This speech, by John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster, appears in Act II Scene i of Richard II by William Shakespeare. It is one of Shakespeare's most famous and most patriotic* speeches.

The purpose of this speech is to contrast Gaunt with Richard and, by extension, to highlight Richard's inadequacy as ruler. Gaunt, in making this speech, represents the old order of royalty, and the audience is painfully aware that Gaunt would have made a much better king than Richard. For this reason, the speech also, to some degree, legitimises Bolingbroke's actions later in the play (Bolingbroke is Gaunt's exiled son, and Gaunt's speech gives some audience sympathy to his accession to the throne).

Echoes of this speech recur throughout the play, as this is one of Shakespeare's best-constructed, and most poetic and lyrical, plays. Examples of this include Gaunt's prophecy of Richard's doom in the first few lines (it comes true), and his comparison of England to the Garden of Eden, which is echoed in the garden scene (Act III Scene iv). An Elizabethan audience would find this appropriate, as Gaunt dies at the end of this scene, and the words of a dying man were considered prophetic.

"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 feeds upon itself.
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred 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,
Feared 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!"

*Apologies to anyone who doesn't think England or Christian service are all that great. Blame Shakespeare, not me.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.