QotW: 18 June 2018 (#46)

Marlowe was never going to fit in. In some ways I wish he hadn’t tried so hard – he would have lasted longer.

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What?

‘We don’t like mavericks here …’

– is what I was told some years back at my first school.  My first school, just to be clear …

It’s not a default position, I promise you – I honestly don’t aspire to be a maverick.  It’s simply about my always bearing in mind the attributed words of Einstein:  the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.  So if it demonstrably doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense, you need to find someone else, if you want blind obedience.  How do we improve, otherwise?  Plus, my teaching mentor gave me advice I’ve never forgotten, and which has served me well (and my students, if results are anything to judge by*).  We might paraphrase it as:  ‘As long as you know where should be taking the students, don’t stress about abandoning the lesson plan and getting there via another route.

So, admittedly, I can be a:

maverick     ˈmav(ə)rɪk/  noun
  1. 1.  an unorthodox or independent-minded person.

But, surely, no SURELY, this what we aim to foster in our children (what actually we reward in the subject: critical, evaluative thinking and independence of ideas – those terms are on the markschemes, at the top end) … right? Or does education exist to train people into unthinking passivity?

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Forensic Friday (#03): RIII I.iv.180-183

It’s dawning on Clarence that he won’t talk his way out of this one …

“Do you do ‘PEEFE’* on Saturday nights, Sir?” one wag asked me, to general titters of amusement in C5.

‘Why not?  It’s fun.’ I replied.  And it is.  So why not?

Why not, actually, spend some time thinking again about RIII, I.iv?  Thinking about a grown man who has such a terrifying nightmare that he asks another to sit with him whilst he tries to get some sleep.  About a man desparately pleading for his life in every way he possibly can (see the Blues Brothers, above), when faced with two murderous executioners.  Much more fun than Love Island, surely?

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QotW: 11 June 2018 (#45)

“Let’s leave politics out of Shakespeare” … Hello? Hello? Anybody in there?

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image:  thrillist.com

If I had a pound for each time I was challenged, ‘What’s Shakespeare got to do with me?‘, this blog would have more bells and whistles on it, as well as many more posts to reflect not having to work for a living.

This week’s post was prompted in part by reading somewhere in my recent internet travels, the notion of ‘keeping politics out of Shakespeare.’  That plus a ‘setting the world to rights‘ drinking session which was actively, intensely political, and which was also chock-full of Shakespearean dilemmas and situations.

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Forensic Friday (#02): RIII I.ii.107-109

Don’t just talk the talk – walk the walk, Sir!

Subtitled: This Charming Man

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What kind of teacher asks their students to do something they wouldn’t do themselves?

My latest Y12 Homework task was titled, yes, This Charming Man – students were asked to analyse the exchange between Richard and Anne in Act I scene ii of Richard III.  Those who were feeling a bit flash were challenged to get in as many song titles as they could from The Smiths discography.

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QotW: 04 June 2018 (#44)

Students laugh when they hear it, but Anne was in deadly earnest …

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We have hedgehogs.

I say ‘we’, but I’m appropriating the cute nocturnal visitors at my Snowdonia home (also known as ‘her place‘) …

Having spent most of the week camping in the back garden – yes, by choice – I’ve become a lot more familiar with their comings and goings: their enthusiastic crunching of mealworms (these are spoiled, and resolutely ignore the slugs they are supposed to be eating – I’ve seen them nudge slugs aside with their snouts!); their irritated huffing and snorting when a rival appears at bowl number two, all within a couple of feet of my head.

Which, of course, makes me more sensitive to the hedgehogs – just three of them* – in Shakespeare

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Forensic Friday (#01): RIII I.i.20-21

We can give those long dead words tone, inflection, pace … and meaning.

THIS is what we do, students.

We are archaeologists of the written word.  Remember that.

BH skeleton2We take our soft brushes and gently but resolutely stroke away the accumulated layers of popular misconception, plain bullshit, and systemic Shakesnobbery that surrounds a text until we are left with the bare bones – the words themselves …

Then – armed with contextual knowledge that keeps us somewhere on the Continuum of Plausibility – we ‘perform’ (and that is precisely the word, so enjoy the performative aspect of the work) forensic autopsies on those long-dead words: we dissect, analyse and record our findings.  

Occasionally, what we’re looking at might seem as alien as some of the stuff Scully chops up in the X-Files, but we persevere, we find points of reference, and with care we perform a kind of necromancy: we can practically bring the sample in front of us to life.  

We can give those long dead words tone, inflection, pace … and meaning.

THIS … … … is OCR H472/01 (Drama and Poetry pre-1900), A Level English Literature, section 1, question A … your Shakespeare extract task.
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QotW (#43): 28 May 2018

Manners maketh the man, it seems …

Elizabeth I of England

It wasn’t till I got to University that I came across Malcolm’s ‘king becoming graces’ in Macbeth.  I thought them startling – an almost impudent challenge to James I about what the country expected from their new monarch, in a play which, I’m increasingly convinced, is all about what it means to be a ‘man’:

As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,  (IV, iii) [a]

But what of those in the level below?  What were the expectations placed on nobles and courtiers?

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