A post to help yr 10 as the prepare for end of year exams.
As Year 10 approach their end of year exams, they ahve been making cue cards to assist with their revision. I will be posting the sets as they arrive. These are cue cards for quotation banks for the main characters (sans Dogberry) and key themes of Much Ado About Nothing.
I always recommend revising in pairs for this task and using it as a top trumps type of activity or even a tennis match – rallying ideas related to the quotation until they run out of steam… Never simply a reading exercise!
This article appeared in the Daily Telegraph and is widely available online: some general Lear thoughts to stimulate revision ideas:
Derek Jacobi’s Lear has been garnering extraordinary reviews from seasoned Shakespeare watchers. What is it about this play that makes it the Everest of classical acting? And who are the actors who have crawled their way to the top and planted their triumphant flag on the summit?
It is only since the Sixties that the play has been regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy. Before then, Hamlet was taken to be the jewel in the crown. Remarkably, King Lear has been performed more times in the past 50 years than in its entire prior performance history of 350 years. It speaks with special power to a world of global conflict and a sense of impending apocalypse. The on-stage blinding of Gloucester (“Out, vile jelly!”) is the most terrifying moment in all Shakespeare. In Trevor Nunn’s 2007 production for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Regan set to work with sadistic glee that masked an underlying fear—the moment inevitably conjured up the American soldiers in Abu Ghraib.
For a long time, King Lear seemed either too vast or too horrific for the stage. Charles Lamb, writing in the early 19th century, was typical in proposing that Shakespeare’s anatomy of the human condition was so profound and tempestuous that the play could not be staged: “To see Lear acted — to see an old man tottering about the stage with a walking-stick, turned out of doors by his daughters in a rainy night, has nothing in it but what is painful and disgusting. We want to take him into shelter and relieve him. That is all the feeling which the acting of Lear ever produced in me. The Lear of Shakespeare cannot be acted.”
Lamb was speaking more truly than he knew. In 1811, when he wrote this, the Lear of Shakespeare could indeed not
be acted. The madness of George III meant that the London theatre managers kept this play about an old, mad and despised king off the stage, for fear of offending the court.
A generation before, Dr Samuel Johnson confessed that even reading the play was almost too much to bear: “I was many years ago so shocked by Cordelia’s death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor.” The shock for Johnson was both emotional and moral. The death of Cordelia —Shakespeare’s boldest alteration of the older versions of the Lear story, in all of which the beloved youngest daughter survives — was an extraordinary breach of the principle that Johnson called “poetical justice”, whereby the good end happily and the bad unhappily.
It was quite in order to impose poetical justice on the play: during the 1680s Nahum Tate, author of the hymn While Shepherds Watched, had rewritten King Lear with a happy ending, in which Cordelia was married off to Edgar. Johnson had some sympathy with this alteration, which held the stage for a century and a half, whereas for Lamb it was yet one more indication that the theatre was not to be trusted with Shakespeare’s sublime vision of universal despair.
The play’s special place in the modern Shakespearean repertoire can be traced back to a moment in the early Sixties when the director Peter Brook read an essay by the Polish literary scholar Jan Kott called King Lear, or Endgame. The unlikely juxtaposition of an epic drama set in Ancient Britain and Samuel Beckett’s nihilistic Endgame, in which dying characters exchange absurd dialogue as they lurk in dustbins in a post-nuclear wasteland, gave Brook a new way into the play. He cast Paul Scofield as the aged king and inspired the great critic Kenneth Tynan to write: “Lay him to rest, the royal Lear, with whom generations of star actors have made us reverently familiar, the majestic ancient, wronged and maddened by his vicious daughters.” Scofield’s Lear was an irascible father, a difficult old man, as much sinning as sinned against.
The genius of Brook and Scofield was that they revealed the play to be about Big Issues — power politics, international conflict, poverty and social exclusion, the condition of humanity in a godless universe — but equally about domestic problems, such as coping with a father who has dementia or dividing an estate between three daughters. The key to a great production is the ability to hold together the huge and the tiny, the universal and the local, the epic and the intimate. Shakespeare’s language makes just this demand, as it moves at speed from vast philosophical questions (“Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?”) to the language of small and ordinary things — garden waterpots, gilded flies and toasted cheese.
To make these shifts an actor needs long experience and terrific stamina. It’s sometimes said that the problem with the part of Lear is that by the time you are old enough to play it, you are too old to play it. Laurence Olivier tried both too soon and too late: on the stage in 1946, still in his thirties, he seemed to be impersonating a whimsical old tyrant rather than actually being one, while on television in 1983, he was too frail for the rage.
“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow”: the role is often associated with the barnstorming style of Sir Donald Wolfit, as immortalised in Ronald Harwood’s play about his experience as the old actor-manager’s backstage dresser. But many of the finest modern productions have been in small spaces and a quieter style. For the actor, the real difficulty in playing the part is deciding how much to let rip how soon — if you give too much to the anger in the first half you’re too exhausted for the madness in the second half, but if you have too much control to begin with, the transition into madness can seem too sudden and extreme to be convincing. A slow build and then a relentless stretching out of emotional agony: that’s what works best.
Minimalist design and physical proximity to the audience help tremendously. The three best Lears I have ever seen were all in “black box” studio theatres: they were Tony Church, directed by the late Buzz Goodbody in an RSC “Theatregoround” production, Ian Holm in the little Cottesloe in Richard Eyre’s farewell production as artistic drector of the National, and Lee Beagley with a company called Kaboodle in Liverpool’s tiny Unity Theatre. What they had in common was the ability to range from a whisper and a tear to a curse and a howl. Fancy design on a cavernous stage, by contrast, can all too often lead to a train wreck, as Nigel Hawthorne discovered when he teamed up with the Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa in 1999.
The other key to a great production is the quality of the ensemble. Many a Hamlet has shone even in an indifferent production — as Jude Law did for the Donmar last year — because the character’s soliloquies allow him to hold the stage alone. But Lear, exceptionally for a Shakespearean tragic hero, is hardly ever alone. He constantly bounces off his companions — the Fool, who tries to teach him wisdom; the loyal Kent, who follows in disguise; the other broken aged man whose name is Gloucester.
Many of the most brilliant productions have depended on double acts: Michael Gambon as Lear with Antony Sher as Fool (perched on the king’s lap like a ventriloquist’s dummy), Ian McKellen as Kent standing resolute with Brian Cox’s Lear for Deborah Warner at the National, Alan Webb as Gloucester beside Scofield in both the stage version and the film of the Brook production. Compelling performances from Lear’s antagonists are equally important.
If the reviewers are to be believed, Michael Grandage’s production at the Donmar hits all the buttons: an intimate space and a minimal design, a uniformly strong ensemble, and in Sir Derek Jacobi an actor who has not left it too late, as Olivier did. It sounds as if in pursuit of a ticket we should be taking the advice of Lear himself: “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.”
Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick
This post is only relevant to my students. I will be posting MP3 files of essays here for those who are submitting reading to me whilst on study leave.
Alex B: Victor as Gothic Villain essay Alex B
Himmat B: Victor as Gothic Villain essayHimmat
Armand P: Depiction of women essay Armand
Just realised they all look like clones from NLMG now…
Rahul R: 150519_001
The following sound file is a “give back” for my year 11s based on a close study of the following passage from All MY Sons, Act 2:
George: (To Ann) What more do you want! (There is a sound of footsteps in the house). Ann: (turns her head suddenly toward house) Someone's coming. Chris: (to George, quietly) You won't say anything now. Ann: You'll go soon. I'll call a cab. George: You're coming with me. Ann: And don't mention marriage, because we haven't told her yet. George: You're coming with me. Ann: You understand? Don't... George, you're not going to start anything now! (She hears footsteps) Shhh! Mother enters on porch. She is dressed almost formally. Her hair is fixed. They are all turned toward her. On seeing George she raises both hands, comes down toward him. Mother: Georgie, Georgie. George: (he has always liked her) Hello, Kate. Mother: (cups his face in her hands) They made an old man out of you. (Touches his hair) Look, you're grey. George: (her pity, open and unabashed, reaches into him, and he smiles sadly) I know, I... Mother: I told you when you went away, don't try for medals. George: (laughs, tiredly) I didn't try, Kate. They made it very easy for me. Mother: (actually angry) Go on. You're all alike. (To Ann) Look at him, why did you say he's fine? He looks like a ghost. George: (relishing her solicitude) I feel alright. Mother: I'm sick to look at you. What's the matter with your mother, why don't she feed you? Ann: He just hasn't any appetite. Mother: If he ate in my house he'd have an appetite. (to Ann) I pity your husband! (To George) Sit down. I'll make you a sandwich. George: (sits with an embarrassed laugh) I'm really not hungry. Mother: Honest to God, it breaks my heart to see what happened to all the children. How we worked and planned for you, and you end up no better than us. George: (with deep feeling for her) You... you haven't changed at all, you know that, Kate? Mother: None of us changed, Georgie. We all love you. Joe was just talking about the day you were born and the water got shut off. People were carrying basins from a block away... A stranger would have thought the whole block was on fire! (they laugh. She sees the juice. To Ann) Why didn't you give him some juice! Ann: (defensively) I offered it to him. Mother: (scoffingly) You offered it to him! (thrusting glass into George's hand) Give it to him! (To George, who is laughing) And now you're going to sit here and drink some juice... and look like something! George: (sitting) Kate, I feel hungry already. Chris: (proudly) She could turn Mahatma Ghandi into a heavyweight! Mother: (to Chris, with great energy) Listen, to hell with the restaurant! I got a ham in the icebox, and frozen strawberries, and avocados, and... Ann: Swell, I'll help you! George: The train leaves at eight thirty, Ann. Mother: (to Ann) You're leaving? Chris: No, Mother, she's not... Ann: (breaking through it, going to George) You hardly got here. Give yourself a chance to get acquainted again. Chris: Sure, you don't even know us anymore. Mother: Well, Chris, if they can't stay, I don't... Chris: No, it's just a question of George, Mother, he planned on... George: (gets up politely, nicely, for Kate's sake) Now wait a minute, Chris... Chris: (smiling and full of command, cutting him off) If you want to go, I'll drive you to the station now, but if you're staying, no arguments while you're here. Mother: (at last confessing the tension) Why should he argue? (she goes to him. With desperation and compassion, stroking his hair) Georgie and us have no argument. How could we have an argument, Georgie? We all got hit by the same lightning, how can you...? Did you see what happened to Larry's tree, Georgie? (She has taken his arm, and unwillingly he moves across the stage with her.) Imagine? While I was dreaming of him in the middle of the night, the wind came along and... Lydia enters on porch. As soon as she sees him: Lydia: Hey, Georgie! Georgie! Georgie! Georgie! Georgie! (She comes down to him eagerly. She has a flowered hat in her hand, which Kate takes from her as she goes to George) George: (As they shake hands eagerly, warmly) The question: How does Miller use dramatic devices and language to convey the character of mother in this extract? 150506_001 The Give back all my sons The CIE marking criteria
I have adapted a resource pack that I have bought to make this Powerpoint to support Muir’s Horses for CIE IGCSE. The zig zag education pack is full of good ideas!
horses revision lesson Not really suitable for first teaching…
Also, there are a couple of excellent videos on YouTube for use in this area :
For City planners/Planners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR-Z1lg2Q_4 The song “ouses, ‘ouses, ‘ouses” by Imagined Village. Use as a listening stimulus prior to working – stop it around 2.19 before it gets loud and allow discussion.
For Where I come from, City Planners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcC54jTnX5I The Chernobyl drone.
Another document from the web, sourced here: http://www.um.edu.mt/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/45985/Shakespeare.pdf
Sample essay titles for your delictation and delight.
King Lear William Shakespeare Essay Questions
1. “Shakespeare’s King Lear is a play of redemption in which the King moves from moral blindness to a clearer vision of what really matters.” Discuss and illustrate
. 2. “King Lear is not only a tragedy of parents and children, of pride and ingratitude; it is also a tragedy of kingship.” Discuss with reference to power relations in King Lear.
3. ‘King Lear might start like a fairy-tale, but most of it is like a nightmare.’ Discuss.
4. ‘The ending of King Lear is unbearable.’ Discuss.
5. “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’gods; They kill us for their sport.” Discuss with reference to both the King Lear main plot and the Gloucester subplot.
6. “Cordelia is admirable, but not entirely.” Discuss.
7. “Gloucester’s physical blindness is a mirror image of Lear’s spiritual blindness”. Discuss the ways in which the sub-plot in Shakespeare’s King Lear is a reflection of the main one.
8. “King Lear is a play about the corrupting and destructive effects of power.” Discuss.
9. “King Lear is a play dominated by the contrast between wisdom and foolishness.” Discuss.
10. “King Lear is a play in which madness is the key to the realization of the truth”. Discuss.
11. “Lear is a contemptible figure at the beginning of the play, but he deserves some admiration by the end of it.” Discuss.
12. “Lear’s fool is a jester by profession, but the effect he creates is not one of professional control and expertise, but of jokes pulled out of agony and frustration.” Discuss the role of the fool in King Lear and his function in the unfolding of the plot.
13. “Some good I mean to do, i. Despite of mine own nature.” Discuss the complex relations between character and circumstance in King Lear.
14. “The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices i. Make instruments to plague us.” Discuss the complex relations between vice and justice in King Lear. King Lear William Shakespeare
15. “The individuals in King Lear always move across landscapes of the widest extent, criss-crossed by innumerable simultaneous purposes.” Relate this statement to the parallelism between the main and the sub-plots in Shakespeare’s play.
16. Assess the importance of the theme of loyalty in King Lear.
17. Critically examine Lear’s changing relationship with Cordelia.
18. Discuss the importance of the characters of Edmund and Edgar in King Lear.
19. Discuss the importance of the storm scenes in King Lear.
20. Discuss the theme of suffering in King Lear.
21. Fully discuss and illustrate the themes of Hypocrisy and Division in Shakespeare’s King Lear.
22. Fully discuss public and private concerns in Shakespeare’s King Lear
. 23. There are many kinds of suffering in King Lear, and little consolation.” Discuss.
24. Unlike other dramatists, who used ‘mad scenes’ for comic effect, Shakespeare seems intent on a serious portrayal of madness in King Lear.” Discuss the different types of madness in the play.