Now is the winter of our discontentMade glorious summer by this sun of York…–from Richard III, by William Shakespeare
**I haven’t forgotten it’s Independence Day. There’s a bit about American literature and the American author John Steinbeck below. Happy 4th of July!**
I have to confess, I’ve never read Richard III. The 1995 movie version with Ian McKellen was on television the other night; but I have to confess again, I only caught a few minutes before falling asleep. Even the movie was pretty dense. Hamlet has always been my go-to Shakespearean tragedy, he seems so much more relatable. The hapless victim of a murderous king, rather than the murderous king lui-même…
But the quote featured above? That’s another thing altogether. It will pop into my head in the midst of winter, and in the midst of summer. And the time I traveled to York in the summer of 2002? (Yes, the original York, in England.) Fuggedaboutit.
I first encountered the quote over thirty years ago, in high school, when I had to pick a subject for a term paper in my American Lit class. Being an angsty teenager, I was immediately drawn to the title of John Steinbeck’s novel, published in 1961. “The Winter of Our Discontent? That is SO my life,” I probably thought.
Regarding the novel and Steinbeck: I remember liking it, though I don’t remember it having much in common with Richard III’s story. And I think I got a good grade on the term paper. I also went on to read more Steinbeck around that time.
But my biggest takeaway was the quote. I found out pretty quickly that Steinbeck didn’t invent the title; I might have been vaguely disappointed by that. Though I was pretty impressed that it came from Shakespeare.
Thirty years on for me, and more than 425 years for Shakespeare, there’s still so much humanity to ponder in those two lines. How subject we are to seasons, how easily we can be persuaded that something as formidable and harsh as winter could be its exact opposite.
It might be my go-to Shakespearean quote. I’m going with that, until another one pops up to prove its leadership in the clubhouse of my head.