Studying a History play? Look for the playwright’s sources …
My Marxist critical inclinations – that a text can’t be read in isolation from the contextual crucible that created it – get pretty much free reign when it comes to teaching Edward II. For the OCR A Level course, my students need to compare Marlowe’s drama to Tennyson‘s monodrama, ‘Maud‘ and, get this, 50% of the mark is context (that’s AO3, troops).
What, exactly, is context? I’d suggest that for both texts, maybe all texts, context is usually a mix of two things:
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.
Laura Ashe, Richard II: A Brittle Glory (Penguin: London, 2016)
Emboldened by the excellent ‘Penguin Monarchs‘ volume on Edward II, I looked out which other volumes were available: the first that arrived in the post was this one.
Ashe‘s approach seems different to Given-Wilson‘s on Edward. Where he was reassuringly chronological, she deals with Richard’s reign (and I’ve seen this as a criticism of the volume online) thematically. It has, nonetheless, given me some useful insight into a king who I’ve always vaguely felt I owed a debt: I fell asleep watching Jeremy Irons in the title role – in Stratford, of all places – back in 1986/7. To this day, I blame the large lunch I had before the matinee performance …
Soon there won’t be much room for customers at The Boar’s Head.
… although it still isn’t keeping pace with my book buying. Buying books and reading books operate in entirely different dimensions, as my overflowing bookshelves will tell you. When I hit 100 books, which isn’t far off, if you include the Arden Third editions of the plays themselves, I may have to employ an orangutan to take the bookshelf into L-space. (GNUSir Terry Pratchett)
Christopher Given-Wilson, Edward II: The Terrors of Kingship (Penguin Monarchs series), (Penguin: London, 2016)
This series of books have been on my radar for a while, but it took a recommendation from an ex-student (thanks, Jay!) to finally push me into buying one. These are absolutely ideal for A Level students (who NEED the context for their final exams: hint, hint to both my classes) or people who wanted a potted history without getting too bogged down.
Given-Wilson‘s writing style was pitched just right, I thought – dryly academic without being off-putting, clear without being condescending to those of us who don’t need (or want) words of one syllable. It’s certainly inspired me to buy some more from the series: naturally, I’m now forced to wait until March 2018 for the Richard III volume, sigh …
This week’s quote of the week, is the final paragraph from the book, which sums up my views on Edward as presented in Marlowe‘s play.