Act 1, Scene 3: Queen Margaret begins the play mumbling from the shadows. She watches the internal squabble occurring between Richard, Queen Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's family. Rather than take sides, Margaret clues us in to the evil all of them have done. Queen Elizabeth, she says, has stolen her throne, and Richard has murdered her husband Henry and her son Edward. Queen Margaret still considers herself a royal personage, and when she finally steps forward, she elevates the discourse from the minor bickering. Instead of adjudicating their small wrongs, Margaret makes blanket accusations against them openly, suggesting that they should all cower before her as subjects, or else quake in recognition of their rebel villainy. She vows to show them all, but Richard especially, what they've ruined before she takes her leave of them.
Act 1, Scene 3: She also has some explaining to do, since she was supposed to be in banishment on pain of death. Margaret explains that banishment was worse than death, as all her debts left to collect are in England. Richard owes her a husband and son, Queen Elizabeth owes her the kingdom, and they all owe her their allegiance. She suffers the agony they should suffer while they enjoy the pleasures she should have as a royal. Who is going to sit on the sidelines in banishment and watch that without kicking up a bit of a fuss?
Act 1, Scene 3: Margaret then responds to everyone suddenly joining together to rail against her. After all, she murdered Richard's little brother Rutland and abused and killed Richard's father, the Duke of York. She briefly addresses these accusations by pointing out that the men they took from her, and her kingdom, are worth much more than one "peevish brat."
Act 1, Scene 3: Margaret then moves quickly into cursing everything in sight, hoping that her pleas for justice will reach heaven. She outlines a clear trade: for each of the losses she suffered, she prays for a parallel loss of theirs. Margaret curses the king to die by excess. She wishes an untimely and violent death on his young son Edward in exchange for the death of her son Edward. (We know, there are just too many Edwards in this play.) She has special vitriol for Queen Elizabeth, wishing that she might outlive all her children and all her glory (and at least one of her husbands). Margaret also curses Rivers, Dorset, and Hastings to die before their natural time, as they all stood by while her son was murdered.
Act 1, Scene 3: Margaret saves the worst for Richard, though, calling him out not only for his personal wrongs against her but also for the general trouble he causes in the world. She hopes his conscience will one day trouble him and that he'll dismiss his true friends as traitors, while keeping only traitors as his true friends. She wishes him tormenting nightmares too, so his sleeping might be as miserable as his waking. Ultimately she suggests that he is an entirely unnatural creature and a curse upon his family and the world. She's cut off by Richard as she lists his failings, and asks only that she be able to put the capstone on her curse.
Act 1, Scene 3: At this point, Queen Elizabeth jumps to Richard's aid against Margaret, and Margaret makes a prescient observation. She warns Elizabeth against allying with Richard, who will only entrap and betray her. Margaret also prophesies (correctly) that one day Elizabeth will wish for Margaret's help in cursing the treacherous Richard.
Act 1, Scene 3: Margaret then goes back to harping on how she should be Queen, and does a good job of swatting at the unimportance of the minor characters. She says, basically, that nobody knows the troubles she's seen, as those in positions of greatness are constantly attacked, and when they finally fall, it's a great big mess for them. Margaret then laments some more for her lost son, who has been replaced by much lesser men. Finally, she prays aloud that just as the throne was won from her with blood, she hopes it will be lost from them in the same way. She will hear none of their pleas for charity – she's only returning the lack of charity and shame they displayed in their treatment of her.
Act 1, Scene 3: Finally Margaret has something nice to say. She kisses Buckingham's hand in a sign of amity. Margaret still likes Buckingham, maybe because he hasn't murdered any of her family members in cold blood. She urges him to break company with Richard, warning him that Richard is bound to betray him. When Buckingham deflects her advice, she scorns him and prophesies that Richard will eventually betray Buckingham and split his heart with sorrow. When that day comes, Buckingham will remember this day and think of Margaret. Her final parting wish is that all present might live in Richard's hate, and he in theirs, and also that God might hate all of them. Ouch.
Act 4, Scene 4: Queen Margaret is again hovering in the shadows, but this time she's gloating over the fall of the house of York. She announces she's happily been watching the destruction of her enemies, and now she's headed off to France with the hope that things here will end in misery. As someone approaches, she withdraws back into the shadow lair.
Act 4, Scene 4: Queen Elizabeth is busy mourning the recent death of her two young sons, and Queen Margaret compares those deaths with her own loss. Queen Elizabeth asks who else in the world has cause to mourn, and in response Queen Margaret lunges creepily out of the shadows essentially saying, "Me, me!"
Act 4, Scene 4: Queen Margaret says that as long as folks are quantifying their grief, she's definitely the winner, but she'd like to sit with them for a bit if they'll allow it. Still, in listing off all the dead, she does note that Richard was always the killer. The Duchess of York has a rare moment that could be misconstrued as protecting her son, Richard. The Duchess points out that Margaret (not Richard) was responsible for murdering her husband, and Margaret quickly jumps to the defensive. Rather than account for her bloody acts, Margaret points out that Richard killed his own brother, Clarence, so basically the Duchess isn't left out of mourning for a loved one killed by Richard.
Act 4, Scene 4: Margaret goes on in the most venomous terms, essentially blaming the Duchess for having a "hell-hound creep from her womb." Still, Margaret admits that the Duchess (though she might be to blame) has as much reason to weep as anyone else. Finally, the Duchess is able to smack Margaret into her senses about exactly what's going on: the Duchess pleads with Margaret to be merciful and show a shred of humanity. She points out that she wept for Margaret's children, and she begs Margaret not to delight in her misery.
Act 4, Scene 4: For the first time, Margaret seems to soften a tiny bit. She admits that she was awfully hungry for revenge, but now that she sees she's gotten so much of it, it's almost too much. Still, Margaret harps on the tit for tat nature of the other women's losses, which she suggests are only a just balance to hers. Everyone has gotten theirs, except, notably, Richard. Margaret only prays that God will strike him down.
Act 4, Scene 4: Margaret recovers from her momentary softness and returns to her usual bitter self. She turns her attentions to the mourning Elizabeth, who has just admitted that Margaret's prophecy against her had come true. Margaret revels in this admission: she lists in agonizing detail all the terrible things she called Elizabeth then, and points out how each fine point of her curse has been fulfilled. Once a wife, Elizabeth is now a widow; she mourns for the children she no longer has; and where she was once a queen, she is now a pitiful wretch. Margaret dwells a bit on this last point, really stressing how powerless and pathetic Elizabeth is.
Act 4, Scene 4: Margaret claims that Elizabeth's misery is simple justice. Elizabeth once took on Margaret's pleasure as the queen, and now it's only fair that she take on sorrow and grief just as Margaret did. Margaret says Elizabeth has now inherited this yoke from her – she'll slip her neck out of her portion of woe, hang it on Elizabeth, and then skip off to France, where she'll derive even more pleasure by thinking about how much despair there is in England.
Act 4, Scene 4: As a parting gift, Margaret details exactly how she came to have such potent curses, passing the wisdom on to Elizabeth. Margaret says the trick is to lead the most miserable life one could imagine. Margaret never let a new day dawn (always comparing today with past happiness). She also romanticized her happiness with her babies and magnified the foulness of their murderer. Basically, magnifying the loss makes one more able to hate the cause of the loss. Margaret promises that Elizabeth's woes will make her words sharp and potent. Then she's off to France.