QotW (#87): 02 September 2019

… and we’re back to school today, for another year’s fun and games.

Cue all kinds of traffic on Twitter and elsewhere on-line: pre-battle speeches from the veterans; advice sought by the newbies, and given by the self-styled ‘influencers’; new teaching-year resolutions declared; virtue-signalling pictures of classroom displays, and so on …

Have I got anything to add to the Babel? Not really.  I’d rather chat about Literature …

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QotW (#84): 29 July 2019

armada gods breath
‘God blew and they were scattered’

You almost feel sorry for the Spanish …

Today marks the day when the undeniably mighty Armada, reeling from a night attack by fireships and blocked from retreating down the Channel, was pummelled by English ships and scattered northwards by storms.  Unable to regroup, they tried – and many failed – to get home the hard way, via Scotland and Ireland.

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QotW (#80): 24 June 2019

happy couple

Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you!
Juno sings her blessings upon you.

(The Tempest, IV.i)

It wasn’t just Twitter’s #ShakespeareSunday that was focused on love and marriage this weekend … if last week gave me an opportunity to reappraise Father’s Day from different perspectives, then Saturday’s wedding of my eldest has given me something else to think about …

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QotW (#75): 06 May 2019

trafficking

Last week’s pre-exam discussions with Year 13 looked again at how we might adopt a Feminist critical stance to our exam texts.  The fabled AO5, I hear OCR students gasp …

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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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PTS 12/073: A Truth Universally Acknowledged

with apologies to Jane Austen …

BH netherfield ball

… that, perhaps, a single GIRL in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a husband?

PTS read through:  Romeo and Juliet, Act I, sc ii

Hmmm, what to make of this scene?

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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: 26 February 2018 (#30)

Almost nothing seems to have changed in 400 years … as usual …

BH womans placesubtitled, ‘Food for powder

Matthew Beaumont:  Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London (London:  Verso Books, 2015)

My recent article on Gayle Rubin‘s important Feminist work, ‘The Traffic in Women’ touched upon what has been historically expected of women, especially working class ones.  Rubin takes a look at the Marxist position before developing it into a gender rather than class-specific argument:  the commodification of women in the marriage market.  It’s an excellent read.

And we see Rubin’s position everywhere in Shakespeare and the EMP, where women constantly struggle against the social imperative to marry a man who ticks boxes for their family / parents, love coming as an unexpected bonus.  Even comedies such as The Dream feature the tension between ‘kinship‘ and ‘companionate‘ marriages.

To say nothing of the pressures Elizabeth I was under, of course …

In my article, I dipped into Beaumont‘s book for a supporting quotation, but it’s been weighing on my mind.  I think it needs to be considered on its own merits.

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Cultural Capital 04: Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic In Women’

Who gives this woman away?

bh-woman-power

(For non-students, this is part of a series for my A Level students looking at important secondary texts which will assist their studies.)

Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic in Women:  Notes on the “Political Economy” of Sex’ (1975)

An [If] you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend;

And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,

For, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee

(Lord Capulet, Romeo and Juliet, Act III, sc v)

and

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,

As she is mine, I may dispose of her:

Which shall be either to this gentleman

Or to her death, according to our law.

(Egeus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, sc I)

Not much fun, being a teenage girl in Shakespeare’s day, was it?  These intelligent, independent and emotional young women must often have felt like second-class citizens …

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PTS 09/055: The Rough Wooing of the Monstrous Regiment

Where is the ‘son-in-law’ material in LLL?

 

BH NIgel
Dad, this is Nigel … we’re in love!

Love’s Labour’s Lost:  Act IV

My life has been filled with obsessions, and for reasons too complex to go into here, about twenty-five years ago, one of them was Scottish history.  With no knowledge ever completely wasted, it’s contributed to where and who I am today, struggling with this play, and especially to find any kind of empathy with its male characters.

Put simply, if I had a daughter, none of these men would be son-in-law material …

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