Now is the winter of our discontent
What's the meaning of the phrase 'Now is the winter of our discontent'?
'Now is the winter of our discontent' express the idea that we have reached the depth of our unhappiness and that better times are ahead.
What's the origin of the phrase 'Now is the winter of our discontent'?
'Now is the winter of our discontent', is the first line of Shakespeare's Richard III, 1594. It needs to be read together with the second line of the play 'made glorious summer by this sun of York'. Shakespeare was using the summer/winter weather as a metaphor for the fortunes of tthe English House of York and its rivalry with the Plantagenets for the English throne. The 'sun of York' wasn't of course a comment on Yorkshire weather but on the 'son of York' Edward IV.
So, what Richard is saying is that we are now at the depth of the winter but the son of York (Edward) is like the sun of Summer and good times are on the way.
In this play Shakespeare presents an account of Richard's character that, until the late 20th century, largely formed the popular opinion of him as a malevolent, deformed schemer. Historians now view that representation as a dramatic plot device - necessary for the villainous role that Shakespeare had allocated him. It isn't consistent with what is now known of Richard III, who in many ways showed himself to be an enlightened and forward-looking monarch. The discovery of Richard's skeleton under a car park in Leicester has provided precise evidence of the extent of his deformity. While being somewhat curved Richard's spinal deformity has now been shown to have been exaggerated and deliberately faked in some portraits.
"Now is the winter of our discontent" are the opening words of the play and lay the groundwork for the portrait of Richard as a discontented man who is unhappy in a world that hates him. Later Shakespeare describes himself as "Deformed, unfinished, sent before his time into this breathing world, scarce half made up". He says that as he "cannot prove a lover" he is "determined to be a villain". Whether Shakespeare believed the propaganda against Richard or whether he was happy to use it for dramatic effect isn't clear.
It is clear that brooding malevolence that Shakespeare has Richard personify mirrors the playwright's view of the state of the English nation during the Wars of the Roses.
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