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“Now is the winter of our discontent. . . .”

January 13, 2023

I’ve always found Richard III’s opening soliloquy to Shakespeare’s play of the same name, to be particularly powerful, a deep insight into the souls of the disenfranchised. Having seen the play live, and the role performed by a particularly gifted actor, I’ve searched in vain ever since for a performance that rises to–and sinks to–the depths occasioned by this tortured soul’s tortured words.

Until now, when I here commend you to give a listen to Arthur L. Wood’s rendition of (click here) “Now is the winter of our discontent. . .

(from Richard III, spoken by Gloucester)

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 barbed 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.

Image from Royal Shakespeare Company production

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jo Waldo permalink
    January 14, 2023 1:48 pm

    Thank you David!

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