Not quite as frugal as October 2018‘s haul, sadly, but on the whole equally satisfying.
If you flick over to my Goodreads page, you’ll see me taking in a lot more historical fiction this year, and unusually, this week’s quotation is taken from one of them – albeit the introduction.
It’s something to especially bear in mind now The Merchant of Venice has come round in my read-through.
And we’re back with Forensic Fridays …
Partly because I’m teaching Richard III to a new A Level class, partly because my exam class will benefit, should they ever visit (you know who you are), and partly because yes, they are fun.
You can see the full rules here, but if you’ve been before, the task is to write a prize-winning forensic analysis of a very short extract in just 250 words, working to OCR’s mark-scheme in order to provide some models for my students.
In this passage, I returned to the dramatic moment when deposed Queen Margaret of Anjou, devastated by the killings of her son and then her husband (within 17 days, historically), calls down the heavens to curse Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who in the Henry VI cycle did what had to be done. It’s a very tense moment …
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: The Merchant of Venice, Act I
‘Bring your baggage to the texts‘, I always say …
By this I mean your life experiences, the nature, the nurture, the things that define you, good and bad. These are what make your responses to texts individual; they are what lets texts get under your skin as you measure yourself against the moral and ethical dilemmas they present; they, as experience changes you, are what make occasional re-reading such a thought-provoking and rewarding exercise.
So why am I feeling so uneasy about Antonio this time round?
First (my QotW comes later), a few pithy words from Donald Rumsfeld in February 2007:
‘There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.’
Something worth bearing in mind as the Ponytail Shakespeare read-through canters on to The Merchant of Venice …
Just as this play is hard to pigeonhole, so the King John Soundtrack has easily been the most difficult to put together.
So much so that although I usually manage at least double-figures, but not today.
The usual question therefore takes on greater urgency …
WHAT HAVE I MISSED?
“this it is, when men are ruled by women” – or at least by their groins …
Although I’m never going to end up on stage, I often compare teaching to acting.
Non-teachers, think for a second: up to six performances a day, with audiences who require subtly different characterisations from you. (My timetable goes from Y12 to Y7 without interval on a Friday afternoon, for instance). That plus the teacher persona you can only shrug off when you’re safely indoors (because even walking down the street you end up intervening when you see pupils in uniform mucking about). To say nothing of the range of people you have to be – in five minute chunks – at Parents’ Evenings …
No wonder I’m perpetually exhausted.
But if I were asked to play a Shakespearean role, what would be my top three choices?
[Warning: you might want to stop reading now, if you voted for Brexit]
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: King John, Act V
It’s all a bit shabby, isn’t it, at the end of the day?
Act V holds Hamlet‘s ‘mirror up to nature‘ [a]: Shakespeare might be exploring the ‘Commodity’ of the times, but I can’t avoid building synaptic bridges to the realpolitik of the shameful goings on in the UK’s parliament over the past few years. I ought to be far too old for the kind of idealistic rage I feel, but even at a relatively young age, I’m determined to ‘burn and rave at close of day‘ [b] …
This week finds me in a sombre, reflective mood. Maybe it’s the continuation of Dry January (day 35 without alcohol, thanks very much). There will, mind, be ‘more cakes and (especially) ale‘, at some stage, but not for a few weeks yet. Apparently, I was ‘more fun’ when I was drinking, so bear with me.
Then, today is my younger son’s birthday: 18 today. If that doesn’t give a man pause for thought on how time passes and how he has spent his life, I don’t know what will.
Which brings me to Morris Palmer Tilley. Until recently a footnote in my life, and possibly that or less in yours …