PTS 13/080: Remind me: who’s in charge here?

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OK, I want a good, clean fight …

February 1570:  in the blue corner, Elizabeth I; in the red corner, Pius V …

Commence au festival, as the Joker might say.

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through – King John, Act III

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PTS 13/078: Homophone fun with King John

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image:  History Notes.  The guy on the left is asking the king if he can go to the toilet …

King John, Act I

Having broken out of my Romeo and Juliet-induced enervation, I approached King John with a sense of excitement bolstered by my positive experiences with the Henry VI plays.  Unusually, maybe impatiently, I skipped my Arden’s introduction and got stuck in after finding these hopeful signs elsewhere:

“a neglected play about a flawed king” [a]

and

“King John has all the beauties of language and all the richness of the imagination to relieve the painfulness of the subject.” [b]

So, what did I make of Act I?

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QotW (#62): 03 December 2018

Telling stories ABOUT stories seems to be my stock-in-trade when it comes to teaching Shakespeare.

10th circe campfire stories

Unusually, I’m going to start with the quotation of the week, from Stephen Greenblatt, rather than work towards it:

Humans cannot live without stories. We surround ourselves with them; we make them up in our sleep; we tell them to our children; we pay to have them told to us. Some of us create them professionally. And a few of us – myself included – spend our entire adult lives trying to understand their beauty, power, and influence. [a]

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Half-Term Book Haul

An almost ascetic book haul this time out …

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Sure, it’s only a week away from school, and I ought to be able to control myself.  Many of you will also have a handle on the state of my bookshelves – I have no space for these, and yet.  Half-terms are an opportunity to catch breath in more ways than one.

Some would suggest I oughtn’t to have bought anything; I like to think of this as a fairly restrained Book Haul, all sourced from the second hand bookshop about 300 yards from ‘her place’.  So, what and why …

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QotW (#59): 22 October 2018

It’s no wonder we love soliloquy …

BH marlowe-and-shakespeare

Regular visitors know that I teach Richard III and Edward II at A Level – coincidentally, plays which seem to have appeared within months of each other, in or around 1592.  Marlowe doesn’t get discussed much in the circles I move in online, and Edward II often feels even more overlooked – so when someone wanted to talk about the differences between Kit and Will on /r/shakespeare (after watching a performance of Tamburlaine), I couldn’t resist diving in.  Here’s an edited extract of what I said:

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Forensic Friday (#10)

Richard II = Edward II = Prospero = Duke Vincentio = Henry VI = every useless boss you have ever worked for,

BH let us sit
Richard’s return from Ireland is NOT a happy one …

Richard II appears on my reading list for Edward II each year.  It’s not just me – this is what Jonathan Bate, who I recently gushed about, has to say:

Richard II’s relationship to Edward II is so obvious that it is not very interesting. The structure of the two plays is identical: the King is surrounded by flatterers and pitted against an assemblage of nobles with vested interests of their own, then isolated and uncrowned, stripped of his royal identity, thus forced to discover his inner self by means of a supple, reflective soliloquy delivered whilst humiliatingly in prison. In each play the Queen is pushed to the margins in part because of the king’s homoerotic leanings. Marlowe is bolder than Shakespeare in his explicit portrayal of the homosexuality and his neat device of joining the Queen with the rebels in revenge. [a]

It should be easy to find something in Richard which’ll look familiar to my Edward students, right?  Let’s have a go …

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QotW (#56): 10 September 2018

Studying a History play? Look for the playwright’s sources …

BH Edward-IIMy Marxist critical inclinations – that a text can’t be read in isolation from the contextual crucible that created it – get pretty much free reign when it comes to teaching Edward II.  For the OCR A Level course, my students need to compare Marlowe’s drama to Tennyson‘s monodrama, ‘Maud‘ and, get this, 50% of the mark is context (that’s AO3, troops).

What, exactly, is context?  I’d suggest that for both texts, maybe all texts, context is usually a mix of two things:

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