#Shakespeare400-Bardy, It’s Cold Out There

Of the 38 plays Shakespeare wrote, three titles are directly associated with seasons or weather.There may be meteorological origins for these titles by taking a  quick look at the record of serious weather events in the late 1500s and early 1600s.

The year after a “wet & unseasonable summer – extensive flooding of fields etc., with loss / spoiling of crops across England (1594)”, came the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But it is in the record of harsh winters, from 1607 through 1609, that one could find the origins for some of the language and themes in The Winter’s Tale in 1609 and The Tempest in 1610.winter-snow-nature-animated-gif-8

According to the website Meteorology at West Moors that notes significant weather in England during the centuries:

1596: “…period of frequent severe gales in Scotland set in and lasted until 16th August: many ships lost on the east coast.”

1607-08: “The ‘Great Winter‘: apparently, trees died due to the severity (and length) of the frost; ships were stranded by ice several miles out into the North Sea … In December, a “deep” frost until mid-month, then a thaw until just before Christmas, then from ~21st December, intense freeze for much of the time until at least mid-January. Ice formed on the Thames in London….The frost lasted overall for some two months…The Firth of Forth is noted as being ‘frozen’ during January 1608 & the River Exe (south of Exeter) also experienced major ice formation by the latter-third of January – at this latter location, damage was caused to a local weir.”

At the very least, the people who attended Shakespeare’s plays certainly remembered the intensity of the storms and the impact that extreme weather had on their daily lives. They did not need an explanation to understand language of weather to interpret the themes in any of Shakespeare’s works.

The same could be said of the sonnets, (1609). Audiences would understand the message in lines 3 and 4 from  Sonnet 97

“What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!”
…just as they would understand today’s lyrics, “Baby, it’s bad out there…oh, but it’s cold outside!”



4 thoughts on “#Shakespeare400-Bardy, It’s Cold Out There

  1. Shakespeare reference to weather in many of his plays helps with conveying a universal message to his audience. When he first wrote the plays and works of literature he uses storms and seasons that everyone would remember to show the severity of a topic or point that he is trying to get across. If most people lived through the weather event then they would easily be able to relate to what ever message he was trying to get across.

  2. Writers are often influenced by major events occurring around them. Shakespeare was influenced by the extreme weather that England suffered during the 1500s and the 1600s. By incorporating the extreme weather into his writings, Shakespeare creates a mood and environment that his audience can relate to. The aspect of Shakespeare’s work relating to weather would be understood by both the lower classes and the upper class, which would broaden Shakespeare’s audience. Despite the class differences, the audience would be connected together through this mutual sentiment of the extreme weather. Therefore Shakespeare found common ground between the different members of his audience and he reeled in interest. Even if the characters of his work were very different from the majority of his audience, there would still be a feeling of understanding and a connection between audience and characters due to the circumstances that were experienced in Shakespeare’s writings and in real life.

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