Quick Shakespeare Lesson for the Troglodytes

Also Didn't Know His Shakespeare

Also Didn't Know His Shakespeare

I’ve heard more than five market commentators, talking heads, politicians and reporters misuse the phrase “Now is the winter of our discontent,” over the last few weeks and I thought I’d take a quick moment to lend a hand to my less literate contemporaries.

The only thing I hate more than someone randomly or pretensiously quoting Shakespeare is someone doing so without a clue as to what they’re talking about.  Wow, I sound pretty pretentious now, too…or at least pedantic.  Too late, I started already.

The line “Now is the winter of our discontent” is the opening phrase of William Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Believe it or not, this is actually not a dire or bleak observation that Richard is making.  He is actually using “Winter” as an evocation of the end of something, in this case, his family’s unhappiness.  The rest of the stanza will illuminate this truth for even the most casual reader:

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

Richard is referring to his brother, Edward IV, when he talks of “this sun of York“, as Edward has just successfully taken the crown from Henry VI and the House of Lancaster.  The gist of this monologue is that the clouds are clearing up and the unpleasantness for Richard’s family is coming to an end.  Of course, Richard is tortured for the rest of the play, but that’s neither here nor there.  The winter of our discontent speech is meant to be taken as an uplifting one.

The incorrect usages of this phrase that keep popping up center around the mistaken belief that the winter of our discontent line is meant to be ominous or dark, to signify that we are in the thick of the awfulness.  I’ll give you a for instance:

Reporter 1: What’s the mood out there amongst the auto parts suppliers in the Detroit area?

Reporter 2: Well, certainly there is a sense of this being the winter of our discontent, with mounting job losses on the horizon for many in the industry.

Right.  So if you knew your Shakespeare, you’d realize that you just made the opposite point you were aiming for.  Stay in Detroit, Reporter #2, you could be their mascot.

It seems that more and more pundits and journalists these days deliver bad news on a company or sector using the winter line. 

TV personalities and market commentators aren’t the only ones to get this thing wrong.  In the 1993 film Reality Bites, there’s a scene where Ethan Hawke‘s disaffected slacker character (named Troy Dyer…clever, non?) answers their home phone with “Hello, you’ve reached the winter of our discontent…”.

He clearly thinks he’s being suitably slackerish and negative but in reality, he is unwittingly making the statement that things are about to get better, that Spring is headed his way.  I guess he’s accidentally right, as shortly after he ends up with Winona Ryder‘s tongue in his mouth.  No discontent there!

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful to those who’ve continuously misused Richard III’s catchphrase.  Sorry for being such a d#$% about it.

Tags: , , , , ,

This content, which contains security-related opinions and/or information, is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in any manner as professional advice, or an endorsement of any practices, products or services. There can be no guarantees or assurances that the views expressed here will be applicable for any particular facts or circumstances, and should not be relied upon in any manner. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment.

The commentary in this “post” (including any related blog, podcasts, videos, and social media) reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the Ritholtz Wealth Management employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded the views of Ritholtz Wealth Management LLC. or its respective affiliates or as a description of advisory services provided by Ritholtz Wealth Management or performance returns of any Ritholtz Wealth Management Investments client.

References to any securities or digital assets, or performance data, are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others.

Wealthcast Media, an affiliate of Ritholtz Wealth Management, receives payment from various entities for advertisements in affiliated podcasts, blogs and emails. Inclusion of such advertisements does not constitute or imply endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation thereof, or any affiliation therewith, by the Content Creator or by Ritholtz Wealth Management or any of its employees. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. For additional advertisement disclaimers see here: https://www.ritholtzwealth.com/advertising-disclaimers

Please see disclosures here.

What's been said:

Discussions found on the web
  1. CI CD commented on Feb 07

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Information here to that Topic: thereformedbroker.com/2009/05/28/quick-shakespeare-lesson-for-the-troglodytes/ […]