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Shakespeare Quotes: Winter of our discontent

Shakespeare Quotes: Winter of our discontent

Winter of our discontent Introduction

I'm Richard III. I really want the crown and I'm willing to do anything to get it. Lie, manipulate, murder, you name it. As long as the precious crown is on my head, I don't care what I do. And you know what I think?

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,
About a prophecy, which says that 'G'
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes. (1.1.1-43)

Who Said It and Where

This is one of the most famous openings in all of Western drama. So you know it's important. Richard uses the winter and summer seasons as a metaphor. Basically, he's suggesting that King Edward IV's reign has turned everyone's winter-like sadness into a time of summer-like celebration.

What's everyone been so upset about? The Wars of the Roses, a series of nasty civil wars that had the Lancasters and the Yorks (two branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet) vying for the English crown.

Richard tells us how his family (the House of York) has suffered during the Wars of the Roses and compares the horrible times to the way cloudy skies loom over a house during the dark winter months. But now his big brother Edward IV is king and the country is at peace. So it's as though "winter" has given way to "glorious summer."

But Richard is unhappy. It's still not summertime for him. Despite the happy news about his family's victory, Richard is ticked off. He's Duke of Gloucester but he wants to be king. He feels inadequate because (1) he was born a "deformed" hunchback and (2) he's got no love life to speak of.

So what does he do? For starters, he delivers this speech. In it, Richard lets the audience in on a big secret: he's hatched an evil-genius plot to get his hands on the crown. Should be amusing.

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