Now Is NOT The Winter of Our Discontent

One of the many Shakespeare related peeves I have is cutting off the end of a line as if it’s a full idea, creating an incorrect meaning. On of the big ones are the famous opening words of Richard III.

What many don’t know is that Richard is not telling the audience that the winter of their discontent is now. Take a look at the full SENTENCE, not just the first line.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Richard is telling us that the worst times (“winter of our discontent”) have been made into good times (“glorious summer”) by King Edward (“this son of York”). Or to put it more simply, “Times sucked, but now they’re good. Thanks bro.” Followed by “the gloom that hung over us is now buried in the deep ocean.”

I’ve seen a T-Shirt that said “When is the Winter of my discontent?” That just makes no sense. Why would you want to know anyway? That’s just like putting “When am I going to have the worst day ever?” on a shirt.

The problem doesn’t lie with the quotation, but with people’s lack of understanding that one line does not always equal one thought. It’s a silly misconception but it exists for some reason. When someone reads a book or an article and they get to the end of the column they automatically know to go to the next line and that the thought stops at the period or question mark. But as soon as someone picks up verse, many will pause at the end of the line instead of reading to the punctuation mark.

There shouldn’t be any sort of difference in the way that verse or prose is read in this way. Whether the line is restricted by physical space or amounts of syllables, the thought doesn’t stop until you reach the appropriate punctuation mark.