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"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise ..."
Just returned from a wonderful week in England, and these famous lines that John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, delivers in Richard II kept running through my head. Over the years, I've memorized them, without really trying, the strength and beauty of the words just staying with me from reading and hearing them so many times. The first lines of this soliloquy are well known, the ones I have recorded here and underscored with music, are jingoistic words of praise for England. However, there is more to the speech, of course, which paints a bleaker picture of the England in the play, and it ends with these lesser known words that change the entire tone and meaning of Lancaster's observations:
" ... 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! "