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            Of course, Shakespeare is also pretty good at writing. Literary historian Oliver Tearle

            shows how he makes Gaunt’s speech “build” by using a rhetorical device called
            “anaphora” -  repetition at the start of each successive phrase: this royal throne, this
            sceptred isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, this fortress.
            But as we’ve seen, “what appear to be words praising England’s greatness are, in
            fact, elegiac: John of Gaunt fears that England is no longer great.” This ambiguity is at
            the heart of Shakespeare’s genius. The speech is simultaneously a celebration and a
            lament. England’s future didn’t belong to John of Gaunt. But in all honesty, neither
            did its past.

            In the three years since 2019, the History Group has been looking at the 18 , 19  and
            20   centuries, the era when the modern world was being created. The underlying
            question we pursued was, what did people think and feel about this at the time?
            Covid slightly got in the way, but we completed this last summer. This year we’re
            posing a similar question: when our country and national identity were being

            created, before we were the United Kingdom, or England or Britain, how did people
            at the time see themselves and their place in the world?

            And this year we’re adding a further question - how was all this influenced by
            geography? Next session, we begin by looking at one of the most basic facts of our
            history and geography: we are offshore islanders. Remarkably, we’re learning a lot
            about when and how this came about. Although it happened during prehistoric
            times, it is in a sense the first event in our history.
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