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Of Margaret

Of Margaret: The Untold Story of Shakespeare's Warrior Queen (forthcoming from W.W. Norton, 2025) (with Charles O’Malley)


Co-written with my husband, this is the first “biography” of the character of Margaret of Anjou. The historical Margaret was a fifteenth-century French princess, daughter of a minor noble, who married King Henry VI of England, and thus was the Queen of England during the Wars of the Roses. But Margaret is best remembered today as a character in four of Shakespeare’s plays (Henry VI Parts 1–3 and Richard III). She is the only character in Shakespeare’s work whose entire life is depicted onstage (from childhood to old age), and she speaks the most lines of any female character (more than Marc Antony or King Lear, in fact, just under Othello, Richard III, and Hamlet). She does things no other woman dares do onstage—commands armies, acts as regent without her husband’s permission, seeks revenge, stabs an enemy, and revels in the murders of the children of her foes—and she is one of the first women that Shakespeare ever wrote. Some of the greatest actors in the world have played her, including Peggy Ashcroft, Helen Mirren, and Sophie Okonedo, and the archetype of “evil queen” might literally not exist without her. Yet, despite all this, she is often overlooked (eclipsed in the public imagination by some of Shakespeare’s later female characters, like Lady Macbeth, Rosalind, Juliet, or Ophelia) or cut from the plays altogether to save space. Of Margaret is the story of this character, from the young Will Shakespeare’s creation of her in the 1580s and 1590s and through her transformation over the more than 400 years that followed.

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