Dover Beach Questions and Answers
by Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach book cover
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In the poem Dover beach by Mathew Arnold why does the poet refer to Sophocles and the Angean sea?    

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One of the defining features of the romantic poetry movement is its reconnection with classic times.  Here the narrator is recalling the days of Greek greatness, which also has come and gone, just as “The Sea of Faith” is “retreating now," in the poem’s time. Then the narrator asks his mate to not let their relationship suffer the same fate, even though the tide (and the tide of “human misery”) seems, like the sea tonight, to ebb and flow, just as the Aegean Sea did in Sophocles’ time, when the Greeks were “on a darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight” in the conflicts the Greeks engaged in.  The pointlessness and meaninglessness of war is underlined by Arnold’s reference to that past war-ravaged time.   While some analysts stress the religious themes in the poem, the reference to Greek culture, especially as Sophocles dramatized it, shows that Arnold was also concerned with the damage and misery brought on by human conflict.  And, of course, it is also a love poem.

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