Home Poem of the Week This England by William Shakespeare and the sting in its tail.

This England by William Shakespeare and the sting in its tail.

This England William Shakespeare
This England - William Shakespeare

“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” John of Gaunt, dying, utters these immortal words in William Shakespeare’s history, Richard II. These are the words that most people know to be the end of the soliloquy. However, notice that is a comma at the end of the line. Not a full stop. The monologue continues. Take a moment to read the full this England speech from Act II Scene 1 of the play:

This England: from Richard II
William Shakespeare

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!

A turn of emotion if ever there was one. From Patriotic rhetoric to almost treasonous discord. This England hides a sting in the tail, verbal retribution of the King by John of Gaunt.


If you would like to read more we recommend these books

Our picks for Shakespeare’s Richard II

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Further reading: Is England too good for the English? Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt seems to think so

This England: Speech from William Shakespeare’s play Richard II. Image: “Man with his face painted with the flag of England” By ramonespelt via adobe stock, licensed by Splashlime for prose and poetry.

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