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 Post subject: Shakepeare's "England"
PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2002 6:22 pm 
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You have one of my favorite quotes about England in your subject list.
I was rather shocked, and let down, to glean (on my own, so I could be wrong) from reading the entire passage that it is from that it is taken out of context, and the speaker, John of Gaunt, in King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1, is actually slamming the King and England. For me, when read in context, it appears to have a very solid undertone of sarcasm and contempt.
Did I get the wrong impression? Check it out....
(p.s., the quote ends with a comma, not a period)

From King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1:

JOHN OF GAUNT:
Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
And thus expiring do foretell of him:
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,


This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2002 6:41 pm 
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You can still regard this as a tribute to England -- John of Gaunt is not slamming England, he is slamming Richard II, a self-indulgent king who foolishly believed his divine right to rule allowed him to get away with anything, which is the central problem Shakespeare explores in this play. Here's the key:

This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,


In the play, John of Gaunt is saying how wonderful England is but what a horrible, reduced state Richard II's irresponsible rule has brought England to, and what a crime and shame that is. Because of his incompetence, characterized by blatant favoritism, Richard II was deposed as king, then later murdered in prison.

The message John of Gaunt delivers in Shakespeare's persona of him is that even paradise can be brought to ruin by those who govern badly.

The Renaissance was full of literature that was a "mirror for magistrates" (there's even a work from the error entitled that) -- lessons in how to govern wisely, with warnings that poor rule could ruin the best nations.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2002 7:17 pm 
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I allowed for the fact that I was wrong, and I am so grateful to Luna for pointing it out to me. I sit gratefully corrected, and enlightened.
I think this one case alone proves I was right to ask Mike to change my title back to "Member." If I had any title other than "Member" it should just be "Search Engine."


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2002 7:43 pm 
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I don't think you were wrong, man -- you caught the sarcasm and disgust of John of Gaunt. I'd say that's pretty darn good to glean without reading the whole play, wouldn't you?

Shakespeare's history plays, with the exception of Henry V, aren't as readily available as the major comedies and tragedies -- you kind of have to go out of your way (and be a weirdo like me) to read them or see them performed. But they're great. I especially love Henry IV Parts I and II, with Falstaff and the young Prince Hal (who becomes Henry V).

BTW, I remember pulling an all-nighter to write a paper on Richard II on a MANUAL TYPEWRITER when I was (gulp) 23 and working on my M.A. in English. Those were the days . . . NOT!

P.S. You earned Quotemaster, but I think you should be given the title "Search Engine," and it should be an HONOR. You are absolutely the best Web searcher going -- your only real competition for that title is Phaedrus. Can we change thenostromo's title to "Master Web Searcher," mgm? (With his permission, of course.)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 15, 2002 11:19 pm 
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In context, I took that speech as more of a "those were the days" lament --
Quote:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.


For anyone with over 100 posts, I'll change your title to whatever you please, within reason. Email or PM me. :)

I actually like how mine says 'Administrator' since it only says I run the place, not that I know anything.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 16, 2002 5:23 am 
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You're right; it is a "those were the days" lament, a loss of Camelot theme.

It's been over twenty years since I read the play, but I remember comparisons at the time of Richard II to Richard Nixon -- their approach to governing and what ultimately happened to them. Of course, at that time, it was only 5 years since the resignation. Eons ago.

Speaking of Camelot, this morning I read they believe they've found JFK's PT-109 boat off the Solomon Islands.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 16, 2002 6:13 am 
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Luna, you have such superlative writing skills.

Theno, I can't understand the logic in asking MGM to change your status back to member? I would agree that you are an excellent researcher but it is obvious that you are genuine quote master. I am not known for being a dilligent researcher. (I am just a budding quotations buff.)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2002 2:36 am 
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I realise the original post was a couple of months back, but I recently finished a book on late mediaeval England that asserts Dick 2 has been unfairly maligned, largely as a consequence of Bill's treatment of this subject. I'll try and dig out a quote, but the essence is that D2 was no better and no worse then his predecessors and successors, in action or in intent.

For an Englishman, excerts from this passage are so often quoted that they have become an integal part of our sense of national identity (who said "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel"?) that it seems deserving of closer scrutiny. It would be ironic inded if it could be demonstrated that our propensity for self-deprecation (rather than self-congratulation) goes back to Shakespeare's time!!!!


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2002 6:10 am 
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"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
-- Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2002 10:05 pm 
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That quote is hardly ever seen in its full context, where Boswell goes on to give a bit of explanation of Johnson's meaning:

Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But let it be considered that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak of self-interest.
~Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), British author, lexicographer. (Originally published 1791). Boswell’s Life of Johnson, April 7, 1775, p. 615, Oxford University Press (1980).
http://www.bartleby.com/66/2/31202.html

You can read much more of Boswell's "Life of Johnson" at
http://ftp.cdut.edu.cn/pub/english/Engl ... (1740-1795)/Life%20of%20Johnson/part03.txt

"The world is a fine place. The only thing wrong with it is us. How little justice and humility there is in us, how poorly we understand patriotism!"
~ Chekhov


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2002 2:01 am 
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Brilliant, Nostromo! Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. (Or, in one of your countryman's better nostrums, "What goes around, comes around!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2002 4:20 am 
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I added the full Boswell excerpt to the archives here.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2002 10:07 pm 
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I am currently reading Henry IV by Shakespeare, so it's funny you should mention John of Gaunt.
Prince Hal, (also referred to as Harry and Henry) the son of King Henry and heir to the thrown is a complete rebel, for he goes out to the pubs/taverns every night to get wasted with his friend Falstaff. Hal and Faltaff poke fun at each other, just like any good friends do.
In Act 2 scene 2, Falstaff and his henchmen plan to rob travelers carrying money to the king. What Falstaff doesn't know is that Hal and his friend Poins plan to rob Falstaff after he has robbed the travelers. They don't want to do this out of spite, they merely enjoy how Falstaff embellishes stories when he gets drunk.
There was a point to this: OH YES...John of Gaunt. Falstaff is a little bit apprehensive about robbing the travelers, to which Prince Hal says, "What, a coward, Sir John Paunch?" Falstaff replies, "Indeed I am not John of Gaunt your grandfather, but yet no coward, Hal."
Falstaff is making a pun on the word "gaunt." He is basically calling Hal a skinny little shrimp of a man.


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