him:

“Was ever woman in this humour wooed? Was ever woman in this humour won? I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long”
(Act 1, Scene 2)

He can’t believe she will marry him “whose all not equals Edward’s moiety” and who is halting and “misshapen”. Richard decides to smarten up for her but intends to kill her in the long run. It is almost sad that he does not believe he is lovable enough to acquire a wife but that he manages to woo her in such circumstances, he respects her less for it and for agreeing to marry him.