2017: In Bed With Shakespeare

What I read in 2017, what YOU should read in 2018, and what to avoid like, ahem, the Plague …

BH Hathaway bed

Announcing my Ponytail Shakespeare read-through back in January did something to me; maybe several things.

Firstly, it made a public commitment. I’m just a bloke, and a busy one at that, being an English teacher, but I am still following the schedule – albeit several paces behind.

It also made me realise that however confident I might be, there was/is an awful lot I don’t/didn’t know for someone who enjoys being the ‘go-to’ at work for all matters Shakespearean – those ‘known unknowns’ were simultaneously a cause for embarrassment and a spur to do better.

These two ingredients combined to make me jump into bed with Shakespeare in 2017 …

Continue reading “2017: In Bed With Shakespeare”

Quote of the Week: 18 December 2017

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

BH neale coverNeale, JE:  Queen Elizabeth I (Pimlico:  London, 1998)

Once again, I’m minded to say that we continue to study EMP Literature because whilst times and technology have undoubtedly moved on, human attitudes and the situations we face remain broadly the same.

Endemic Xenophobia?  Check.

Effemination of rival men who dress too well?  Check.

Aristocratic disdain for ‘upstarts’?  Check.

‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,’ as Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (another foreigner*, dammit!) might say …

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 18 December 2017”

Quote of the Week: 11 December 2017

We only want to be kings because we don’t fully understand what it involves?

BH Lee_1603Christopher Lee, 1603 (Review:  London, 2003)

Not THAT Christopher Lee, obviously!

In class, we’ve seen it in Edward II and, I think, Richard III.  There are hints of it for my younger students in Macbeth.  But I see it everywhere: in Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI.

 

In Twelfth Night, Malvolio tells us:

“be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” (II.v)

Quite simply, the message I consistently get from EMP plays is that greatness – in this case being monarch – is never, ever, all it’s cracked up to be …

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 11 December 2017”

Quote of the Week: 04 December 2017

“Don’t expect gratitude from anyone who makes it thanks to you”

BH machiavelli

Subtitled:  The Curse of the ‘Without-Whoms’

Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe (The Prince) original publication 1532

This is close to the top of my list of for the Cultural Capital series – a short, highly influential read, freely available: something which, frankly, you ought to have read by the time you hit university – whether or not you are an English Lit student.  It’s the kind of thing that certain people, in certain circles, will expect you to have a working knowledge of in the big bad world.

Anyway, to this week’s quotation.  Consider the following:

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 04 December 2017”

Quote of the Week: 27 November 2017

Are our masters “fettered with chains of gold”? Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42) thought so. Perhaps we could ask Theresa May …

BH Sanders OXford History

Andrew Sanders, The Short Oxford History of English Literature (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004)

(A book I rescued – for under 50p – from a Greater Manchester library who had withdrawn it because it was not being taken out …)

I’m going to step back a little to someone who operated before Shakespeare lived, but will have influenced the development of poetry up until our boy arrived on the Shake-scene.

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 27 November 2017”

Cultural Capital 01: Dante’s Inferno

Flatterers … are destined to mud-wrestle each other in a lake of diarrhoea … representing the crap they spoke whilst alive, I suppose!

BH george michael choose life
The ultimate HAMLET tee-shirt?

Subtitled:  Big Mouth Strikes Again (The Smiths – my students will know why, today of all days)

This article was written for a forthcoming in-house newsletter/magazine.  First, hopefully, in a series of articles (Cultural Capital) about influential, dare I say essential works that our students need to get under their belts.  I set myself a STRICT word-count of 750, including quotations but excluding titles and references, tried to avoid being too professorial, and I’ve prioritised other texts related to what I’ll be teaching as part of the OCR A Level Engish Literature course.  If I’m spared 😉

Inferno is a valuable source of AO1 and AO3, people.  This won’t replace you reading the original, but it might at least persuade you to give it a go.

Next up?  James I‘s DaemonologieMachiavelli‘s The Prince or The Book of Genesis:  open to suggestions …

[…] Midway on our path in life,

I came around and found myself searching

Through a wood, the right way blurred and lost.

I know the feeling.  More importantly, so begins Dante’s Inferno, the sexiest-titled poem no-one’s read.  Perhaps only at a certain age do you start asking Really Big Questions:  ‘What am I doing with my life?  What’s the point?  What’s left?’  Tennyson’s like a dog with a bone on this.  Ponytail Shakespeare readers – you’re fed up of hearing this sort of thing from me.

The most important question, though, is surely ‘what’s next?

Continue reading “Cultural Capital 01: Dante’s Inferno”

Model Answer: Edward II CBA

Anything other than modern ‘exclusivity’ could mean demotion and starvation at best, or – more likely – imprisonment, exile, or execution.

BH Marcus Stone
Painting by Marcus Stone:  Edward and Gaveston frolic in front of Isabella et al

CLASSROOM BASED ASSESSMENT:  In Edward II, love is invariably possessive.  Discuss.

Weightings:  AO1 (25%); AO3 (50%); AO5 (25%)

God, I hate this question.

One of the things that I got from my teacher training, back in the day, was that if you asked a poor/stupid/inaccessible question, you only had yourself to blame for crap answers.  This is an OCR question – at least the students get a choice of six to answer for their final exams.  But for reasons beyond my ken, or immediate power to change, it is our first CBA on Edward II.  It also comes too early in the course for people who were in school uniform less than 6 months ago to be asked to deal with AO5, if you ask me.  They were being constantly drilled in AO2, and for this essay, it’s not required …

But enough whinging.  In the spirit of never asking people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, here’s a model answer for my class to play with.  I tried to do this in the same conditions they were asked to do it in, without any ‘cheating’ on my part.

IF THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE HAD A LOOK AT ONE OF MY ESSAYS, PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Continue reading “Model Answer: Edward II CBA”