Forensic Friday (#07): Edward II, (iv.15-21)

‘Know your place’, the world of literature seems to scream. ‘Or else …’

BH jacob jordaens phaeton
Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678):  ‘Phaeton Falling’ … careful he doesn’t land on you!

If there’s anything I enjoy as much as anti-heroes, it’s tales of Promethean over-reachers.

Christopher Marlowe belongs in that category, I believe …

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QotW: 30 July 2018 (#51)

Marlowe probably DID make a hazard of his head by easing his heart …

BH pulp

The more I read about Marlowe, the more I like and sympathise with him – arrogant, frustrated genius, malcontent, morally questionable, and attention-whore as he may have been.  I sense a kindred spirit: my best friend would say the same about me – perhaps with a lot more arrogance and a lot less genius.  As I get older, I like to think that my moral code is finally begining to crystallise, where it was entirely fluid 25 years ago, but then Marlowe never had the opportunity to mellow …

Increasingly, I see Marlowe as the kind of ‘mis-shapeJarvis Cocker sung about in 1995:

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QotW (#43): 28 May 2018

Manners maketh the man, it seems …

Elizabeth I of England

It wasn’t till I got to University that I came across Malcolm’s ‘king becoming graces’ in Macbeth.  I thought them startling – an almost impudent challenge to James I about what the country expected from their new monarch, in a play which, I’m increasingly convinced, is all about what it means to be a ‘man’:

As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,  (IV, iii) [a]

But what of those in the level below?  What were the expectations placed on nobles and courtiers?

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Cultural Capital 06: Bacon’s Essays

Not, repeat NOT, Shakespeare in disguise, thanks very much …

BH bacon.jpg
[part of a monthly series aimed at my Sixth Formers, and the texts they are currently studying]

First things first – we need to be clear which Francis Bacon we are talking about!

Perhaps reluctantly, we need to steer clear of the 20th Century Irish Existentialist artist whose ‘screaming popes’*, amongst other works, are so disturbingly brilliant.  That Francis is part of our ‘cultural capital’ too, but less useful for your studies.

Instead, let’s turn to the man perhaps best known as the ‘father of the scientific method’.  In other, crazier, circles, it’s also muttered that he was, in fact, the ‘real’ William Shakespeare.  Try to avoid those people – they also tend to wear tin foil hats, believe that the world is flat, and that climate change is a myth … 

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Quote of the Week: 19 March 2018 (#33)

Sometimes we need to be reminded that our historical figures are human beings.

BH elizabeth armada portrait
‘The Armada Portrait’

This week’s quotation is taken from Garrett Mattingly, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (ed. J.H. Elliott), (The Folio Society:  London, 2002)

– – –

This is just a humble tavern, and we’ve no real pretensions to royal patronage.  Prince Hal, of course is a regular, but he doesn’t behave very … ahem … regally, when he’s here, Lor’ bless and keep him.

But like every good English ale-house, we do have a portrait of Good Queen Bess behind the bar, and it’s this one.  This week, I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth I

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Quote of the Week: 12 March 2018 (#32)

It’s a wonder Will didn’t end up in prison, when you think about it …

BH shakespeare censorship
image:  The British Council, Index on Censorship

This week’s quotation is from Germaine Greer, Shakespeare (Past Masters series), (Oxford: OUP, 1986), p.75

Classroom experience tells me that [massive generalization] today’s students are disinclined to think for themselves [/massive generalization].  It’s part of the resistance to Shakespeare that seems to be coded into some pupils’ DNA (and another day I might talk about the ‘generational’ thing), but we see it with other texts.  A while back, in Manchester, I taught the short film ‘The Virus’ – which I personally think is excellent:

– but it was met with howls of anger (only slight exaggeration) from students who couldn’t work out what had happened, why, and what might happen next.  Watch the film, if you have under ten minutes, and then ask yourself if the main character is alive or dead at the end.  Then, ask yourself why or how the answer couldn’t be obvious to 14/15 year-olds.  This happened with TWO classes.  I wasn’t just taken aback:  I was worried. Not least because they thought it was ‘rubbish‘ because they couldn’t figure it out.

To be fair, this probably isn’t new – had my students been alive at the time, and in possession of the attention span required to read it, they would have been part of the contemporary outcry over the ending to Great Expectations.  But Dickens‘ audience wanted their theories confirmed or refuted.  In 2018, it just seems endemic that people have no theories.  They just want to be told what to think … and that scares me.

Who do I blame?

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PTS07/044: RIP, Buckers …

Buckingham wants, needs, perhaps even deserves, a lover’s farewell …

BH buckingham executed

This is All Souls’ Day, fellow, is it not?

Why then, all Souls’ Day is my body’s doomsday.  (Richard III – BUCKINGHAM:  V.i.10-11)

 

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