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Explore the portrayal of war in the poetry of William Shakespeare and Wilfred Owen

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Introduction

Explore the portrayal of war in the poetry of William Shakespeare and Wilfred Owen. 'Dulce et Decorum est', or it 'It is sweet and right' is a post traumatic experience of war written to not only shock but haunt a readers conscience or perception of war, the old lie, 'Dulce et Decorum est'. 'Before Agincourt' by William Shakespeare is a poem so far away from Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum est' in meaning, context and time that the two portrayals of war are hard to compare. To make the comparison successful it is important to establish that Wilfred Owen is responding to direct experience and Shakespeare is merely guessing at words possibly spoken by King Henry V before the 'Battle of Agincourt'. The Battle of Agincourt, 1415 was led by King Henry V. The aim being to seize the French throne. Henry's army succeeded, an amazing 19,000 men down. Shakespeare's poem reflects this victory through the continuous use of blank verse and never changing optimistic approach. The initial reading of the poem is motionless; it appears that men are simply talking (possibly because the Middle English used is somewhat irrelevant to me now) however subsequent reading reveals that the poem is in fact extremely spiritual. King Henry V believes that honour is actually worth dying for, he 'is not covetous for gold' 'such outward things dwell not in my desire'. ...read more.

Middle

We are now in a multicultural society where we consider the impact of terror these feuds enforce on others. To gain these pragmatic perceptions of war, we have evidently been influenced by the trauma and horror of other peoples past experiences, for example the futility of war is expressed vividly in Wilfred Owens poem 'Dulce et Decorum est'. Written at the time of the First World War, Owen describes what he saw and how it affected him. His strong views are conveyed to influence peoples past glorifying perceptions of war. With the education of men joining the army increasing the true inconsolable stories of the young men fighting could at last be told... thus changing the portrayal of war forever. The first time I read the poem, I was initially shocked. I didn't need to read again, to comprehend the images conjured in my head. Owens excessive use of punctuation emphasises the pace at which events happened. For example actions of 'fumbling' with helmets and 'blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs' all flow, there is no punctuation for the reader to rest upon but only a pace of the actions happening, for the reader to endure. To allow the reader to empathise entirely Owen uses words presenting an action in the present tense; 'coughing...haunting...dropping...fumbling...yelling...stumbling...drowning...guttering' these allow the images to happen right there in the readers head as they read. ...read more.

Conclusion

'guttering'. The chosen word, 'guttering' evokes a visualisation of someone actually 'guttering' or 'choking'. It is onomatopoeic and therefore involves the reader with a ghastly sound also. I have no evidence to compare Shakespeare's drafts with the final poem; however the blank verse does suggest that he has not had to choose so carefully for particular words. Owens imagery swept me away. As he describes the imagery of the man 'drowning under a sea of green', I felt emotionally attached, we've all had nasty experiences in water at some point and as he described this man 'plunging' at him, desperate I could feel the same entrapment and claustrophobia that I did that day in the water. On the other hand Shakespeare succeeded raising my morale and courage through his words of 'Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot...', uniting the country with places twinned together, stronger. War has provided stimulus for poets for hundreds of years. In 900 BC Homer describes the Trojan war in the epic poem, Iliad. We can see from the comparison between 'Agincourt' and 'Dulce et Decorum est' that portrayals of war have altered and I'm sure that if war is inevitably going to happen then the use of bio-chemicals and nuclear warfare will change the perceptions of war through their effects once again. ...read more.

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