Well I hope wherever you were you had a better view of the eclipse than I did. In Shakespeare’s time they were taken for signs and portents – now we know that they are just a beautiful coincidence of the fact that the sun is about 400 times bigger in diameter than the moon, but 400 times further away.
Shakespeare uses eclipsing merely as a metaphor for something getting in the way a couple of times. In Henry VI part 3 the King says “till I see them here, by doubtful fear My joy of liberty is half eclips’d”, and in part 1 Talbot describes his son as “Born to eclipse thy life this afternoon”.
But mainly nothing good comes of eclipses in Shakespeare – “Alack, our terrene moon is now eclips’d, and it portends alone the fall of Antony” says Antony himself. Horatio takes up the strain – “As stars with trains of fire, and dews of blood, Disasters in the sun; and the moist star Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.” And unsurprisingly, the Macbeth witches include “slips of yew Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse” among their ingredients.
In King Lear “These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us.” Which indeed they don’t, and the list of predictions for what follows an eclipse: “unnaturalness between the child and the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what” comes almost entirely true (I know not what would neatly cover Tom O’Bedlam).
Sonnet 35 contains the line “Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun”, and I know which one won in London yesterday.
Still. since I’m not superstitious, I am looking forward to the next one.