How we cite our quotes:
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York; (1.1.1)
This is one of the most famous openings in all of Western drama. Richard uses the winter and summer seasons as a metaphor to suggest that King Edward IV's reign has turned everyone's winter-like sadness into a time of "glorious," summer-like celebration. What's everyone been so bummed about? The Wars of the Roses, a series of nasty civil wars that had the Lancasters and the Yorks (two branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet) vying for the English crown
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 changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute. (1.1.1)
This passage from Richard's opening speech is full of vivid imagery to describe England's transition from a war-torn country into a nation celebrating its newfound peace. Richard speaks as though "war" is a person whose once "grim-visage" has been transformed into a smiling face because he's been spending all his time "caper[ing]" around in a "lady's" bedroom instead of duking it out on the battlefield. Interestingly enough, Shakespeare will return to this same imagery at the very end of the play. (See 5.8.3 below.)
We also want to point out that, by his own admission, Richard has no good reason to steal his brother's throne, since England seems to be prospering under Edward's rule.
But I, that am not shaped 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,
Deformed, 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 (1.1.1)
Richard says here that he's just not cut out for peacetime because he's not good-looking enough to be a seductive ladies' man. He reasons that because he was born "deformed, unfinished," and premature, he's better suited to times of war and conflict.