Study Guide

Winter Death

By William Shakespeare

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If spring is all about life (new birds are born, flowers bloom, the weather gets nicer), winter is all about death. Note all the images of death, or semi-death, in this poem: frozen things (icicles, milk), cold things (blood, snow), owls (they hunt), etc. Sure, "Winter" isn't all about actual death and dying, but the lifelessness and coldness of winter cannot help but make us think of death. Cheery, right?

Questions About Death

  1. This poem totally associates winter and death. Is that something our culture normally does? Or is this Shakespeare's own little twist on things? Why do you think so?
  2. In what ways is this poem not really about death? 
  3. An owl is singing, and birds are "brooding." Are these supposed to be indications that spring is right around the corner? What else might do these "happy" things symbolize or suggest?
  4. What do you make of the coughing? Is it neutral, bad, just somebody clearing their throat? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Life1, Death 0. Although death is everywhere, life always manages to come out on top in "Winter."

Death is scary and all that, but it's also a natural part of life. The owls, for example, need to eat. Sorry about that, little mouse.

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