For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings …
PTS read-through:Richard II, act III (part ONE)
Witnessing the utter disintegration of a human being – even a fictional one – is, I’d suggest, an uneasy, distressing experience.And yet …
Voyeuristic shame accompanies the compulsion to keep spectating what is usually such a private affair.My first experience of this type of slow-mo car-crash literature was Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, when I was about 12.It scarred me – I’ve never quite been able to revisit Michael Henchard’s self-induced immolation; it also, I think, gave me my first seductive bittersweet taste of tragedy.Like that initial stolen underage drink, whilst I wasn’t quite sure I liked it, I wanted another – just to be certain.
First off was a virtual trolley dash through the sale aisle of Verso Books, ‘the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world‘ on New Year’s Eve. Only one of the baker’s dozen of political tracts I bought had any specific link to Shakespeare But I can’t and won’t dismiss Shakespeare entirely this year, and there’s some added fun in finding the ‘applicability’ – NOT ‘relatability’ – of my wider reading to the plays, and vice versa.
Anything other than modern ‘exclusivity’ could mean demotion and starvation at best, or – more likely – imprisonment, exile, or execution.
CLASSROOM BASED ASSESSMENT: In Edward II, love is invariably possessive. Discuss.
Weightings:AO1 (25%); AO3 (50%); AO5 (25%)
God, I hate this question.
One of the things that I got from my teacher training, back in the day, was that if you asked a poor/stupid/inaccessible question, you only had yourself to blame for crap answers. This is an OCR question – at least the students get a choice of six to answer for their final exams. But for reasons beyond my ken, or immediate power to change, it is our first CBA on Edward II. It also comes too early in the course for people who were in school uniform less than 6 months ago to be asked to deal with AO5, if you ask me. They were being constantly drilled in AO2, and for this essay, it’s not required …
But enough whinging. In the spirit of never asking people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself, here’s a model answer for my class to play with. I tried to do this in the same conditions they were asked to do it in, without any ‘cheating’ on my part.
IF THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE HAD A LOOK AT ONE OF MY ESSAYS, PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW.
John Julius Norwich, Shakespeare’s Kings (Penguin: London, 2000)
I like this book very much, and as I’m currently teaching Edward II to two separate groups of sixth-formers, I thought I’d look out a quotation for them regarding our hapless king. Despite Edward not being one of Shakespeare‘s kings, Norwich doesn’t disappoint …
(subtitled, far too obviously for the UK football fans amongst us, ‘who ate all the pies?’)
I warned you! I WARNED YOU! Did I warn you?
Yes, I did. And so did Francis Bacon. And Jonathan Bate. And Fredson Bowers. We all said that revenge was likely to spiral out of control, because once you lose your faith in the law, and in divine justice too, all bets are off. And because every stroke in the ‘rally of revenge‘ is that much harder, has that much more spin on it than the last. Let’s mix our metaphors again: in this particular poker game, someone, eventually, is going to see your stake and raise you with everything they’ve got, not caring any more whether they win or lose. The chips, and what they represent, are suddenly and utterly unimportant …