(un)Glorious summers for these sons of York.

As someone who hasn’t read – or seen a performance of – Richard III, I was puzzling over the inspiration for the title of John Steinbeck’s The Winter Of Our Discontent. It certainly wasn’t clear from the oft-repeated and oft-modified quote:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;

But, further down in Act 1 Scene 1, this:

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.

Powerful. I liked Steinbeck’s story and found it relevant and beautifully written except for the hurried, somewhat choppy ending. It is quite amazing how seemingly innocuous thoughts, or a few words slipped in at the right moment can spiral into a series of life-changing events for Ethan Hawley. Of course they don’t always do that in real life; this was Steinbeck playing hide and seek with the reader before surprising him with the shock of realization. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, so suffice it to say that I was dissatisfied when the story suddenly veered from its logical conclusion.


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