Hot ice and wondrous strange snow: the appetite for articulation …
Frequently, I ask my class to step into the time machine and join me back in 1592.
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.
For too many of the 600,000 students who sit that GCSE, it’s their final taste of Shakespeare …
Shakespeare 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:
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.
What was the first word I thought of when I heard the word, ‘Shakespeare’?
Apologies. I’m neglecting my PonyTail Shakespeare read-through, but suddenly writing more frequently, and hopefully more pithily (but I somehow doubt that), at the moment. Let’s see how long it lasts …
I’ve already recommended Duane’s blog – the longest-running Shakespeare blog I know of – to you. Tonight – and I had something work-related to do – I stopped by whilst having dinner, and promptly got distracted. Which is what the best blogs do, right?
The internet being a brilliant example of intertextuality, Duane’s most recent post is itself a response to something he read on Reddit. And here I am, responding in turn.
The premise is ‘What do you think of when you hear the word Shakespeare?‘
Forget the Oscars, here are some winners that REALLY matter to me …
We HATE lists, don’t we?
Except, actually we bloody love them, if it’s something we’re interested in.
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 …
Almost nothing seems to have changed in 400 years … as usual …
subtitled, ‘Food for powder‘
Matthew Beaumont: Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London (London: Verso Books, 2015)
My recent article on Gayle Rubin‘s important Feminist work, ‘The Traffic in Women’ touched upon what has been historically expected of women, especially working class ones. Rubin takes a look at the Marxist position before developing it into a gender rather than class-specific argument: the commodification of women in the marriage market. It’s an excellent read.
And we see Rubin’s position everywhere in Shakespeare and the EMP, where women constantly struggle against the social imperative to marry a man who ticks boxes for their family / parents, love coming as an unexpected bonus. Even comedies such as The Dreamfeature the tension between ‘kinship‘ and ‘companionate‘ marriages.
To say nothing of the pressures Elizabeth I was under, of course …
In my article, I dipped into Beaumont‘s book for a supporting quotation, but it’s been weighing on my mind. I think it needs to be considered on its own merits.
My life has been filled with obsessions, and for reasons too complex to go into here, about twenty-five years ago, one of them was Scottish history. With no knowledge ever completely wasted, it’s contributed to where and who I am today, struggling with this play, and especially to find any kind of empathy with its male characters.
Put simply, if I had a daughter, none of these men would be son-in-law material …