(QotW#89) 30 March 2020

Never mind isolation and social distancing, it’s ‘slogan fatigue’ that’s slowly killing me …

boris-protect-the-nhs-lg

Shakespeare IS political – understand that, and move on

There have been plenty of times when I’ve felt the need to apologise for being political in a blog about Shakespeare.  I think it makes my employers nervous, despite the fact that they never get named, and the blog is entirely independent of them.

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QotW (#84): 29 July 2019

armada gods breath
‘God blew and they were scattered’

You almost feel sorry for the Spanish …

Today marks the day when the undeniably mighty Armada, reeling from a night attack by fireships and blocked from retreating down the Channel, was pummelled by English ships and scattered northwards by storms.  Unable to regroup, they tried – and many failed – to get home the hard way, via Scotland and Ireland.

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PTS 015/092: not MY leader …

evolution of Boris Steve Bell
image:  Steve Bell / The Guardian

It’s often said, often bitterly, that we get the leaders we deserve.  After all, ’we voted for them’, right?  Or at least broadly 100,000 have: in a population of 65-million-odd, way less than 1% have made Boris ‘Bolinbroke’ Johnson our Prime Minister.  Quite clearly ‘the will of the British people’ in the twenty-first century is a highly elusive and nebulous concept.

Right here, right now, the question of the type of leader we want, need, or deserve is as urgent as it has been since the end of the Second World War.  As is the debate about whether we prefer harsh truths or comforting lies …

Welcome to our latest stop on the Pony Tail Shakespeare read-through 1 Henry IV, Act I scene iii. Continue reading “PTS 015/092: not MY leader …”

(QotW) #83: 22 July 2019

It’s easy to forget that Shakespeare pre-dates social media …

 

pacino de niro heat
‘No matter what, you will not get in my way …’

‘We’re sitting here like a couple regular fellas.  You do what you do.  I do what I gotta do.  And now that we have been face-to-face, if I am there and I got to put you away?

(pause)

I won’t like it.  But, if it’s you, or some poor bastard whose wife you’re going to turn into a widow, brother, you are gonna go down.’ [a]

What if Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots had met … ?

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QotW (#82) Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them

eye of sauron

Consider Frodo Baggins

As comfortable middle age approaches, he’s broadly minding his own business, apart from the desire to perhaps go on a few more foreign holidays.  Sure, he’s a little eccentric, and keeps a more eclectic circle of friends and acquaintances than many.  But fundamentally a ‘nice, well-spoken gentle-hobbit‘, as Gaffer Gamgee might say.  Looking forward to not much more than another 50-60 years of smoking his pipe on the doorstep of Bag End; hiking through the Shire at night; writing; and keeping out of the way of those dreadful oiks, the Sackville-Bagginses.

Adventures?  No thank you.

All is well, until that meddling magician, Gandalf arrives …

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QotW #78: 03 June 2019

shepheardes calendar JUNE
Can we send the Y11s on study leave yet, Headmaster?  They’re getting restless … [image:  June, The Shepheardes Calendar]
Today marks the beginning of one of the most eagerly anticipated parts of the school year … the final summer half-term.  The countdown’s on, for teachers at least: 7 weeks; 35 working days; a maximum of 28 lessons with each of those classes.

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[book review] Clare Asquith: Shakespeare and the Resistance

asquith resistance cover

Past a certain stage in studying literature, you begin to understand, perhaps better appreciate, the fact that texts are crafted entities.

(I choose ‘entities‘ deliberately, firmly believing texts have their own independent post-publication existences: a subject for another time, perhaps)

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QotW (#77): 20 May 2019

elizabeth essex film poster

When you teach Richard III you almost inevitably touch on the idea that ‘history is written by the winners’, as Orwell said in 1944 (and again, of course, so horrifically in Nineteen Eighty-Four). [a]

Who were victorious over Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex in the end?  Would he have recognised the history they wrote for him?

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QotW (#70): 04 March 2019

tilbury-blanchett1-600x350

Elizabeth I looms in the background of Shakespeare’s early-to-mid work like the spectre at the feast.

It isn’t solely the question of censorship: she is, I think, the yardstick for every depiction of monarchy, leadership or indeed of strong women.  Remember, too, that after a frantic period when the monarch (and ruling religion) changed every few years, she assumed the throne before Shakespeare was born, and was perhaps one of the few constants in that dangerous, fluid age, until she died in 1603.

She was also a real anachronism – a woman ruler in an incredibly patriarchal society.  But was she a feminist?  Should she be regarded as a feminist icon now?

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QotW (#67): 11 February 2019

“this it is, when men are ruled by women” – or at least by their groins …

Claudius & Gertrude

Although I’m never going to end up on stage, I often compare teaching to acting.

Non-teachers, think for a second: up to six performances a day, with audiences who require subtly different characterisations from you.  (My timetable goes from Y12 to Y7 without interval on a Friday afternoon, for instance).  That plus the teacher persona you can only shrug off when you’re safely indoors (because even walking down the street you end up intervening when you see pupils in uniform mucking about).  To say nothing of the range of people you have to be – in five minute chunks – at Parents’ Evenings …

No wonder I’m perpetually exhausted.

But if I were asked to play a Shakespearean role, what would be my top three choices?

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