My fears for Arthur Plantagenet were more or less realised as Act II began, universally patronised with the soubriquet, ‘boy’ and a quasi-contemptuous ‘thy’ by his father’s killer, Austria. And I still sensed that the real quarrel is between Arthur’s mother, Constance, and Eleanor – otherwise why would she come along? Never mind Iron Maiden‘s ‘Bring Your Daughter (to the Slaughter)‘ – how about ‘Bring Your Mother’?
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 …
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:
Marlowe probably DID make a hazard of his head by easing his heart …
The more I read about Marlowe, the more I like and sympathise with him – arrogant, frustrated genius, malcontent, morally questionable, and attention-whore as he may have been. I sense a kindred spirit: my best friend would say the same about me – perhaps with a lot more arrogance and a lot less genius. As I get older, I like to think that my moral code is finally begining to crystallise, where it was entirely fluid 25 years ago, but then Marlowe never had the opportunity to mellow …
Increasingly, I see Marlowe as the kind of ‘mis-shape‘ Jarvis Cocker sung about in 1995:
At 18, students ought to be able to handle History plays, but the exam boards don’t seem to like them?
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:
Why’s it taken me so long to get this one written? To get this play finished? To ‘officially’ say goodbye to Richard II for a few years, given I have no opportunity to teach it at either GCSE or A Level? That question probably contains its own answer.
Or, the fact that it’s Romeo and Juliet next …
You know – if you’ve been reading along – how deeply I feel an affinity for Richard’s journey. Perhaps when I (eventually) get to the end of the PTS I’ll reflect that the ‘most important things are the hardest things to say‘, as Stephen King tells us [a]. It’ll be interesting to look back and see whether the plays I found harder to connect with came and went rather quicker.
Marlowe was never going to fit in. In some ways I wish he hadn’t tried so hard – he would have lasted longer.
‘We don’t like mavericks here …’
– is what I was told some years back at my first school. My first school, just to be clear …
It’s not a default position, I promise you – I honestly don’t aspire to be a maverick. It’s simply about my always bearing in mind the attributed words of Einstein: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. So if it demonstrably doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense, you need to find someone else, if you want blind obedience. How do we improve, otherwise? Plus, my teaching mentor gave me advice I’ve never forgotten, and which has served me well (and my students, if results are anything to judge by*). We might paraphrase it as: ‘As long as you know where should be taking the students, don’t stress about abandoning the lesson plan and getting there via another route.‘
So, admittedly, I can be a:
1. an unorthodox or independent-minded person.
But, surely, no SURELY, this what we aim to foster in our children (what actually we reward in the subject: critical, evaluative thinking and independence of ideas – those terms are on the markschemes, at the top end) … right? Or does education exist to train people into unthinking passivity?