A multiple choice question for the adults. Or for my students, who sat their Shakespeare exam on Monday just gone. You sit an exam where you have a choice of two questions. One question appears to make no sense. Do you:
Our Y11 (15/16 year old) students have the first of their English Literature GCSE exams on Monday …
This is the last year, at my school, when we will (effectively) have autonomy over the texts we teach. Next year, we will only offer MacbethorRomeo and Juliet at GCSE. It sounds like a retrograde move, but what it does ensure – I suppose – is that we have teachers, multiple, who can deliver the texts, both in the classroom and – importantly, considering I am in school today (Sunday) – in revision sessions. I am largely in school today because I’m the only one who can do The Tempest … nobody’s fault but mine, as Led Zeppelin might say.
‘When ignorant men are overwhelmed by forces totally beyond their control and their understanding it is inevitable that they will search for some explanation within their grasp. When they are frightened and badly hurt then they will seek someone on whom they can be revenged. […] What was needed, therefore, was a suitable target for the indignation of the people, preferably a minority group, easily identifiable, already unpopular, widely scattered and lacking any powerful protector.’
Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, (The Folio Society, London: 1997) Cover image: Francis Mosley
The plague was too immediate, too visceral, for Shakespeare to include more than a passing reference to it in his plays.In Romeo and Juliet it’s a factor in the tragedy, but at a safe distance.
Part III begins, as Part II ended, with Warwick, perhaps reinforcing his role as ‘kingmaker’, and with the suspicion – to be dealt with later, maybe – that Henry is a ‘Jonah’ on the battlefield.Whoever’s side he appears on (note I don’t say ‘fights’ on) he seems to suck the fighting spirit out of the army like a Dementor whose puppy has just been killed in a hit-and-run accident …