A nest of hollow bosoms. (CHORUS, Henry V: II.0.18-21)
Henry VI II: Act I
It’s a strange thing, patriotism.
I’ll try to make this the final time I mention how I don’t feel especially patriotic towards England as opposed to Britain, but the beginning of the play causes me to examine my attitudes again.It probably says something about my pedantic nature that I can’t simply conflate the two.Or maybe it’s simply the fact that my Welsh girlfriend would probably dump me!Either way, I suddenly became acutely aware of an inchoate fear for the country.Ye-e-es, there was some fear for Henry, about to be eaten alive by his Queen like a hapless spider, but the sympathy I felt for Henry as a child effectively evaporated in the white heat of his ineffectuality.It facilitated of the betrayal of my new Shakespearean heroes, the Talbots, and so isn’t easily forgiven or forgotten.So it wasn’t what Margaret might or might not do to Henry that worried me.It was how she might treat England …
If this is the first time you’ve read an essay here, please take a look at this post before proceeding.
Without superstition, Richard III would have been reduced to a relatively mundane and propaganda-tinged retelling of the familiar Tudor ascent to power. Shakespeare’s skilful exploitation of the complex Elizabethan mix of secular and religious beliefs, via Margaret, transforms the play into compelling drama for contemporary and modern audiences.
“The population of Renaissance England was, by modern standards, fervently religious. ‘Atheist’ was an insult too extreme and too ludicrous to be taken seriously.” (Lisa Hopkins and Matthew Steggle: Renaissance Literature and Culture, 2006)
Despite an unwavering belief in the Christian God, the early modern period was remarkably superstitious. Explore how and why Shakespeare uses superstition in the early parts of Richard III (Acts 1-2) Indicative length: 1,000 words.
AO1: Personal Response (30%)
AO2: Analysis of Writer’s Methods (40%)
AO3: Understanding of the role of and influence of Context (10%)
AO5: Exploring different interpretations of the text (20%)
Why do we still study Shakespeare 400 years after his death?
Our year 12 stint on Richard III is now beginning to wane – we start Act 5 next week, and will essentially be done by the end of the Autumn Term on 16 December. Then I’ll sadly take a break from teaching Shakespeare until after Easter, when I’ll be looking at Much Ado About Nothing (year 8), probably Hamlet or Julius Caesar (year 9), and Macbeth (year 10). My only ‘early modern’ fix in the Spring term is Marlowe’sEdward II. Happy Days.
As the year 12 course has unfolded, keeping pace with the final stages of the US elections, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to leave the next leader of the free world out of our discussions. With one difference: I grudgingly admire one of these larger-than-life characters, and have nothing but contempt for the other …