How would these poems have been received by audiences of the day?
We have been studying two poems for comparison, one being ‘Before Agincourt’, by William Shakespeare and the other being ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ written by Wilfred Owen. Both of these two poems have different central themes, in that ‘Before Agincourt’ suggests that it is an honour to die for your country, whereas ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ says that this belief is a lie and that war is a waste of lives.
‘Dulce et Decorum est’ was written by Wilfred Owen in 1917. This was near the end of the First World War. This poem is very personal as Owen himself fought in the war. This poem was written to inform it’s audiences about the war as it was a truthful source of information about war and one of the first accurate accounts of war published.
Wilfred Owen himself was born in England on the 18th March, 1893. He joined the army in 1915 and trained in England for almost a year and half before being transferred to France. He fought for 4 months, and he based all his war poetry on these 4 months spent in the war. Wilfred Owen was killed in battle on the 4th November 1918, which was only 7 days before the First World War ended.
‘Before Agincourt’ was written by William Shakespeare as part of the play Henry V. It was written in 1599, which was about 180 years after the actual ‘Battle of Agincourt’ took place. This poem is not as personal as Owen’s because Shakespeare had never fought in a war or been in an army. This poem was written purely as part of a play, so it’s main purpose is entertainment.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. His birth date is believed to be on April 23rd, which is St. George’s Day. We do not know much about Shakespeare’s childhood, but as early as 1592 he was working in London as a playwright and actor. Shakespeare had written nearly 40 plays, like ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’, and over 100 sonnets before his death on April 23rd, 1616, his birthday.
‘Dulce et Decorum es’ has a very negative view of war, in that it doesn’t portray being a soldier as an act of honour.
“Bent double, like beggars under sacks,”
This shows that Owen believes that war is a very degrading practise and does not bring soldiers glory. In fact, it even calls the war motto ‘Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori’ an ‘old lie’.
‘Before Agincourt’ has a contrasting view.
“if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of the honour.”
This shows us that Shakespeare is portraying war as a positive thing and saying that being a soldier is an honour, even going so far as to say that the more people die, the better for those who live.
The perception of these poems would be very different as they both have different audiences.
‘Dulce et Decorum est’ was read by soldiers and people at home, and helped people to see past government propaganda and see the true nature of war.
However, ‘Before Agincourt’ was written as part of a play, 200 years after the event it was based upon. This meant another sense of detachment between the audience and the actual even, as well as not being as emotional for the reader.