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In the first stanza of "Dover Beach," who is the speaker and who is he addressing?

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geeamison94 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 15, 2013 at 6:59 PM via web

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In the first stanza of "Dover Beach," who is the speaker and who is he addressing?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:34 PM (Answer #1)

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"Dover Beach" is a dramatic monologue. In a dramatic monologue the speaker is not necessarily the author, but most critics suggest that the speaker is a poet who does express some of Arnold's own beliefs. At least, we can say the speaker is (probably a poet) with his lover, looking over the straits of Dover toward the French coast while contemplating humanity, faith, and love. 

In a dramatic monologue, we (readers) know who the speaker is addressing by clues in the speaker's monologue. In the first stanza, it is unclear whether the speaker is speaking to another person, to himself, or if he's thinking (as an internal soliloquy). It isn't until the fourth stanza that the speaker actually addresses someone: 

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems 

To lie before us like a land of dreams, 

We might be inclined to suggest that the speaker is addressing a personified "Love" or the abstract quality of love. But since the speaker repeats the word "us," it is much more likely that he is speaking to a lover, his "love." So, although there are no clues in the first stanza, the clues in the fourth stanza imply that he's been speaking to his "love" throughout the entire poem. 

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