Of what colour it please God

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I owe you all a review of Much Ado – which will come shortly, I promise!

In the meantime, I am out and about enjoying the wonderfully changeable British weather. Of course sunshine and rain in quick succession (and even sometimes together) can only mean one thing – rainbows – surely the most fleeting and most individual of weather. After all, as it’s made of light, it’s physically impossible for someone else to see the same rainbow you do…

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Shakespeare never gets this philosophical with his rainbows – the closest he comes is in Salisbury’s oft-misquoted speech in King John:

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,

To throw a perfume on the violet,

To smooth the ice, or add another hue

Unto the rainbow,

The rainbow is used as another example of something which cannot be improved upon, but the specific language he uses is ahead of his scientific time, since, in fact, rainbows do contain all the colours there are.

This was in any case an idea in common usage – both Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor and an unnamed servant in A Winter’s Tale use “all the colours of the rainbow” as a descriptive term which goes well beyond the seven normally listed in the spectrum, an artefact of Isaac Newton’s more unusual obsessions. The servant is merely describing ribbons while Falstaff is describing his bruises – which must be a very impressive collection indeed…

 

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