Crimes Against Shakespeare 011: beware Shakesphobia

Don’t Panic, as Douglas Adams might say. Together we can beat this awful disease.

BH shakespeare-signature-shutterstock2

This is a PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING brought to you by the Boar’s Head, Eastcheap.

There is a deadly, debilitating disease sweeping schools in the UK.  Parents, teachers, and especially students need to be informed.  Many people do not realise they have it until it is too late.  Treatment can be lengthy, and painful, and some patients (err, I mean students) never recover.

Continue reading “Crimes Against Shakespeare 011: beware Shakesphobia”

Machiavelli: The Prince (review)

‘… men must be either pampered or crushed …’

BH the prince 9780141912004Niccolò Machiavelli:  The Prince, (transl. George Bull, ed. Anthony Grafton), (Penguin Classics: London, 2003).  e-book ISBN: 9780141912004 (£2.99)

– – –

Niccolò Machiavelli … the name has a seductive musicality, like all the Devil’s best tunes, and in Italian, ‘Il Principe’ uncoils like a snake, before hissing and then biting. This, his most famous work, has insinuated its way into our psyche until ‘Machiavellian’ has become part of a sinister cabal of authorial-adjectives including ‘Orwellian‘, ‘Lovecraftian’ and ‘Kafkaesque‘.  Yet how many people appreciate its true meaning, having read ‘The Prince’?  Is its reputation merited?  Is it a useful, topical read, or a dusty, centuries-old curiosity?

Continue reading “Machiavelli: The Prince (review)”

Quote of the Week: 12 March 2018 (#32)

It’s a wonder Will didn’t end up in prison, when you think about it …

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image:  The British Council, Index on Censorship

This week’s quotation is from Germaine Greer, Shakespeare (Past Masters series), (Oxford: OUP, 1986), p.75

Classroom experience tells me that [massive generalization] today’s students are disinclined to think for themselves [/massive generalization].  It’s part of the resistance to Shakespeare that seems to be coded into some pupils’ DNA (and another day I might talk about the ‘generational’ thing), but we see it with other texts.  A while back, in Manchester, I taught the short film ‘The Virus’ – which I personally think is excellent:

– but it was met with howls of anger (only slight exaggeration) from students who couldn’t work out what had happened, why, and what might happen next.  Watch the film, if you have under ten minutes, and then ask yourself if the main character is alive or dead at the end.  Then, ask yourself why or how the answer couldn’t be obvious to 14/15 year-olds.  This happened with TWO classes.  I wasn’t just taken aback:  I was worried. Not least because they thought it was ‘rubbish‘ because they couldn’t figure it out.

To be fair, this probably isn’t new – had my students been alive at the time, and in possession of the attention span required to read it, they would have been part of the contemporary outcry over the ending to Great Expectations.  But Dickens‘ audience wanted their theories confirmed or refuted.  In 2018, it just seems endemic that people have no theories.  They just want to be told what to think … and that scares me.

Who do I blame?

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 12 March 2018 (#32)”

Quote of the Week: 05 March 2018 (#31)

They could be twins … NOT the authors!

BH marlowe shakespeareJohn Gielgud, ‘Richard II’ in Charles Ede (ed.), Introductions to Shakespeare, (London:  Folio Society, 1977) p.59

[and a small celebration of this as my 201st post]

The Wheel of Fortune moves inexorably away from Edward II at school (which students will have to compare to Tennyson‘s Maud in their exam – easy peasy, whatever they may think, if they work hard and LISTEN between now and then), and in terms of the Ponytail Shakespeare read-through, to Richard II.

I can’t be the only one to reflect that the two plays are remarkably similar.  Indeed, I’ve chosen this week’s quotation as an intrigiung bridge between them.

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 05 March 2018 (#31)”

Quote of the Week: 26 February 2018 (#30)

Almost nothing seems to have changed in 400 years … as usual …

BH womans placesubtitled, ‘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 Dream feature 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.

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 26 February 2018 (#30)”

Cultural Capital 03: Marx and Engels: The Communist Manifesto

Prepare yourself for a glorious improvement in your AO5 skills, comrades!

(For non-students, this is part of a series for my A Level students looking at important secondary texts which will assist their studies.)

BH Marx 1

 

 

‘I am not a Marxist’ – Karl Marx

‘Reading The Communist Manifesto does not make you a Communist, any more than reading the Bible makes you a Christian’

says Nigel Cawthorne in the introduction to my copy.  This reassuring sentiment is only slightly undermined by his point that:

‘While reading The Communist Manifesto, it is as well to remember that millions of people have shed blood over this document.’ As they have, to be fair, with last month’s text …

THIS is the power of ideas and words, people. Continue reading “Cultural Capital 03: Marx and Engels: The Communist Manifesto”

A Bookshelf Update … and a question or two

Being overwhelmed with books is a problem I’ve had to get used to …

BH books bedroom
NOT quite my situation, yet … image: curatormagazine.com

Today, I looked EVERYWHERE for a book that I wanted to quote from and couldn’t find it …

I know you’re in here, somewhere.  You were a Christmas present; when I got back from my second home in Wales I put you down when I unpacked. You’ve not left the flat.  The only place I didn’t check was the kitchen: it’s got no windows and I don’t go in there if I can help it.

Where are you hiding? *

Continue reading “A Bookshelf Update … and a question or two”