© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Hair standing on end Introduction

I'm Lord Hastings. I think Richard III and I are BFFs. But it turns out I'm actually just another one of his victims. Too bad I don't see it coming. And you know what I think?

My hair doth stand on end to hear her curses. (1.3.303)

Who Said It and Where

At the royal palace of Westminster, Queen Elizabeth is wringing her hands because her husband is at death's door. Like any devoted wife, Elizabeth wants to know what's going to happen to her if her husband kicks the bucket. Her two sons try to cheer her up, but Elizabeth is inconsolable.

To make matters worse, the former Queen Margaret, the widow of King Henry VI (who was recently killed by Richard) is roaming around the palace. She's muttering under her breath, bitterly lamenting what she sees as Elizabeth's theft of her crown, not to mention Richard's murder of her husband and son.

The old Queen Margaret finally steps forward and says she can no longer be silent. Margaret calls everybody present "wrangling pirates" and declares that Queen Elizabeth owes her a throne and that Richard owes her a husband and son.

But everyone thinks this is all just a bit sad. See, Margaret has no real physical or political power, so what harm can she actually do? In the absence of real control, she turns to cursing to get the job done. We don't mean letting four-letter words fly, we mean putting curses on people, Bellatrix Lestrange-style. If hurling nasty curses at one's enemies were an Olympic sport, Margaret would have gold medals hanging on her bedpost.

Let's just recap what she curses in this scene. She calls on the power of divine justice to make the following things happen:

  • King Edward IV should die.
  • Queen Elizabeth should outlive her children and be made to see another woman crowned queen.
  • Rivers, Dorset, and Hastings should die early deaths.
  • Richard should feel betrayed by his best friends and should have sleepless and/or nightmare-filled evenings.

And that's just for starters.

Everyone in the room begins to gang up on Margaret, kind of like a pack of wild dogs. Without coming up for air, Margaret rattles off some of the nastiest insults in Western literature at Richard. She calls him

  • an "elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog."
  • a "slave of nature and the son of hell."
  • a "slander of thy mother's heavy womb."

Well, you get the idea. We think Hastings speaks for everyone when he says his hair stands on end just hearing what she has to say.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...