A Critical analysis of ‘England in 1819’
At the beginning of the 19th century England became a place of both social and political unrest. The King, George III, was slowly dying, leaving the country in the hands of his ministers. With this, the idea of liberty began to grow, attacking the ruling classes who remained selfish and in power . Thus, with this in mind, Shelley uses ‘England in 1819’ and several other political poems to directly express his views on politics and morality during the period.
From the beginning of the poem it is obvious that Shelley’s poem is one with a goal to liberate the people of England. The first half go the poem is set on directly attacking the current King of England and his successor, George IV. The King is described as being ‘old, mad, blind’ and ‘dying’, all characteristics of a weak monarch and therefore a weak country. Just like George III, England and its people are ‘dying’. The Napoleonic wars had left much of the English population poor, unemployed and in misery. However, George III seems “blind” to this, ignoring the suffering populous and crushing any hopes of liberty and change. It is this arrogance of power that Shelley is most critical of. Through violent metaphors Shelley describes the rulers of the country as ‘leech-like’, sucking every ounce of blood out of the English population, again blind to what they have done. Thus, it is obvious that this poem represents the decay of the English way of life. What was once a place of freedom, has became a place where the ruling classes ignore the suffering of the English people to fulfill their own selfish desires. The ‘old’ King fails to relate to his subjects and thus continues to set a bad example to his successors, developing the idea that there is little hope of change any time soon.
As the poem continues, Shelley lists the flaws in England's social fabric. The army for example has become a tool used by the elite to ‘prey’ upon the citizens, quashing any sign...
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