It wasn’t till I got to University that I came across Malcolm’s ‘king becoming graces’ in Macbeth. I thought them startling – an almost impudent challenge to James I about what the country expected from their new monarch, in a play which, I’m increasingly convinced, is all about what it means to be a ‘man’:
This week’s quotation is from: Charles R. Forker, ‘Introduction’, in William Shakespeare, Richard II (Arden Third Edition), (Thomson Learning: London, 2002)
A recent Reddit thread discussed the extent to which the History plays critiqued the monarchy. To be honest, I didn’t want to get involved, because it looked like a straight request for homework help, and yet, it was hard to resist such a fascinating subject …
Should we pay more attention to James I before he became King of England?
Thomas Cogswell, James 1: The Phoenix King (Penguin Monarchs series), (Allen Lane: London, 2017)
Studying or teaching Shakespeare’s plays, the figure of Elizabeth looms in the background, like the spectre at the feast.
We see it in the ever-present censorship, in the light of the Treasons Acts in 1571 and 1581, outlawing public discussion of the succession. Or, more positively, in the ‘Gloriana’ cult that produced works like Spenser‘s The Faerie Queen, and flattering nods to Elizabeth wherever you look – like links between her and Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We see it in her discomfort with comparisons to Richard II, and the propagandic lionization of Henry VII.
Reading Cogswell‘s short, sympathetic biography has made me reassess the extent to which we / I ignore James until the succession question becomes absolutely critical.
I wonder if there was a time when, at least as an adult, the name Germaine Greer was unknown to me. Yet this slim volume, picked up in the last mad pre-demolition trolley dash round our old sixth-form building almost a year ago, is my first reading of any of her works. I feel a bit embarrassed about that.
This article was written for a forthcoming in-house newsletter/magazine. First, hopefully, in a series of articles (Cultural Capital) about influential, dare I say essential works that our students need to get under their belts. I set myself a STRICT word-count of 750, including quotations but excluding titles and references, tried to avoid being too professorial, and I’ve prioritised other texts related to what I’ll be teaching as part of the OCR A Level Engish Literature course. If I’m spared 😉
Inferno is a valuablesource of AO1 and AO3, people. This won’t replace you reading the original, but it might at least persuade you to give it a go.
Next up? James I‘s Daemonologie, Machiavelli‘s The Prince or The Book of Genesis: open to suggestions …
[…] Midway on our path in life,
I came around and found myself searching
Through a wood, the right way blurred and lost.
I know the feeling. More importantly, so begins Dante’s Inferno, the sexiest-titled poem no-one’s read.Perhaps only at a certain age do you start asking Really Big Questions:‘What am I doing with my life?What’s the point?What’s left?’Tennyson’s like a dog with a bone on this.Ponytail Shakespeare readers – you’re fed up of hearing this sort of thing from me.
The most important question, though, is surely ‘what’s next?’
Anything other than modern ‘exclusivity’ could mean demotion and starvation at best, or – more likely – imprisonment, exile, or execution.
CLASSROOM BASED ASSESSMENT: In Edward II, love is invariably possessive. Discuss.
Weightings:AO1 (25%); AO3 (50%); AO5 (25%)
God, I hate this question.
One of the things that I got from my teacher training, back in the day, was that if you asked a poor/stupid/inaccessible question, you only had yourself to blame for crap answers. This is an OCR question – at least the students get a choice of six to answer for their final exams. But for reasons beyond my ken, or immediate power to change, it is our first CBA on Edward II. It also comes too early in the course for people who were in school uniform less than 6 months ago to be asked to deal with AO5, if you ask me. They were being constantly drilled in AO2, and for this essay, it’s not required …
But enough whinging. In the spirit of never asking people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, here’s a model answer for my class to play with. I tried to do this in the same conditions they were asked to do it in, without any ‘cheating’ on my part.
IF THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE HAD A LOOK AT ONE OF MY ESSAYS, PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW.