CONTEXT (adapted from http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides2/Dover.html)
In Arnold’s world of the mid-1800's, the pillar of faith supporting society was perceived as crumbling under the weight of scientific theories, such as Darwin's Origin of Species and those of French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Consequently, the existence of God and Christianity was cast in doubt. Arnold, who was deeply religious, lamented the dying of the light of faith, as symbolized by the light he sees in “Dover Beach” on the coast of France, which gleams one moment and is gone the next. He remained a believer in God and religion, although he was open to—and advocated—an overhaul of traditional religious thinking in Christianity.

STUDY QUESTIONS (from http://www.uiowa.edu/~c008121/maque.html)
1.What seems to be the poem's subject? What are some features of its language and style? How does it differ from some of the poems we've read earlier?
2. What is the poem’s sequence of thought?
3. What are some implications of the opening metaphor of the sea by the French coast and cliffs of Dover? Why the reference to Sophocles? What metaphor does Arnold use to describe Victorian "Faith"? To what kinds of faith may he refer?
4. What does the speaker advocate as a refuge in a choaotic world? What effect is created by introducting the "love" in stanza 3?
5. What is the speaker's assessment of the world? How do the sounds of the last stanza reinforce its meaning?
6. What effect is created by the classical metaphor "Where ignorant armies clash by night"? What is the poem's final tone?

Useful links:
Hypertext version of the poem with word meanings: http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poems/dover-beach
http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/arnold/touche4.html
Parody on Dover Beach: Dover Bitch