QotW: 25 June 2018 (#47)

All the world IS a stage, where Richard is concerned …

BH chameleon

Year 12 face their mock exam this coming Friday, with varying degrees of panic.

So, this week’s QotW is actually a BOGOF offer.  I often talk about Richard III being a ‘season finale’ to the History plays.  The chameleon quotation above comes from the penultimate episode, as you might remember, people.  Richard is – at least until it all begins to unravel for him – the consummate actor.

But don’t just take my word for it:

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Quote of the Week: 07 May 2018 (#40)

bh-politics-disraeli-ireland-irish-church-irish_church_disestablishment-csl0220_low.jpg

Mistrust might be too strong a word, but there was always a youthful rebellious streak in me (Catholic-educated in what was at the time a pretty Catholic town), pushing against what I increasingly viewed as the bastard child of The Party in Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four and a medieval Ponzi scheme.  The Catholic hierarchy increasingly personified notions of hypocritical middle-men, ‘eternal life’ assurance brokers, gatekeepers against the hereafter who would feed on the poor, vulnerable and frightened, whilst actually allowing anyone through, if the price was right.

Finally, I officially ‘fell out’ with God in a completely predictable spat  – over bureacracy, not the Bible; red tape, not redemption; compliance, not communion …

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The 2018 Shakespeare Top 10

Forget the Oscars, here are some winners that REALLY matter to me …

BH Ardens
Not – quite – my collection of Ardens … soon, soon!

We HATE lists, don’t we?

Except, actually we bloody love them, if it’s something we’re interested in.

No, really.

That said, the last thing we want is a list that agrees with our perceptions – the dopamine rush of validation is very short-lived compared to the opportunity to passionately argue our disagreement.  We LOVE subjective opinions.  Trust me – my wonderfully fulfilling University years were full of essays arguing the toss – why, for example:

  • Dracula should not be judged for his ‘special dietary requirements’, whereas Van Helsing and his bunch are vindictive bastards;
  • we ought to respect Edward Hyde for his refreshing honesty, as opposed to Henry Jekyll‘s hypocrisy; or
  • Ursula K. Le Guin’s (RIP) The Left Hand of Darkness, whilst a superb book, had no place in the Science Fiction module

You get the picture:  English Lit is a tailor-made subject for those who are argumentative and prepared to do the spadework to back-up their cockiness …

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Quote of the Week: 08 January 2018

Methinks the Tudors did protest too much …

BH jones 1485

Michael K Jones, 1485: Bosworth – Psychology of a Battle (John Murray:  London, 2014)

My hopes for this book weren’t high, having bought it for £2-99 from one of those small discount bookstores that seem to defy all logic in staying afloat.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised:  Jones has something different to say, and he argues it clearly and persuasively.

One of the things he looks at is the demonisation of Richard, asking if it isn’t just a little over the top.  If so, why?

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Quote of the Week: 11 December 2017

We only want to be kings because we don’t fully understand what it involves?

BH Lee_1603Christopher Lee, 1603 (Review:  London, 2003)

Not THAT Christopher Lee, obviously!

In class, we’ve seen it in Edward II and, I think, Richard III.  There are hints of it for my younger students in Macbeth.  But I see it everywhere: in Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI.

 

In Twelfth Night, Malvolio tells us:

“be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” (II.v)

Quite simply, the message I consistently get from EMP plays is that greatness – in this case being monarch – is never, ever, all it’s cracked up to be …

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Quote of the Week: 04 December 2017

“Don’t expect gratitude from anyone who makes it thanks to you”

BH machiavelli

Subtitled:  The Curse of the ‘Without-Whoms’

Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe (The Prince) original publication 1532

This is close to the top of my list of for the Cultural Capital series – a short, highly influential read, freely available: something which, frankly, you ought to have read by the time you hit university – whether or not you are an English Lit student.  It’s the kind of thing that certain people, in certain circles, will expect you to have a working knowledge of in the big bad world.

Anyway, to this week’s quotation.  Consider the following:

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Shakespeare’s Sister says: ‘YOU’RE HISTORY!’ …

Claiming ‘Shakespeare was this or that’, or worse, ‘Shakespeare did not write the plays’, does NOT entitle you to a mic-drop. It just shows your intellectual bankruptcy …

BH shakespeare's sister
Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit – women I fancied (at 19) as much for their deranged, dangerous, deep and devil-may-care personas as their looks.

I’ve written elsewhere about the Rally of Revenge – about my unease that once you abandon all faith in ‘due process‘ or ‘justice‘ (either earthly or divine); once you understand that inequality is endemic, you have nothing left to lose – if you are already losing – so keep raising the stakes until someone has to leave the game.  If it’s uncomfortable, perhaps it’s also sometimes necessary, to affect change of a fundamentally broken system.  You might not see the benefits yourself.  Hey, if you have to leave the game, then so be it: losing can become preferable to playing along, eventually.

There are always other games, other paths, whilst we are still alive – experience has taught me that, even if Shakespeare hasn’t.

And that’s where I find myself, professionally, this weekend.  Approaching change, but ready for it, and maybe, in some ways, relieved that an unhappy stasis has broken. There are always other games.

There is a third way – for revenge – I’ve not written about before.  The poet George Herbert (1593-1633) suggested that:

Living well is the best revenge.

And I’ll embrace and adapt that, in a ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ sense.

Living well equals happiness.  LAUGHTER is the best revenge.

Today, I intend to laugh at someone.  Long, and hard.

Let’s get moving, shall we?

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PTS07/044: RIP, Buckers …

Buckingham wants, needs, perhaps even deserves, a lover’s farewell …

BH buckingham executed

This is All Souls’ Day, fellow, is it not?

Why then, all Souls’ Day is my body’s doomsday.  (Richard III – BUCKINGHAM:  V.i.10-11)

 

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PTS 07/042: Mr Sandman, Dream Me A Dream …

If there’s another Shakespeare play in which dreams loom as large, I’ve yet to read it …

BH Paul Berry sandman
A still from Paul Berry’s wonderful short film

PTS Shakespeare read-through – Richard III, Act I sc iv.

Back in early 1997, I discovered that my eldest son was on his way.  The pregnancy was unplanned, and to say the least a shock to a frankly very immature young man who was focussed on nothing but wine, women and song – not necessarily in that order. To be fair to that youth, books sometimes made an appearance, too.  He was, I like to think, a completely different person to the one who’s writing this evening – I look back on him with some shame (on sleepless nights), listing the apologies I owe people.

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On Being THAT Guy …

BH microbiology

You know, the Shakespeare nerd in people’s lives.

In some ways, this post feels like a partner to yesterday’s

Survive in teaching long enough – it IS a question of survival, and of course many do not – and your students grow up, and they leave ‘the nest’ that is your classroom.  Some you never hear from, or indeed see, again, and all you can hope is that the The Long Goodbye … applies.

Others stay in touch.  It’s one of my chief joys this year that some of my Year 11 class from last year pop in and say hello every now and then, even though, or perhaps especially where they haven’t chosen English at A Level.  Don’t tell them that.  Oops.

Eventually, some become friends.  And James is one of mine.

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