Unborn Sorrow

In Act Two, Scene Two of Richard the Second, when Bushy questions the Queen’s sadness, she responds:


                           methinks,
Some unborn sorrow, ripe in fortune's womb,
Is coming towards me, and my inward soul
With nothing trembles. At some thing it grieves,
More than with parting from my lord the king.

— II.ii.9-13

While the quote is ostensibly about a fear of the future “coming towards” the Queen, there’s something else going on here as well. Look at the language: “unborn” and “womb.” Remember, part of the problem with Richard II is that he left no heir; with an heir, it’s doubtful that either Bolingbroke would accept the throne, or that Richard would be so willing to abdicate it (he’s no Henry VI). 

She speaks of something “ripe” in that womb and her “inward soul” (rather a poetic depiction of the womb, no?). Yet that “inward soul” trembles with “nothing.” The soul, her womb, is empty. And it is THAT emptiness “more than” her separation from her King that “grieves” her. She feels a responsibility for his troubles.

But the Queen in reality was only eleven years old at the time. The responsibility isn’t hers, it’s Richard’s.

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