Friday, July 20, 2012

Shakespeare's Richard II and the White Cliffs of Dover

“This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Straight of Dover and France.
“This earth of majest, this seat of Mars” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

Reaching them takes all day, up this steep muddy trail lined with grazing horses, the windy sea, and just chuncks of wet earth... oh, and there's a sweet Dover Medieval Castle in the distance.
“This other Eden, demi-paradise,” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

Of course, I threw on a pair of old sneakers and raced out there. Got buckets of rain poured on me, hung out under a tree watching foxes chase rabbits with a couple of bleating sheep... it was cool.
“This fortress built by Nature for herself” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

Actually, it was a wonderful introduction to the fortifications of England and the amazing history this country has...
“Against infection and the hand of war” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

It also reminded me of one of my favorite Shakespeare passages from King Richard II, no... not "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse..." That's the other guy, Gloucester.
“This happy breed of men, this little world.” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

The cliffs also have great symbolic value for Britain because they face towards Continental Europe across the narrowest straights of the English Channel.
“This precious stone set in the silver sea” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

They are composed mainly of soft, white chalk with a very fine-grained texture, composed primarily of calcium carbonate formed by planktonic algae... (My brother Grant the science teacher would be excited).
“Which serves it in the office of a wall” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

The cliffs continue to weather… wreathing is different form erosion. It is said that if scientists came in and tried to clear the algae, the mountain would soon crumble.
“Or as a moat defensive to a house,” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

I like that England is not grooming itself but just letting nature take it's course. I run up the muddy banks that overlook the sea and stand shivering in the wind. There are swift waves of grass blowing over. There is a fence made of stone and wood and wire. There is the smell of salt from the crashing surf and the drying sweat on my neck.
“Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England” -King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1 – William Shakespeare

My legs are caked in dirt and my shoes are soaked, but I stand out on the edge of this once vast realm and try to think about how the world changes whether we want it to or not. It just keeps spinning. There's power in these cliffs, in this wind and vaulted climb. I turn back toward the stone castle and continue running out over the hills. Alone in the tall grass, the blowing wind at my back, sprinting beyond what can be seen from above.

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