Pay attention, there’s a test (part 2)

At 18, students ought to be able to handle History plays, but the exam boards don’t seem to like them?

BH KS5 texts

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:

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Pay attention, there’ll be a test!

For too many of the 600,000 students who sit that GCSE, it’s their final taste of Shakespeare …

BH KS4 Shakespeare exam boardsShakespeare 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:

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My Shakespeare Bromance

What was the first word I thought of when I heard the word, ‘Shakespeare’?

BH upstart_crow_0103
‘Here’s tae us, wha’s like us?’  as Rabbie Burns might say

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?

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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?

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Quote of the Week: 09 April 2018 (#36)

We all have something we can’t part with when we go abroad, surely?

BH suitcase-full-of-books

Kent Cartwright, ‘Introduction’ to William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors (Arden Third Edition), (Bloomsbury Publishing:  London, 2017)

Her:  [hefting my Arden Third copy of Richard II in her hand] ‘Don’t you think it’s a bit heavy to take on holiday?’

Me:  [defensively] ‘It’s as heavy as it needs to be.  That’s why you pay more for the Ardens.  And anyway, that’s the text I’m writing about at the moment.’

Her:  ‘But we’re going away.  You can access the play online.’  [statement, not a question]

Me:  That’s not the same!

Her:  [giving a silent ‘look’ and the merest suggestion of a shrug with one shoulder]

You probably know that look …

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The 2018 Shakespeare Top 10

Forget the Oscars, here are some winners that REALLY matter to me …

BH Ardens
Not – quite – my collection of Ardens … soon, soon!

We HATE lists, don’t we?

Except, actually we bloody love them, if it’s something we’re interested in.

No, really.

That said, the last thing we want is a list that agrees with our perceptions – the dopamine rush of validation is very short-lived compared to the opportunity to passionately argue our disagreement.  We LOVE subjective opinions.  Trust me – my wonderfully fulfilling University years were full of essays arguing the toss – why, for example:

  • Dracula should not be judged for his ‘special dietary requirements’, whereas Van Helsing and his bunch are vindictive bastards;
  • we ought to respect Edward Hyde for his refreshing honesty, as opposed to Henry Jekyll‘s hypocrisy; or
  • Ursula K. Le Guin’s (RIP) The Left Hand of Darkness, whilst a superb book, had no place in the Science Fiction module

You get the picture:  English Lit is a tailor-made subject for those who are argumentative and prepared to do the spadework to back-up their cockiness …

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PTS 10/060: The Gods DO play dice …

Act III places us at the game table, jostling Shakespeare for a view of the goings-on in that VERY busy wood …

BH Discworld Gods
‘No smiting.  Not up here.  It is the rules.  You want fight, you get your humans fight his humans. [1]
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III: with apologies to Albert Einstein [2]

On reflection, it seems odd that as a child experiencing / undergoing / suffering a Catholic education, once a year, on our ‘Saint’s Day’ –  St Martin de Porres: 03 November – we were treated to a film in the school hall which was invariably a Ray Harryhausen epic.

Not that I want to complain.  I loved them, and still do.

They fostered an appetite for the ancient world – for Perseus, Theseus, Hercules, Jason … any number of  heroes and their associated monsters.  And, like the Book of Genesis, they’ve proved to be invaluable in teaching Literature.

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