The Duchess of York
The mother of Edward IV, Clarence, and Richard invites nothing but the deepest sympathy in this play. She has survived the violent deaths of her husband and of her son Clarence; she has seen another son, King Edward IV, languish and die, leaving his realm split with dissension. But the greatest cross she bears is the knowledge that she is the mother of the monstrous Richard: "He is my son — yea, and therein my shame — ." Yet when mother and son first exchange words, she cannot deny him the blessing he hypocritically asks for. There is supreme irony and pathos in her words:
God bless thee, and put meekness in thy mind,
Love, charity, obedience, and true duty. (II. ii. 107-108)
Nor is this blessing to lead one to assume that the duchess becomes one who is deceived by the arch-villain. It is a heartfelt plea to God that Richard may reform. Old in years and sorrow, she can find sympathy even for that terrifying figure, Queen Margaret, doom of the house of York.