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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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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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!

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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.

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Pay attention, there’s a test (part 2)

At 18, students ought to be able to handle History plays, but the exam boards don’t seem to like them?

BH KS5 texts

Following my recent KS4 post, I extended my research to A Level – that is the exams taken by 18-year olds before they hit university.  Again, I’d love to hear from students or teachers, especially in other countries.  Here are a few thoughts of my own:

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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.

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Pay attention, there’ll be a test!

For too many of the 600,000 students who sit that GCSE, it’s their final taste of Shakespeare …

BH KS4 Shakespeare exam boardsShakespeare is the only author that everyone over here has to study.  Unless, it appears, you live in Scotland (and someone might be able to correct me on that if I have misread the SQA specification) …

‘For divers unknown reasons‘ as Richard III would say, I’ve been engaged in a little research of what our exam boards offer at Key Stage 4 – that is for the 15/16 year-olds who sit their GCSE English Literature.  I think it throws up some interesting points:

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