Crimes Against Shakespeare 010: On ‘Dumbing Down’

This has been on my mind for a while …

BH dumbing down

This is a long read – I say that on a blog where posts often hit 1,300 words, against ‘accepted wisdom’ – so apologies in advance.  YOUR blog is your blog; my blog is MY blog, and I write for catharsis and as a kind of journal, not ‘popularity’, ‘followers’, or ‘influence’.  I was tempted to temper my words with a gallery of pictures, but that didn’t feel right, either.  This post feels a little more personal than most.

In spite of, or maybe because of, constant trawling for Shakespeare-related content, I have only just found this.  Last April, Peter Marks wrote a piece for The Washington Post  (link below) suggesting that Americans are too ‘intellectually lazy’ to appreciate Shakespeare, and fearing for the future popularity of the plays.  My immediate response was ‘you think it’s bad in the US?  Try over here, where Shakespeare was born!’

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PTS 09/054: 400 Year-Old Smoke Signals

Sometimes the smoke is easier to read than others …

BH smoke

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Act III

Inspired by Ursula K Le Guin and The Pet Shop Boys, I picked this up again with a steely glint in my eye.  I’ll read.  I’ll gloss.  I’ll conquer!

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Seventy-Five

So many books. So little time …

BH 75 mugInspired by some course or other on children’s literacy, I’ve been keeping a ‘reading river‘ since January 2013.  It sounded infantile, but I’ve kept to it remarkably more faithfully than logging my reading on Goodreads, or anything else.  It’s become a diary, of sorts, something to idly flick through and recall times, places and people, such as the stay at my parents’ when I devoured all the Earle Stanley Gardener and other Penguin Green Series crime paperbacks I could find on my dad’s shelves in a matter of days.  That year, coincidentally, I read 75 books.

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Quote of the Week: 20 November 2017

Fair’s fair: if you think it is important for me to learn what a ‘360 No-Scope’ is, why can’t you get a grasp on similes and metaphors?  

BH periodic table
image:  https://othmarstrombone.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-elements-of-language-a-periodic-table-of-sorts/

BE MORE LIONEL MESSI, STUDENTS …

Today’s quote is taken from:  David Crystal, Think On My Words – Exploring Shakespeare’s Language (Cambridge Uiversity Press:  Cambridge, 2008)

To my knowledge, the displays in my classroom had been up since 2012/13 – until this week, at least.

The non-existent magic money tree has been given a shake, and someone in the school has now been given paid time to do this for us.  It’s a bit bizarre, given we’ve had to do it ourselves, unpaid, in the past, which is part of the reason I didn’t bother.  Continuing the general thrust of this post, I felt that making me choose between covering my back by marking students’ work or prettifying the walls was an Rq.  See what I did there?

Anyway …

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Quote of the Week: 18 September

BH BradbrookBRADBROOK, MC: Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1969)

The Boar’s Head Bookshelf uses Isaac Newton‘s famous ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ quotation to acknowledge the part that every book I read has in shaping my ideas about Shakespeare.  Occasionally, I read a book where the ideas are camouflaged by a ponderous, lecturing (in the worst sense of the word) style, and this is one of them.  (A shout-out to the massively disappointing Frank Kermode on this point, too)  When I read authors like David Crystal, his – pardon the pun – brilliant style makes the ideas shiny, fresh, exciting.  Kermode and Bradbrook are similarly huge beasts, but their home is the Jurassic period, not the 21st Century.  I’m slightly taken aback by that statement, given I devote myself to a writer who has been dead for over 400 years:  oh, the irony, I hear you say …

Anyway, Bradbrook HAS got something interesting to say when she’s not hectoring us or making massive assumptions about our knowledge:

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PTS 04/022: Bring forth men-children only …

BH its a boy(Macbeth I.vii.73) 

The Taming of the Shrew:  Act II

Confession time …

I only ever wanted boys, and I have been lucky enought to have two fine sons.  When my oldest son was born, I remember (despite it being half a lifetime ago) literally going weak at the knees for a moment, with joy at the big reveal.  For the younger, the scan was, ahem, rather more obvious (sorry, Lewis!), resulting in a fist pump as soon as we left the room.

Why the preference?

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PTS01/002: Shameful Complacency; Priapic Dolphins

bh-hvi-1-cover-small

Henry VI Part 1:  Act 1

And off we go.  First-time visitor?  Click here and here to find out what Ponytail Shakespeare is all about.  Then come back, read, and comment – either here or at the Shakespeare Reddit sub.

On to the play, and post two of God knows how many in this project.

I wonder if I lowered my expectations too far …

To shrug and say it was fine, good, OK, would be to do the opening act of Henry VI part I a disservice. Sure, there were moments of clunkiness – not least when the French Master Gunner feels the need to declare – to himself, his son, and thereby the audience – his employment: 

‘Chief master gunner am I of this town’. (I.iv.6) 

But overall, it’s been an entertaining start.

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