Sometimes we need to be reminded that our historical figures are human beings.
This week’s quotation is taken from Garrett Mattingly, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada(ed. J.H. Elliott), (The Folio Society: London, 2002)
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This is just a humble tavern, and we’ve no real pretensions to royal patronage. Prince Hal, of course is a regular, but he doesn’t behave very … ahem … regally, when he’s here, Lor’ bless and keep him.
But like every good English ale-house, we do have a portrait of Good Queen Bess behind the bar, and it’s this one. This week, I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth I …
It’s a wonder Will didn’t end up in prison, when you think about it …
This week’s quotation is from Germaine Greer, Shakespeare (Past Masters series), (Oxford: OUP, 1986), p.75
Classroom experience tells me that [massive generalization] today’s students are disinclined to think for themselves [/massive generalization]. It’s part of the resistance to Shakespeare that seems to be coded into some pupils’ DNA (and another day I might talk about the ‘generational’ thing), but we see it with other texts. A while back, in Manchester, I taught the short film ‘The Virus’ – which I personally think is excellent:
– but it was met with howls of anger (only slight exaggeration) from students who couldn’t work out what had happened, why, and what might happen next. Watch the film, if you have under ten minutes, and then ask yourself if the main character is alive or dead at the end. Then, ask yourself why or how the answer couldn’t be obvious to 14/15 year-olds. This happened with TWO classes. I wasn’t just taken aback: I was worried. Not least because they thought it was ‘rubbish‘ because they couldn’t figure it out.
To be fair, this probably isn’t new – had my students been alive at the time, and in possession of the attention span required to read it, they would have been part of the contemporary outcry over the ending to Great Expectations. But Dickens‘ audience wanted their theories confirmed or refuted. In 2018, it just seems endemic that people have no theories. They just want to be told what to think … and that scares me.
Forget the Oscars, here are some winners that REALLY matter to me …
We HATE lists, don’t we?
Except, actually we bloody love them, if it’s something we’re interested in.
That said, the last thing we want is a list that agrees with our perceptions – the dopamine rush of validation is very short-lived compared to the opportunity to passionately argue our disagreement. We LOVE subjective opinions. Trust me – my wonderfully fulfilling University years were full of essays arguing the toss – why, for example:
Dracula should not be judged for his ‘special dietary requirements’, whereas Van Helsing and his bunch are vindictive bastards;
we ought to respect Edward Hyde for his refreshing honesty, as opposed to Henry Jekyll‘s hypocrisy; or
Ursula K. Le Guin’s (RIP) The Left Hand of Darkness, whilst a superb book, had no place in the Science Fiction module
You get the picture: English Lit is a tailor-made subject for those who are argumentative and prepared to do the spadework to back-up their cockiness …
John Gielgud, ‘Richard II’ in Charles Ede (ed.), Introductions to Shakespeare, (London: Folio Society, 1977) p.59
[and a small celebration of this as my 201st post]
The Wheel of Fortune moves inexorably away from Edward II at school (which students will have to compare to Tennyson‘s Maud in their exam – easy peasy, whatever they may think, if they work hard and LISTEN between now and then), and in terms of the Ponytail Shakespeare read-through, to Richard II.
I can’t be the only one to reflect that the two plays are remarkably similar. Indeed, I’ve chosen this week’s quotation as an intrigiung bridge between them.
Being a Production Photographer has its moments – this is my favourite image from The Dream in Cambridge, 2012.
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V.
One of the things about a project like this read-through it that it gives you a certain discipline. In this case, although my timetable may be only notionally followed, it has forced me to read or re-read plays that I might not have, otherwise. Occasionally (Love’s Labour’s Lost, I’m looking at YOU), my reservations have been fully justified. On other occasions, this new-found steel in my soul has been intensely rewarding. I might not otherwise have read the Henry VI plays, for example. Or, indeed, re-read The Dream in any hurry (believing I knew it ‘well enough’), and that would have been a shame …
Just how authentic are Shakespeare’s Welsh characters?
‘if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek’ 
Wales is my second home: my girlfriend is Welsh. I lived there for a while, and visit frequently. It’s a place I’ve come to know reasonably well, and to like very much. One of the highlights of each year is watching the England vs Wales rugby union match – you simply haven’t tasted real passion and love of country until you’ve watched it on a big screen in a packed pub in North Wales (avoid wearing white, if you can). They have a national anthem that genuinely moves me every time I hear it: inexplicably visceral and patriotic in a way that ‘God Save The Queen’ can never, ever be. Take 90 seconds out of your life to watch this, below:
All this love doesn’t stop me from massively enjoying any opportunity to ‘mock the leek‘, but in an affectionate way …