Dover Beach : As a Dramatic Monologue


Dover Beach:  by Matthew Arnold:  

Dover Beach:  As a Dramatic Monologue

Question  : Discuss “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold as a dramatic monologue.

Answer : A poem is said to be dramatic when there is at least two people in its setting as if it is a drama or play. It is said to be monologue when only one person speaks, addressing another, who remains silent throughout the poem.

    In this sense Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold is a dramatic monologue because the speaker is addressing a companion who is a part of the scene but does not answer back.

   In first stanza, the speaker is the mouthpiece of the poet, Matthew Arnold, but not the poet himself. The imagined character or the speaker is presumably a lover, standing at the window and describing the beauty of the seashore to his companion – 

   “Come to the window, sweet is the night – air!”

Later the speaker says to his companion –

    “Listen! You hear the grating roar.”

Finally, the speaker specified that he is speaking to his beloved by addressing her as ‘love’

   “Ah, love , let us be true 

       To one another !”

In a dramatic monologue, the action is internal, i.e. the development occurs in the speaker’s mind. The seascape begins to remind him of his uncertain place in the universe. He becomes philosophical and contemplative. He contemplates about the loss of faith in God and religion due to development in science and technology.

    The speaker expresses his frustration and hopelessness of the modern chaotic world and compares!the passing of faith to the ebb and flow of the tide. 

  He believes – 

  “The Sea of Faith

     Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore”

Means,   “The  Sea of Faith”  once full and strong, protecting the people from doubt and despair, was like the sea wrapping  itself round the continents of the world. Now this sea of Faithhas receded and the speaker can only hear its – 

   ” its melancholy, long withdrawing roar” suggestive of the death throes of the Christian era. He further says that as the sea of faith is receding, leaving behind only the cold drear night wind, whistling over the desolate beach and “naked shingles”. It is suggestive  of the fact that as the faith in God is gradually fading away, leaving men’s minds bare or naked with only sadness.

     The speaker compares this world without faith in God with a darkling plain, where there is no joy, no love, no hope, no light, no peace and even no help for pain, as he says – the world has 

   ” neither joy, nor love, nor light

     Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.”

   His growing pessimism is shown by the phrase “darkling plain” a plain growing darker with the time. He compares the men struggling in the world with armies strict on a plain at night and the soldiers are ignorant as to what they are fighting for and why? 

   Arnold believes that amidst all this sufferings only love can provide some comfort. So he urges his beloved to “be true to one another”.

    In this dark world without any feelings and emotions, only love can give meaning to one’s life. The human romantic love is powerful enough to make this loss of faith bearable and compensate its  darkness with the light of love.


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