Cultural references

Probably the most famous verses in the play come from the funeral song of Act IV, Scene 2, which begins:

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.

These last two lines appear to have inspired T. S. Eliot; in "Lines to a Yorkshire Terrier" (in Five-Finger Exercises), he writes:

Pollicle dogs and cats all must
Jellicle cats and dogs all must
Like undertakers, come to dust.

The first two lines of the song appear in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. The lines, which turn Mrs. Dalloway's thoughts to the trauma of the First World War, are at once an elegiac dirge and a profoundly dignified declaration of endurance. The song provides a major organisational motif for the novel.

The song was set to music by Roger Quilter as "Fear No More the Heat o' the Sun," No. 1 of Five Shakespeare Songs, Op. 23 (1921). It was also set by Gerald Finzi as part of his song cycle on texts by Shakespeare Let Us Garlands Bring (1942).

At the end of Stephen Sondheim's The Frogs, William Shakespeare is competing against George Bernard Shaw for the title of best playwright, deciding which of them is to be brought back from the dead in order to improve the world. Shakespeare sings the funeral song of Act IV, Scene 2, when asked about his view of death (the song is titled "Fear No More").

"Fear no more the heat of the sun" is the line that Winnie and her husband are trying to remember in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days as they sit exposed to the elements.

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