Crimes Against Shakespeare 008

WE CANNOT, MUST NOT, WIPE ART WITH ANTI-BACTERIAL WIPES BEFORE ALLOWING THE NEXT GENERATION TO HANDLE IT …

BH CSF blinding of Gloucester
‘Out, vile jelly’:  the blinding of Gloucester …

I took this picture – from King Lear – at the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival back in 2012.  I often show it to pupils who try to tell me that Shakespeare is ‘boring‘.  Or indeed I give them some of the plot details from Titus Andronicus that have caused such concern of late …

It’s taken me a little while to allow this one to sink in to the extent that it became a ‘crime’, but in the Dock, ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, I give you no less than the English Faculty of Cambridge University (or at least some members of that august institution) …

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Hay Spiel Chequer Lessen …

Stewed-ants, too-daze lessen his a bout de weighs inn witch spiel-chequers cant bee deep-ended own.

BH weakish speller

I dedicate this to all the Y12 and Y13 students whose typed submissions I am marking at the moment.  You deserve something in return for the frequent face-palms and occasional belly-laughs you are giving me …

Hay Spiel-Chequer Lessen.

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Quote of the Week: 16 October

BH brittle gloryLaura Ashe, Richard II: A Brittle Glory (Penguin: London, 2016)

Emboldened by the excellent ‘Penguin Monarchs‘ volume on Edward II, I looked out which other volumes were available: the first that arrived in the post was this one.

Ashe‘s approach seems different to Given-Wilson‘s on Edward. Where he was reassuringly chronological, she deals with Richard’s reign (and I’ve seen this as a criticism of the volume online) thematically. It has, nonetheless, given me some useful insight into a king who I’ve always vaguely felt I owed a debt: I fell asleep watching Jeremy Irons in the title role – in Stratford, of all places – back in 1986/7. To this day, I blame the large lunch I had before the matinee performance …

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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 …

A
‘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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