Read Richard III’s “Now is the winter of our discontent” soliloquy below with modern English translation & analysis.

Spoken by Richard, Richard III, Act 1 Scene 1
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 chang’d to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visag’d 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 shap’d 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,
Deform’d, 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.

“Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent” Soliloquy Translation:
At last, our winter of troubled history has been transformed into glorious summer by my brother, King Edward, and all the clouds that had gathered threateningly above our house lie safely buried in the depths of the ocean. Now we’re wearing the wreaths of victory and we’ve removed our battered armour and our weapons of war and hung them up as decorations. The blast of battlefield bugles have been usurped by the musical accompaniment to the dancing that’s had taken the place of serious military marching. People now smile easily instead of wearing the grim frowns of war. Instead of putting the fear of God into the enemy by charging towards him on armoured horses we’re charming ladies with dance steps to the tunes of seductive lutes.

That doesn’t suit me. I’m the wrong type for sexual games; I wasn’t cut out to admire myself in a mirror. I am badly shaped and lack the looks to feel at ease swaggering in front of a pretty, flighty girl. For me such activity has been curtailed. I’ve been cheated out of good looks by nature; deformed, not fully developed, because of the premature birth that sent me into the world barely half formed, and even then, badly. Nature has made me so ugly that dogs bark at me as I limp past them.

This weak, tedious period of peace bores me: I have nothing to do, unless I want to sing songs about my own deformity whenever I catch a glimpse of my shadow in the sunshine. And so, since I could never fill these beautiful days of peace by being a lover, I’ve made up my mind to be a villain and stir up these idle days of pleasure. Indeed, I’ve already used drunken prophesies, lies and dream interpretations to set dangerous plots in motion to turn my brothers – Clarence and the King – against each other. And if King Edward was as fair and even-handed as I am cunning, false and treacherous, Clarence is going to be locked up this very day because of a prophecy that says that “G” will murder Edward’s children.

6 replies
  1. Michele Engel
    Michele Engel says:

    Please note just a small indication of how rich Shakespeare’s poetry is in the first two lines. He and his brother Edward were sons (as in children) of the House of York.

    Reply
  2. paul radwanski
    paul radwanski says:

    Um…this translation is not very good. Not for nothing, but ole Rich here is making some serious sexual puns and using very sexual imagery. Grim’d visage war hath smoothed his wrinkled front!! C’mon…Capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber. The army is getting it on now that there is peace!! why the whitewash??

    Reply
  3. Ramiro
    Ramiro says:

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    Reply

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