The lines of ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’ are sung in the play Cymbeline, over the recreantly deceased forms of Cloten and Fidele. It appears in Act IV, Scene 2, and is sung by Guiderius and Argiragus, the sons of Cymbeline. They alternate verses, or stanzas. Cymbeline is also known as The Tragedie of Cymebline or Cymbeline, King of Britain. By some, the play is considered to be a romance or a comedy.
The first production of the play was in April of 1611 and it was included in the First Folio in 1623 but scholars are unsure when exactly it was written. Some believe that a secondary writer might’ve worked on the play, specifically parts of Act II and Act V. Today, Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays but at the time it was quite popular. John Keats even later named it as one of his favorites.
Explore Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Summary of Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
In the lines of the poem/song, the two speakers go through all the reasons that the listeners, who can’t actually hear them, should be glad their dead. They are rid of all work, jobs, and responsibilities that the real world would demand of them. They also don’t have to worry about punishments from those in power or following any set of rules. There is also a repetition of the fact that everyone, no matter their beauty, power, or age will find death.
Themes in Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
The primary theme in ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’ is quite clear, it is death. The lines of this poem/song are quite simple, especially for Shakespeare, and convey quite clearly the speakers’ interest, death, and the escape it provides from life. They take turns laying out all the reasons that someone who has died should be glad they did. This isn’t in order to drive someone to suicide, but so that the two “deaths” that feature in this section of the play are cast in a less depressing light.
Structure and Form
Song: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun” by William Shakespeare is a four stanza excerpt from the play Cymbeline. These four verses of the song, or stanzas in this context, follow a rhyme scheme ABCBDD, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. There is a good example of repetition at the end of the first three stanzas where Shakespeare uses epistrophe, repeating the words “must” and “dust” at the ends of lines five and six of stanzas one, two, and three. The same technique appears in the final stanza where the rhyme scheme is broken and “thee” ends the first four lines of the stanza.
Shakespeare makes use of several literary devices in ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’. These include but are not limited to juxtaposition, enjambment, and an example of an apostrophe. The first, juxtaposition, is seen through the various things that the speaker believes dead people no longer have to concern themselves with. A good example can be found in the first stanza when the singers suggest that neither “winter’s rages” nor the “heat o’ the sun” should bother the dead.
Enjambment is another common formal device that appears throughout Shakespeare’s plays and poems. In this case, readers can find a few examples. For instance, the transition between lines five and six of the second stanza and five and six of the third stanza.
In these lines, Shakespeare also uses another technique known as an apostrophe. This is seen when the speaker or speakers address their words to someone or something that cannot hear them or is unable to hear them. In this case, they are talking to people who are either sleeping or dead.
Analysis of Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
In the first stanza of ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’ from Cymbeline, the first of the two singers, Guiderius, directs his words to the dead bodies at his feet (one of whom isn’t actually deceased). He takes a hopeful approach to death, telling the dead (a technique known as apostrophe) that they should be happy to be rid of the many fears life presents. They no longer have to worry about the heat of the sun or the “furious winter’s rages”. There are no more tasks to complete or jobs to do.
Plus, there’s really nothing that they can do about it. Everyone dies. From “Golden,” rich and beautiful “lads and girls” to the “chimney-sweepers”. All “come to dust”. While death is almost by definition depression, this speaker does not see it that way. The same can be said about Argiragus who sings next.
Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
The second stanza of ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’ is very similar to the first in that the speaker is talking the listeners, who are dead or incapacitated, through the various reasons why they’re lucky to be dead. They no longer have to worry about judgment from the living or punishment from those in power. No one needs to worry about money to buy clothes or food, one thing is like the next. No one is rich and no one is poor. Once again, the stanza ends with an allusion to the fact that everyone, no matter what kind of power they have, will die.
Stanzas Three and Four
Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!
In the next stanza of ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’, the speakers switch again and go through more reasons why death is safer and more secure than life. There are no dangers, physical or emotional, to be afraid of. No slander nor joy nor sorrow. All lovers die, no matter how happy they are, the speaker concludes.
The fourth and final stanza of the poem is different than those which came before it. The rhyme scheme changes and so does the use of punctuation. Here, Shakespeare ends the first four lines and the sixth line with an exclamation point. His speaker is exclaiming over the lack of fear, witchcraft, and negativity that the dead have to worry about. These lines are sung excitedly and with a lot of energy. The song/poem ends with the speakers wishing the two deceased (or so they think) characters well in death.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’ from Shakespeare should also consider reading his 154 sonnets. These are mostly focused around the Fair Youth, a young man whose identity has never been determined. Or, alternatively, readers might find themselves drawn to other excerpts from plays. For example, ‘All the World’s a Stage’ from As You Like it or the Prologue from Romeo and Juliet. Some of the most popular sonnets from his collection of 154 are ‘Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’ and ‘Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’.