Regular visitors know that I teach Richard III and Edward II at A Level – coincidentally, plays which seem to have appeared within months of each other, in or around 1592. Marlowe doesn’t get discussed much in the circles I move in online, and Edward II often feels even more overlooked – so when someone wanted to talk about the differences between Kit and Will on /r/shakespeare (after watching a performance of Tamburlaine), I couldn’t resist diving in. Here’s an edited extract of what I said:
‘You will, generally, be rewarded for originality, but the crazier your argument is, the better your reasoning should be’.
Originally intended as a confidence-builder for the chronically-tentative, it’s become a cliché in my teaching that ‘in English, there’s no such thing as a wrong answer’. Increasingly, though, and especially at A Level, I’m finding it necessary to qualify that empowering notion.Perhaps students were getting a little too emboldened, as we’ll see below.Just as Squealer in Animal Farm reminds us that ‘Some animals are more equal than others’, some answers are – obviously – better than others. [a]
Almost organically, as I refined the concept, it came to be known as The Continuum of Plausibility™.I’ve been using the term here, off and on, for a while now without properly explaining it, so here goes.
Should I oppose the slings and arrows of teaching the same thing year in, year out?
… THAT is the question occupying my thoughts at the moment.
No, this isn’t a Machiavellian masterplan for world domination (although see below, perhaps it’s just part of one).
What you see above is the bare bones of a 12-week (forty-eight lesson!) Scheme of Work on Julius Caesar that I’ve been toying with producing over the summer. I’m hoping for advice – not just on the skeleton of the scheme (although that would be highly appreciated), but on whether or not to bother …
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: