Shakespeare and Meaning from Mono-Syllabic Words. 

Excellent brief thoughts on how the shortening of language mirrors the disintegration of mind. Thanks @positivteacher.

All Ears

Coming from a lady who, four acts previously, proudly boasts about the ‘valour of [her] tongue’, the following lines from a Lady Macbeth, now in her pitiful descent into madness, are startling in their violent prosaicness:

Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?–Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.

(Act 5, scene 1)

Of the 56 words in this statement, 50 of them are mono-syllabic. That is, there are 50 words of just one syllable. Compare this to 56 words elsewhere in Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy, act 1 scene 7-a scene in which Lady Macbeth is positively frightening in her chastisement of her husband:

We fail!

But screw your courage to the sticking-place,

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Journey’s End resources.

These resources for reading Journey’s End have come to me from one of my colleagues: @missjboyle. They cover acts 1 and 2 at the moment and have a distinct Osborne focus.
I apologise if I am unwittingly presenting slides without due credit – I hope they are useful.

They relate to other posts on the blog:

















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Remembrance Poetry competition: hints…

As part of my Yr 9 curriculum, I introduced a year 9 competition a couple of years ago.  The students are working on a war literature module and are required to submit a poem for a Remembrance Competition.


This year I have prepared this slide-deck to help my class prepare.  I will use a visualiser to write alongside them and will post the result.  Hopefully the winner, when posted, will be an altogether stronger poem!


The winning poems from an earlier year can be seen here: winners: poetry competition


My my first draft in the lesson, from the visualiser… a bit of work to do.  Why did I try trochaic hexameters in the beginning?



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“O sweet and lovely wall…”

Year 11 created a spectacular learning wall for open day with ideas building for MAAN and TKAM…  It will not be available in the classroom indefinitely, so here are the key elements in PDF…





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Lady Macbeth coursework idea

A powerpoint to support initial coursework thoughts for a class considering this question: How does Shakespeare present Lady Macbeth as a “fiend-like Queen”?  Consider the context of creation, language, form and structure in your response.

The idea is to support not lead too closely.  The modeled intro at the end may be of interest.


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A short introduction to poetic forms and structures

Aimed at Year 9 who are about to consider writing poems for a competition. this may not be to all tastes…



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These are flip chart explorations of key elements of Narayan’s short story: A Hero. My students will be downloading them from this site… feel free to use for critique or other purposes:


The focus here is on the relationship between Swami and his father:new-doc-49_1

Here the boys are looking at the Ideas behind the story  – even British Values… I was very pleased to see this unexpected treat:


The language used:  More needs ot be done at this stage to clarify the change in tone between the narrative and the description of the “nightmare”…new-doc-49_3

Now, the women:new-doc-49_4

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A doll’s house: Essay sound files

Last year I posted a number of recordings of my students presenting their essays to the class.  I still value this as a mechanism to focus their minds with regards to the clarity of the written word, as well as the content of the work.  For the OCR A level they are reading Ibsen alongside Chaucer and references will be made to both writers.

This post will develop over the weeks.

Tasvin on Nora in the early pages of the play:

Amal on Heredity and Morals

The point I was struggling ot recall at the end referred to the idea of morality in 19C which caused the end of the play to be rewritten.  We discussed this off-tape!



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Approaching English Literature Coursework: Edexcel IGCSE

A powerpoint and a link to the department You Tube channel.  I am giving a short give-back talk on Thursday for Year 11….


A bit Polonius like, but that’s the way things roll…

The sound file from the session: 


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Jerusalem class blog comments

Studying Butterworth’s Jerusalem in yr 12, I am trying to engage my class in the idea of sharing independent work… we have no formal class blog as yet and i am using the blog feature on our Firefly VLE.  Here is a sample…

This is your space

Use this space to explore the nature of Englishness:  NIMBYism, Xenophobia, jingoism, aggression, pride in heritage, love of the country, patriotism…  Nothing is irrelevant… read widely and post.

By all means start here, but move beyond!


    1. I’ve done a bit of research on NIMByism
      NIMBY: This is an acronym for ‘not in my back yard’
      It is defined as – Opposition from residents to a new development in the local area

      Could this imply that it is ‘English’ to only actively oppose developments that are taking place on our doorstep and not to others? It may appear selfish, or understandable as if we are not effected, why should we get involved? It could be seen as a good thing as British people are prepared to protect what they feel is their property, and this could come under ‘Englishness.’

      An example of this comes from this article –

      Andrew Motion feels the fields of old England are being lost, as houses are being built on the land. He feels that Englishness lies in the traditional countryside and that it is being lost.

      He feels the countryside should be preserved as it quintessentially represents Britain and that it is our heritage, which he is protecting, as he does not want it to be destroyed. It appears that he feels he is being ‘English’ by opposing the loss of our iconic British countryside.

      Following on from our discussion today, we could say that our local areas would be ‘damaged’ if travellers moved there, if they drop litter, or if they are unsociable, which is why people would not appreciate it. This is another example of NIMByism.

      The faded cross of St George on the curtain at the beginning of ‘Jerusalem’ represents this pride in our heritage and suggests that it is fading but in a different circumstance to what Andrew Motion is proposing, showing that NIMByism and pride don’t mean the same thing for everyone.

      Hope this was helpful… part of me isn’t sure that I know what I’m writing about

      POSTED BY  08/09/2016 AT 19:52


    2. I looked into the Patriotism side of things, and there are many instances in sport (football being the most common as well as infrequent and smaller rugby incidences) that show national fans causing trouble and violently clashing with police or other national fans. These cases often end in arrests, hospitalisations and banishment from the game. Several articles blame excessive drinking and peer pressure, while others say there has been a reoccurring issue through the history of football with English fans causing violence.

      Examples of this nature include:

      Perhaps english fans are violent because they want to proudly display their patriotism and ‘englishness’ to their opponents, and they think by being involved in violent clashes they are defending their country’s honour against ‘foreigners’. However this would lead to another possibility that football hooliganism has become and integral part of english sport and as sport can be considered and ‘english’ pass time, the violence, excessive drinking and peer pressure that accompanies it is also an attribute of ‘englishness’.

      If this is the case, we can associate this behaviour and begin to understand why characters may act the way they do in the play Jerusalem, such as Rooster standing tall (as if proud) on the front cover, with a suspicious looking cigarette in his mouth. This could suggest he is clearly doing the wrong thing (drugs or in the case of sports fans, being violent) but he is keen to boast his bad habit as it makes him feel important (potentially for the same reason english fans do when displaying their patriotism through violence at a sporting event). Therefore characters could be acting the way they do as they are mirroring the actions of several english sports fans meanwhile demonstrating ‘englishness’.

      POSTED BY  08/09/2016 AT 21:41


    3. I’ve decided to look into the pride of heritage we have and the notion that perhaps we are beginning to neglect our culture and heritage.

      I was reading an article in The Telegraph ( which explores the idea that immigration may be the reason that we are losing our ‘Englishness’.

      When you think about it, it’s completely understandable, with so many other religions and cultures that are practised in England is it any wonder that English traditions are put to one side? For example, one community centre called a Christmas tree a “festive tree” so they didn’t cause offence to Muslim or Asian workers. I understand showing respect for someone else’s religion and culture but surely this is taking it too far. Perhaps this is why residents of an area feel unsettled and restless when people of a different ethnicity or religion move into the same area- they don’t like the change.

      Like Harpal said, the faded cross of St George in ‘Jerusalem’ demonstrates the pride in our heritage fading and maybe we should be more concerned with losing our heritage than we are at the moment because heritage is so important, especially to a place like Britain.

      Hope this was helpful

      POSTED BY , SUNDAY AT 12:44


    4. I did some research on xenophobia and racism and how it relates to the nature of Englishness. During my research I came upon this article

      The article talks about the rise in racism after Brexit and that the idea of Englishness is becoming more white and Christian. It also mentions that its more a kind of celebratory racism, as if its in celebration that white England has finally got something. This also demonstrates how violence is a part of Englishness possibly because that the English like to show how proud and defensive they are of their own country even if that means incorporating violence and xenophobic/racist hate crimes. This xenophobic abuse however could be more expressive and about expressing dominance to show how great England is and convey the message that the English don’t want to let other cultures, religions, people etc. significantly impact the English culture and allow others to take its place.

      Furthermore the article raises the point that the majority of ethnic minorities and the majority of minority religions would say that they’re British but they wouldn’t say that they’re English. A sort of national identity shift has happened that has given Englishness a white racialised meaning to many people.

      Linking all of this to “Jerusalem” we can see this dominant male figure in Johnny “Rooster” Byron where he gets into many fights and is a drug dealer and a habitual drunked. He sort of fits into this mold of the stereotypical example of the violent, xenophobic part of Englishness.



    5. I’ve decided to look at the development of a new type of ‘Englishness’ developing and whether it can really be considered English or whether we are indeed losing sight of what makes actually us English.

      The 2011 Census featured 70% of people living in England identifying as English, with the majority of people identifying solely as English rather than British as well. The vast majority of people identifying as English, raises the question, what really causes us to identify as English? In an article written by Tristram Hunt, which calls for Labour to embrace ‘Englishness’, he states a love for our landscape, culture, history, humour and literature are key features of Englishness and for a true appreciation of these features many would agree that you would have to look back and have an understanding of the country’s history. A country described as ‘rebellious, independent and resistant to European Civilisation’ putting emphasis on our sovereignty and the belief that we are a strong, independent nation. This seems especially relevant considering the result of the EU Referendum, in which the majority of the English electorate voted to leave. Looking back through history, this rebellion from the European continent, may correspond with what many see as English due to previous relations with the continent.

      “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.”- Jan Glidewell

      In another article written by Tariq Masood it is argued that ‘Englishness’ should not be solely nostalgic. He states basing ‘Englishness’ exclusively on heritage can be seen as ethnic nationalism- Anglo-Saxonism. Indeed, to some ‘Englishness’ is seen as an ethnic label which detracts from multiculturalism, due to the paradigm that an ‘English’ person is white. Perhaps this is due to the nostalgic element of ‘Englishness’ involving focus on time periods where the country was not as ethnically diverse as it is currently and is therefore not representative of England as a country now. Such strong emphasis on heritage can lead to nationalism manifesting itself in xenophobia, a prominent feature after the EU Referendum result. Surely this is outdated looking at the ethnically diverse country England is now and cannot be considered English. Or would it be argued that this problem has only arisen due to being infiltrated by the continent and that such actions are continuing the tradition of rebelling from the continent?

      Tariq Masood begins his article by stating Multiculturalism can foster a new kind of Englishness. This new type of Englishness would perhaps be more representative of England as a country now and erode the stigma of “Englishness’” being exclusively white. However, can we really forget how we came to be this great country? While the faded St.Georges cross may represent the country losing sight of what makes it ‘English’ perhaps it can also represent the population finding new and alternative ways to identify as English. That ‘Englishness’ is no longer concentrated on a single figure, giving the appearance that it is fading, while it is actually getting stronger. Or are we in fact losing sight of what is English?

      Hope this was useful,
      Articles that I used:



    6. I thought what Seb said was interesting; but I do slightly disagree on the idea that Johnny is prominently depicted as an ‘English’ citizen. Although Johnny is written as an intimidating, boisterous drug-abuser, it is important to remember that he is still the definition of an ‘outsider.’
      Rejected by society (although not wrongfully), and loathed by his own community, I believe that Johnny represents something other than Englishness. He represents a generation of people, that should be accepted in to an English society, but aren’t. Obviously, the amount of trouble Johnny causes makes him a lot easier to loathe; with violent outbursts, and exhibitions of a horrific nature (think back to the whole ‘pig’ scene), Johnny is justifiably exiled from the rest of the county. However, one cannot help but ask, that should Johnny be born with a purely English identity, would he be frowned upon with such severity by the majority of the town? Does the fact that he has no nationality (and therefore, arguably, no identity), make him easier to judge and despise? And, even in class, were we already judging Johnny by the way he lives as a traveller, even before we’d heard all the horrific stories about him?
      Because, if we consider Johnny’s physical appearance, he is a stereotypical Englishman. Even without looking at the front cover of our scripts, we can infer from the nickname “Rooster”, that he is a strong, white man who acts, at times, in an outrageous, and often barbaric manner. Add in the image we have of Rylance (a man with a broad chest and tattoos), and there is no doubt that Johnny does look, and act, like an Englishman. However, the defining conclusion, is that Johnny will never be English, because of this constant lack of identity. Maybe the simple fact that he doesn’t even own a home is key in people almost expelling him from society, and that, in itself, shows you the slightly naïve, and pretentious attitude that’s adopted by the English with regard to foreign adversary.
      Overall, I just wanted to add something to this chat which symbolised how I’ve interpreted peoples opinions towards Johnny. Having read Lami and Harpal’s articles, I’ve tried to incorporate typically ‘English’ attitudes in to the context of the play, and this is what I came up with. From what I’ve read so far, Johnny isn’t regarded as a member of the community; the fact that he lives on his own in a wood shows us how isolated and secluded he physically is from the rest of the town. But it was interesting for me to discuss and figure out why (apart from the obvious reasons) he has been exiled from the public, and if his lack of identity has played a big part in that.



    7. I quite agree with what Tom has said here, and I think that Johnny is English literally, but those in the play don’t see him as English as they are too different to him. So in that respect he is an outsider, but whether he deserves to be is debatable. It could be argued that he cares about his friends? He is known for drug use and alcoholism, but that’s not too different from any other person (our age or not), as they just do this kind of thing from behind closed doors, and if it is found out it is usually kept quiet… It’s interesting as they all seem to be in the same boat in some ways, as (after what we read today – St Trinians, X Factor) none of the locals seem to be English – if English means being proud of their heritage. This then raises the question of what is Englishness, and who is English and who is not. St George himself wasn’t English, so again, they all could be in the same boat. Maybe none are truly English at all, and this idea has caused a whole lot of problems for Johnny.




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