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:
Lou Reed had Donald Trump nailed as long ago as 1989, namechecking not just the POTUS but also his latest cheerleader, Rudy Giuliani, in his polemic track, ‘Sick of You‘, which also contains the following memorable and prophetic lines:
They say the President’s dead,
No-one can find his head,
It’s been missing now for weeks.
But no one noticed it!
Yeah, he seemed so fit …
Marlowe probably DID make a hazard of his head by easing his heart …
The more I read about Marlowe, the more I like and sympathise with him – arrogant, frustrated genius, malcontent, morally questionable, and attention-whore as he may have been. I sense a kindred spirit: my best friend would say the same about me – perhaps with a lot more arrogance and a lot less genius. As I get older, I like to think that my moral code is finally begining to crystallise, where it was entirely fluid 25 years ago, but then Marlowe never had the opportunity to mellow …
Increasingly, I see Marlowe as the kind of ‘mis-shape‘ Jarvis Cocker sung about in 1995:
At 18, students ought to be able to handle History plays, but the exam boards don’t seem to like them?
Following my recent KS4 post, I extended my research to A Level – that is the exams taken by 18-year olds before they hit university. Again, I’d love to hear from students or teachers, especially in other countries. Here are a few thoughts of my own:
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:
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?‘