‘Weak with toil, yet strong in appetite’

bh-ron-cook-richard-iii
Ron Cook in the BBC’s 1983 production.  Underrated.

‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.’

What do Sundays look like for an English teacher and Shakespeare obsessive?

Marking.

But in this case, it’s a dozen Y12 Richard III essays, submitted online.  The question set – in a carefree moment just before Christmas – was:

‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.’

To what extent are Richard’s crimes pardonable as simply necessary on the path to kingship? If any crimes seem gratuitous or excessively cruel, how does Shakespeare use language/stagecraft to manipulate our opinions?

This was based on the shrugs that I often received about the hideous nature of Richard’s behaviour.  For a generation used to watching the machinations in Game Of Thrones, maybe this DOES feel a little tame!

One of my students, clearly taken with the possibilities of the question, submitted early, delivering a hilarious and yet very competent essay which was littered with egg puns [NOT that I’d encourage this for the exam, of course – but I love the confidence in handling the material that allows this].  At one stage she referred to the house of ‘Yolk’, and when discussing film interpretations of the play, she managed to use the phrase ‘eggs Benedict’ when referring to The Hollow Crown – absolute genius!

So, whilst marking’s never really a pleasure, this is probably as close as it gets.  Cue coffee, BBC Audio version of Richard low in the background (really!), and thankfully no red pen.  My handwriting / writing speed isn’t really suited to in-depth marking, so I infinitely prefer marking online via Turnitin.

And off we go …

One final shout-out for Ron Cook‘s portrayal of Richard (1983, BBC).  I think it’s seriously underrated.  I often suggest to students that there’s a ‘demon dancing in his eyes’ in the first half of the play: a little twinkle which suggests Richard is loving his Machiavellan career towards the throne.  And then it’s extinguished as soon as the throne is achieved.  Masterful.

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