PTS 07/041 The Bitch Is Back …

BH elton john bitch is back
I entertain by picking brains
Sell my soul, by dropping names (Elton John, 1974)  Photo:  Terry O’Neil

Richard III: Act I, Sc iii (Ponytail Shakespeare read-through)

Richard has been a part of my life, a surprisingly large part, for about six years or so.  In fact, we might call him part of the ‘soundtrack of my life’, since I turned 40.  So whilst I try and inevitably fail to do the play justice in these posts, one of the things that’s already settled is the Shakespeare’s Jukebox ‘Soundtrack Album’ that I publish at the end of my amble through the play.  Some songs have been ringfenced, so that I don’t use them for any other play … this is one.

If there’s a decidedly ‘camp’ flavour to the jukebox, in fact to these posts (I mean:  Mercury, Hasselhoff and now EJ?), it could be down to two factors:

  • I’m teaching Edward II, to two classes, at the moment (conspiracy theorists, and I like one as much as the next person, will note that these two plays were probably written within months of each other, if not simultaneously); and
  • this is a camp play.  At some stage I might get stuck into the relationship between Richard and Buckingham (a personal theory that causes wide-eyed incredulity in my classes, more often than not)

I’ve often described it as a pantomime for grown-ups.  Ironically, because a child’s pantomime is possibly the worst way I can think of spending an evening. Perhaps this takes on board the criticisms of those who favour other, more mature or ‘intellectual’ plays.  Richard is gleefully childish and petulant, at least until he becomes king, and there are several times where I want to shout:

He’s behind you!

or similar, at members of the cast:  Clarence, Hastings, the young Duke of York, the hapless Burghers of London, at the very least.

But … having ambled through the HVI plays for the first time this year, I have a completely different understanding of and respect for this play.  The Bitch is back in Act I scene iii, and there can be only one Bitch (capitalisation intended), as we saw in The Hollow Crown

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PTS 07/040: Grab your coat, love – you’ve pulled …

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‘What though I killed her husband and her father?’

Richard III:  Act I sc ii (Ponytail Shakespeare read-through)

Sub-title:  ‘Do you have free wi-fi?  Because I’m sensing a connection …’

At school, we have a department policy of sitting boy-girl where possible (until sixth form, at least), and in most classes there is a combination that seems to get on that bit too well.  So, I’ve been researching chat-up lines I can embarrass those pupils with.  Yes, I’m that kind of teacher …

These are the best clean ones I’ve found so far.  If you can top this, let me know.

Anyway, back to the play!  Shrug.  If you’ve decided to behave badly, you may as well test your strength straight away, right?  If we accept, after my last post, that the main thing on Richard‘s mind is the constant, inevitable rejection of women, it follows that his next step in the play (the true story is somewhat different) is to seduce someone …

(Can I also say it hurt my eyes to search for this image?  

See the lengths I am willing to go to for you?)

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Quote of the Week: 02 October

BH john julius norwichJohn Julius Norwich, Shakespeare’s Kings (Penguin:  London, 2000)

I like this book very much, and as I’m currently teaching Edward II to two separate groups of sixth-formers, I thought I’d look out a quotation for them regarding our hapless king.  Despite Edward not being one of Shakespeare‘s kings, Norwich doesn’t disappoint …

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PTS 07/039: (Find Me) Somebody To Love

BH freddie mercury

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through – Richard III (Act I, scene i)

Larger than life.  One of a kind.  Brash on the outside, to mask an inner vulnerability.  The ultimate showman, whose memory lives on long after his death.  Freddie Mercury is all these things, too

I’ve arrived at Richard III, the first play in my read-through that I know well, with a sense of awe, almost a fear of not doing him justice.  Unusually, I’m as tentative as I might have been had I met him with a pathetic autograph book in my hand (or Mercury, whose death in 1991 touched me as few other celebrity deaths have:  Prince and Sir Terry Pratchett are the only others that I register, emotionally).  My relationship with Richard grows more obsessive and complex every time I teach him, and my recent book-buying seems unconciously centred round the historical Richard and the major players in his accession and downfall.  I’ve also realised there is no way I can do this in the usual 1,000-ish-words-per-act format, so all I’m going to do is try to avoid 1,000 words-per-scene, if I can.

How has Shakespeare done this to me?

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Quote of the Week: 07 August

BH riggs marlowe coverDavid Riggs:  The World of Christopher Marlowe (Faber and Faber:  London, 2004)

If you squint, you’ll see that this was one of the books I bought as retail therapy a short while back.  I tackled this one first owing to my commitments to teach Edward II again this coming school year – I was hoping to get a few additional nuggets about Marlowe‘s private life.

The book has turned out to be an absolute revelation …

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A Kingship Paradigm

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Fig 1:  A Paradigm for Kingship or Leadership

Abstract for the busy:  this paradigm crystallises or articulates my recent thinking about kingship/leadership as it applies in Shakespeare’s plays and, I increasingly suspect, beyond.  It gained critical mass after teaching Richard III at Key Stage 5 (Age 16-17) in Autumn 2016, where I found myself returning again and again to questions of Legitimacy, Authority and Dynasty, in plotting not just Richard’s journey and motives, but Richmond’s and, in fact, Queen Elizabeth’s. 

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Richard III: KS5 essay 2

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If this is the first time you’ve read an essay here, please take a look at this post before proceeding.

Without superstition, Richard III would have been reduced to a relatively mundane and propaganda-tinged retelling of the familiar Tudor ascent to power. Shakespeare’s skilful exploitation of the complex Elizabethan mix of secular and religious beliefs, via Margaret, transforms the play into compelling drama for contemporary and modern audiences.

Question: 

“The population of Renaissance England was, by modern standards, fervently religious.  ‘Atheist’ was an insult too extreme and too ludicrous to be taken seriously.”  (Lisa Hopkins and Matthew Steggle: Renaissance Literature and Culture, 2006)

Despite an unwavering belief in the Christian God, the early modern period was remarkably superstitious.  Explore how and why Shakespeare uses superstition in the early parts of Richard III (Acts 1-2)  Indicative length: 1,000 words.

Success Criteria:

AO1:  Personal Response (30%)

AO2:  Analysis of Writer’s Methods (40%)

AO3:  Understanding of the role of and influence of Context (10%)

AO5:  Exploring different interpretations of the text (20%)

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