Henry V, War Criminal?

bh-cover-henry-v-war-criminal ‘… like Olivier, Branagh ducked what is the most contentious element in the play for British audiences, namely Henry’s apparently criminal massacre of his helpless French prisoners …’

John Sutherland

 

 

I bought this book, which arrived today, on the strength of the fun I had with another of John Sutherland’s: ‘Is Heathcliffe a Murderer?  Puzzles in 19th-Century Fiction.’

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A chronological nightmare …

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“Like an Early Modern game of ‘Find The Lady’, my expectations seem to be defied at every turn, and no two results were the same!”

I’ve been toying with the idea of a Shakespeare readathon for a while, and am trying to justify it to myself.  When I do work out the ‘why?’, I’ll post …

In the meantime, a friend received a full set of BBC Shakespeare on DVD for Christmas.  This worried me quite a bit: mostly because I had a small (and I DO mean small) cameo in the gift’s selection. But, what if she hates them, or simply finds them staid and sooo-1980s? Their overwhelmingly earnest nature and general quaintness – which I find as endearing as original series Star Trek – might pall quickly.

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Bohemian Rhapsody, by William Shakespeare, esq.

bohemian-rhapsody-cover

I brave the wind from whichever quarter:

North, South, East, West? I care not! ‘Tis all one

To me. To me.

It’s a little-known fact that Shakespeare composed several of our best-known modern pop songs in iambic pentameter. Perhaps this is the most recognisable? I thought it apt to publish this on Christmas Eve, given the Queen ‘cover version’ was a Christmas Number One …

Can we call our meagre existence ‘real’?

Or but a crazéd artesanal dream,

Buried ‘neath a veritable av’lanche

With little chance to ‘scape our earthly lot?

Dear friend, go shed the scales that cloud thy sight,

Raise thy eyes from ground to God’s azure light,

Anon, see …

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Ever felt that someone wasn’t paying attention?

joe-armstrong

Farewell, kinsman. I’ll talk to you
When you are better tempered to attend.
Shakespeare – as ever – is able to pin that frustration down more adeptly than anyone!  One of the best things about studying – or teaching – literature is that great writers can express your feelings better than you can.  Simple as.  And it is comforting to feel that other people have been in the same position as you have, it really is …

 

I finished off the day with a brief, but heated, conversation with someone who I felt was not giving me an opportunity to defend or explain myself.  It was all very accusatory.  They asked me a few peremptory questions, barked a little, a lot actually – quite like a dog who wanted to feel they’d made their presence felt when the postman arrives – and I retreated from the situation, as it seemed pointless to hang around.  Like that postman, I was irritated, but a tiresome yappy dog isn’t going to spoil the rest of my day …

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A little bedtime reading …

the man might take as long as a quarter of an hour to expire

Currently reading the wonderfully cheery Hangmen of England, by Brian Bailey (WH Allen, 1989). Whilst reflecting on what fun dinner-time conversation with ‘Uncle Bill’ must have been as he researched the book, I chanced upon this little gem about Tudor executions:

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Classroom Posters #5: Richard III

This is the last of the five posters currently up in my room – but not the last Lego Shakespeare, you’ll either be pleased or dismayed to know …

Richard III.jpg

In some ways, this was the quickest and easiest image to take – because I had a very strong idea of what I wanted before I started shooting, and there was no need for ‘special effects’ such as smoke …

So there’s no story attached to this one?

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Richard III: KS5 essay 2

bh-sophie-as-margaret

If this is the first time you’ve read an essay here, please take a look at this post before proceeding.

Without superstition, Richard III would have been reduced to a relatively mundane and propaganda-tinged retelling of the familiar Tudor ascent to power. Shakespeare’s skilful exploitation of the complex Elizabethan mix of secular and religious beliefs, via Margaret, transforms the play into compelling drama for contemporary and modern audiences.

Question: 

“The population of Renaissance England was, by modern standards, fervently religious.  ‘Atheist’ was an insult too extreme and too ludicrous to be taken seriously.”  (Lisa Hopkins and Matthew Steggle: Renaissance Literature and Culture, 2006)

Despite an unwavering belief in the Christian God, the early modern period was remarkably superstitious.  Explore how and why Shakespeare uses superstition in the early parts of Richard III (Acts 1-2)  Indicative length: 1,000 words.

Success Criteria:

AO1:  Personal Response (30%)

AO2:  Analysis of Writer’s Methods (40%)

AO3:  Understanding of the role of and influence of Context (10%)

AO5:  Exploring different interpretations of the text (20%)

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Recommended Shakespeare Films

Two words: Hollow Crown!

Unofficial Writer in Residence

Theatre can be expensive, I have great experience with that. And some of the best professional theatre takes place in London. Not everyone lives in London, or can easily get there, for some quality Shakespeare is inaccessible.

But film is a lot more accessible. The cinema is much cheaper than live theatre, and dvds even more so. That is why I have put together a list of Shakespeare films that I would recommend watching.

Now there are hundreds of film adaptions of Shakespeare. This isn’t really a Top 10 list or anything, they are not really in any rated order. These are just all films I love, or think are good for people wanting more Shakespeare films.

This is a list of films that I have seen at the time of writing this article. I will not include any film I have yet to watch, though I may come back…

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Classroom Posters #4: Romeo and Juliet

Here’s another in the series of classroom posters I’ve got up in my room …

Romeo and Juliet2.jpg

How was this one shot?  Any unseen secrets?

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Is Donald Trump Richard III reincarnated?

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I took this image of ‘Richard’ at the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival in 2013.

“I am unfit for state and majesty”

Why do we still study Shakespeare 400 years after his death?

Our year 12 stint on Richard III is now beginning to wane – we start Act 5 next week, and will essentially be done by the end of the Autumn Term on 16 December.  Then I’ll sadly take a break from teaching Shakespeare until after Easter, when I’ll be looking at Much Ado About Nothing (year 8), probably Hamlet or Julius Caesar (year 9), and Macbeth (year 10).  My only ‘early modern’ fix in the Spring term is Marlowe’s Edward II.  Happy Days.

As the year 12 course has unfolded, keeping pace with the final stages of the US elections, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to leave the next leader of the free world out of our discussions.  With one difference:  I grudgingly admire one of these larger-than-life characters, and have nothing but contempt for the other …

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