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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Rain it raineth every day

The weather has been absolutely awful for the past couple of days. Rain, wind and now the possibility of snow. Actually it has been quite a mild winter up until now. So mild, intact, that I've actually seen new growth, almost like the first signs of spring. I'm not sure whether this is correct, but not what you would expect to see in late January. No doubt if we do get snow and a really hard frost it will kill off any of this greenery.
The title for this post seemed so appropriate, considering the amount of rain we've been having recently. The line comes from one of my favourite plays by Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, and is one of Feste's songs. The first verse from which the quote comes from is as follows:
When that I was a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

I suppose it's not so surprising that he uses weather so much as a metaphor in his plays because in this country our weather plays such a central part in our day-to-day lives and makes the British what they are. You only have to look at the British landscape to see how the weather has made the scenery what it is.
There are plenty of other references to the weather in his plays. In King Lear, Lear wanders aimlessly on the heath with his companion, The Fool, and the following is another quote which has weather in it:

In Act 2 Scene 7 we have the following:

The storm continues to rage. KENT enters in disguise.
The GENTLEMAN enters from a different direction.

KENT: Who's there, besides foul weather?

GENTLEMAN: One minded like the weather,
Most uniquely.

KENT: I know you, where's the king?

FIRST GENTLEMAN: Contending with the fretful elements;
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea
Or swell the curled waters 'bove the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair,
Which the impious blasts, with eyeless rage,
Catch in their fury and make nothing of;
Strives in his little world of man to out storm
The to-and-fro-conflicting wind and rain. . . . . 

Then Lear has this speech:

Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ungrateful man!

Then, further on in the scene The Clown has one of his songs which seem very similar to Feste's in Twelfth Night. I never know what function he has. Is he like a chorus, commenting on the action within the play? A lot of his songs have a sort of melancholy about them. As for Lear's Clown, he does have a purpose as he helps Lear and sort of counters his masters madness. It interesting that both plays deal with sanity. Infact, thinking about it, Hamlet is probably the most obvious of Shakespeare's plays to deal with madness. Although, is he really mad or is it feigned? As for madness in Twelfth Night, Malvolio's madness is brought about by Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Maria's treatment of him in the Sir Topaz episode.

The song of Lear's Clown I refer to is this:

He that has a little tiny wit,
With heigh-ho, the wind and the rain,
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day.

It is interesting that Shakespeare uses the weather as a sort of metaphor for Lear's madness. The descriptions of the weather in the play is very much how I would describe the current weather in Britain. Whether it could be used as a metaphor for the current world situation, whether financial, political, moral or whatever is open to question.

It's interesting to note that in television plays, cinema films, novels and other works of literature or creativity how authors and directors use weather as a sort of metaphor, for example rain clouds rushing past, usually in fast-motion (something of a cliche I know.) to represent something doom-laden is about to happen, such as the build-up to some tragedy, the start of a battle or a war, or a character is going to do something horrible such as a murder. Then, sunshine, brightly-lit scenes of countryside, represents happiness, pleasant happening etc. Never was this more obviously used in books by the Brontes, Wuthering Heights is a good example. Or mystery, suggested by fog, mist rising, bats flitting by a full moon with scudding clouds. All a bit corny and obvious, but we know more or less what is going to happen. If you have a miserable character standing by a window and it's raining and the rain is running down the window panes they can be seen to probably represent tears. Again, dreadfully corny. I could do a whole post of cliches. I think I might just do that.

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