Having fun exploring the role of literature in preserving an unfair system …
Last week finished with me in full theatrical mode, pacing the classroom like a restless, caged predator, declaiming at full volume (and probably decreasingly coherently), on the likely politics of Marlowe and Tennyson. That’ll teach my Y13s to ask for some ideas on Marxist Literary Criticism (AO5, folks), during Period 6 on a Friday …
Today marks two year since Prince died. It’s not that long ago that I confessed that his was one of the very few celebrity deaths that have personally touched me. Step aside, Princess Diana! People have got tired of me saying he was the ‘effing Mozart of his age‘, I think.
This weekend is a busy one – or should be. One of my favourite watering holes, Beerwolf, are hosting a live music tribute on Sunday afternoon, marvellously entitled ‘Prince you’ve been gone‘. I suspect this might put a dent in my Sixth Form marking – sorry, people.
Whilst there’s an argument to be made that Shakespeare himself was a multi-faceted genius, you know me by now: I started thinking about who the Shakespearean ‘Prince’ might be. These were my criteria …
Putting Shakespeare in students’ mouths is often as much fun as feeding a baby – the faces they pull!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act I
Shakespeare’s language lives in the mouth, not the ears or eyes. It needs to be tasted, and one of the advantages of living alone is that I can pace up and down my flat’s lengthy corridor reading tricky lines out loud, or just playing with the inflections of favourites:
I wasted time and now doth time waste me.
I WASTED time and NOW doth time waste me.
I wasted TIME and now doth TIME waste ME.
And so on, like the celebrity skit in the BBC’s Shakespeare400 celebration. You get the picture.
If it needs to be tasted, it also needs, I suppose, to be CHEWED. That’s what we often do in the classroom …
My life has been filled with obsessions, and for reasons too complex to go into here, about twenty-five years ago, one of them was Scottish history. With no knowledge ever completely wasted, it’s contributed to where and who I am today, struggling with this play, and especially to find any kind of empathy with its male characters.
Put simply, if I had a daughter, none of these men would be son-in-law material …
Claiming ‘Shakespeare was this or that’, or worse, ‘Shakespeare did not write the plays’, does NOT entitle you to a mic-drop. It just shows your intellectual bankruptcy …
I’ve written elsewhere about the Rally of Revenge – about my unease that once you abandon all faith in ‘due process‘ or ‘justice‘ (either earthly or divine); once you understand that inequality is endemic, you have nothing left to lose – if you are already losing – so keep raising the stakes until someone has to leave the game. If it’s uncomfortable, perhaps it’s also sometimes necessary, to affect change of a fundamentally broken system. You might not see the benefits yourself. Hey, if you have to leave the game, then so be it: losing can become preferable to playing along, eventually.
There are always other games, other paths, whilst we are still alive – experience has taught me that, even if Shakespeare hasn’t.
And that’s where I find myself, professionally, this weekend. Approaching change, but ready for it, and maybe, in some ways, relieved that an unhappy stasis has broken. There are always other games.
There is a third way – for revenge – I’ve not written about before. The poet George Herbert(1593-1633) suggested that:
Living well is the best revenge.
And I’ll embrace and adapt that, in a ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ sense.
Living well equals happiness. LAUGHTER is the best revenge.
Today, I intend to laugh at someone. Long, and hard.