Cultural Capital 07: Tragedy

We loved a fall from grace as much then as we do now …

BH travolta tragedy
For Christ’s sake, can’t you see I’m busy, Ophelia? Get thee to a nunnery!

[this article first appeared in the in-house magazine I edit for our sixth-form English students]

Tragedy!  When the  feeling’s gone and you can’t go on …

It’s not that long ago that I appalled a class by stating that whilst the death of a pet dog might be ‘quite sad’, it definitely wasn’t ‘tragic’. ^

I definitely spend too much time in the late 16th century!

Continue reading “Cultural Capital 07: Tragedy”

QotW: 16 July 2018 (#49)

Hot ice and wondrous strange snow: the appetite for articulation …

BH DeLorean_Launch
Destination 1592 … [a]
Frequently, I ask my class to step into the time machine and join me back in 1592.

Why then?

Conveniently, it’s as close as we can get to dating both Richard III and Edward II, my Key Stage 5 texts.  The other plays I teach at the moment – Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth – follow on from here.

This period was a crucible in which Drama as we know it was being born, alchemically transmuted from the didactic Morality Plays into something fresh and exciting.  With my Marxist critical hat on, if we can understand the contextual elements poured into that cauldron, we can better appreciate and analyse the resultant heady brew.

Continue reading “QotW: 16 July 2018 (#49)”

PTS 12/072: A Game of Two Halves …

Maybe Prince Escalus should have gone to VAR … ?

BH mob-football-in-england
The keeper (left) tried to make himself look big, whilst under pressure from a swarthy Croatian defender, Harry Kane tried to nudge the ball home

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene i

Regular readers will understand my complex relationship with the notion of ‘England’.

The catchy simplicity of Three Lions (It’s Coming Home) turned from pleasantly nostalgic ‘earworm‘ – I well remember the song’s release for Euro ’96 – to a cankerous ‘worm ‘i the bud‘ [a] long before Wednesday’s almost inevitable defeat to Croatia.  The entire nation, it seemed, had been reduced to a vocabulary of just three words – a mantra which was unchallengeable, a self-evident truth destroyed in just 120 minutes (if only Brexit could fall as quickly.) As I watched people (including several students) spill out of The Sun – opposite where I was drinking – in a numbed state of shock after the match, I was glad I wouldn’t hear it for a while.  Having ‘sat like Patience’ I was now, almost, ‘smiling at grief’.  To no avail:  by 11am the next day – no lie – I was hearing “World Cup 2022:  It’s Coming Home” in the corridors of ‘C’ Block … sigh.

Has this anything to do with Romeo and Juliet?  Of course.

Continue reading “PTS 12/072: A Game of Two Halves …”

PTS 12/071: Choose Life!

‘Why would I bother watching Titanic, when I know how it ends?’ Silence …

BH trainspotting_uk

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through.  Romeo and Juliet:  Prologue

As a trainee, I remember ‘inheriting’ R&J from the usual teacher on placements. Twice.  And I vividly remember teaching the Prologue to a top set of smart, welcoming, wonderful students.

This was the class that christened Romeo the ‘pervy monkey boy‘ after watching Zeffirelli‘s interpretation of the balcony scene.  Thanks, Hannah – I will never forget that.  They’re also the bunch that did the ‘Mean Girls‘ recreation of Act III, scene v.  They made ‘fetch’ happen!  So much for ‘Two households, both alike in dignity‘ …

Despite the brilliant memories, I wonder if it’s significant that I have never, since, opted to teach the play, now that I am largely in charge of my own destiny?  And for PTS purposes, what can we, can I, pull out of these fourteen lines that hasn’t been said before over the last 400-years?

Continue reading “PTS 12/071: Choose Life!”

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?

Continue reading “QotW (#43): 28 May 2018”

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 … 

Continue reading “Cultural Capital 06: Bacon’s Essays”

PTS 11/068: ‘Team Richard’ T-shirt Time …

The power of beauty vs. the beauty of power …

BH CSF14 RII 86647
Cambridge Shakespeare Festival 2014.  Image: ME

An emerging theme in my reading – and teaching – is the notion of being careful what you wish for.  For too many, Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’ is ephemeral, evaporating once a goal is achieved.  To others, it is an insatiable addiction. What links both is the outcome: unhappiness and deep satisfaction – the former cannot easily retain their newly won goal; the latter need another, greater fix of achievement.
Continue reading “PTS 11/068: ‘Team Richard’ T-shirt Time …”