Time-limited tasks are like a triple shot of caffeine …
It’s human nature, you panic. I don’t care what your name is. You can’t help it. Fuck, man, you panic on the inside, in your head, you know? You give yourself a couple of seconds. You get ahold of the situation. You deal with it. What you don’t do is start shooting up the place and start killing people. (Reservoir Dogs: Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
It’s less than a month to go before the Shakespeare exams my Y11s and Y13s will be taking. The Y12s and Y10s have mocks broadly over the same period.
Today’s post relates to three things I often say in the classroom:
Bernardo and Francisco have a point. The entire path of the scene is determined by who is on stage. Think of the ways the conversation could go if instead of Bernardo, another unknown Dane approaches Francisco’s guard-post, or one of Fortinbras’ troops.
From Hamlet to real life, and the idea of decorum – behaving or speaking appropriately to the circumstances and audience.
Life’s pretty poor for Shylock as is, but his world falls apart when his flighty daughter elopes with a ne’er-do-well Christian lad, taking his fortune to boot. Famously, Act III scene i sees the dam of his frustration and resentment overwhelmed, leaving him only the potential satisfaction of revenge against his mortal enemy, Antonio.
But why is Shylock’s speech so memorably powerful?
‘Can you do anything to help Brian? He’s got a Macbeth exam coming up,‘ said my Dearest Partner of Greatness.
Brian is not his real name. He’s a nephew. Being a typically feckless Y10 lad, none of us have any idea whether he has read the play, or seen it, or what type of test / exam he has coming up, or when it might be. We doubt Brian knows himself.
So what’s to do, for someone with a target of 4 (for overseas visitors, the highest target at GCSE is 9, and 4 tends to be the grade employers ask for as a minimum) and a complete disinterest in English?
Time to work my magic, and on my birthday, too! Time, in fact, for a mindmap – it’s almost a present being asked to do one, because I LOVE a nice mindmap.
Partly because I’m teaching Richard III to a new A Level class, partly because my exam class will benefit, should they ever visit (you know who you are), and partly because yes, they are fun.
You can see the full rules here, but if you’ve been before, the task is to write a prize-winning forensic analysis of a very short extract in just 250 words, working to OCR’s mark-scheme in order to provide some models for my students.
In this passage, I returned to the dramatic moment when deposed Queen Margaret of Anjou, devastated by the killings of her son and then her husband (within 17 days, historically), calls down the heavens to curse Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who in the Henry VI cycle did what had to be done. It’s a very tense moment …