Monday, April 30, 2012

'Hamlet' 7: Act 3 scene i - 'like sweet bells jangled'

Here, Ophelia tells of her distress at Hamlet's extraordinary change, and gives us an insight into the kind of man he was before his father died.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hamlet 6: Act 3 scene i - 'O heavy burthen!'

This is the first time we hear of Claudius's sense of guilt.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hamlet 5: Act 2 scene ii - 'The rugged Pyrrhus'

Here, Hamlet quotes from the speech which he wants the First Player to recite, and describes a kind of fantasy revenger, Pyrrhus, son of Achilles.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 Shakespeare Prize

Congratulations to Aoise Keogan-Nooshabadi, winner of the 2012 Willis Memorial Prize for Knowledge of Shakespeare, and to Opeline Kellett, who receives a Commendation for her entry. Candidates wrote about Sonnet 71 (see below), and also an essay on 'the creation of memorable characters' in the plays.

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
   Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
   And mock you with me after I am gone.

Hamlet 4: Act 2 scene ii - 'Denmark's a prison'

In this moment, Hamlet expresses to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern his sense of being imprisoned - in both Denmark and the world.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

'Hamlet' resources

This post summarises useful resources for our pupils studying Hamlet as their single text in the Leaving Certificate. [updated April 2012]

  1. The whole text of the play: put it on your own computer...
  2. Our slideshow of Hamlet soliloquies (including Claudius) via Wordle word clouds, and including YouTube versions of the soliloquies by actors such as David Tennant, Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Stewart.
  3. A series of 15 video/audio analyses of moments, using the ShowMe app for iPad.
  4. The whole text of Hamlet as a Wordle (click on the image for a bigger view). 
  5. SCC English revision podcasts are here, on 'The first soliloquy','The first scene', and two ones which gather the 10 Characters series (below). More will follow in the summer term 2012.
  6. 10 Characters in Hamlet: our 5-minute podcasts on 'lesser' characters: Fortinbras, Horatio, Laertes, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Polonius, Ophelia, The First Player, Osric, The First Gravedigger.
  7. An excellent resource: the BBC Archive Hamlet.
  8. Miriam Poulton's review of the excellent recent National Theatre Live production, starring Rory Kinnear.
  9. Radio documentary by 'This American Life' called 'Act V' on a prison production of the play.
  10. Links to six press reviews of the Kinnear Hamlet.
  11. Shakespeare Searched: a 'Google for Shakespeare' - terrific resource for looking up quotations, self-testing and so on.
  12. The Ten Best Hamlets.
  13. The Hamlet Weblog.
  14. Alan Stanford's Hamlet masterclass, on RTE Radio (4 programmes in January 2011).
  15. A quotation auto-test (and below; see the first slides for instructions)

Hamlet 3: Act 1 scene iv - 'the dreadful summit of the cliff'

In this moment, Horatio tries to persuade Hamlet not to follow the Ghost - there could be terrible consequences.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hamlet 2: Act 1 scene 2 - 'that within which passes show'

This is Hamlet responding to his mother and stating that he feels genuine grief.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hamlet 1: Act 1 scene i - 'A mote to trouble the mind's eye'

This is from the first scene, and shows Horatio's unease on the battlements.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources

Friday, April 20, 2012

Frank McGuinness on 'Macbeth'

Yesterday afternoon at the Abbey Theatre, as part of the UCD/Abbey Shakespeare Lecture Series 2012, the playwright Frank McGuinness gave a lecture on Macbeth. Here are some notes from what he said:-
  • The opening scene poses the key question: do you believe in magic / black magic / witchcraft? It presents us with a world where the abnormal is normal. The play erupts in a series of shocks. It will be a play of extremes. Nothing is certain. In this void, anything can happen.
  • The witches create the geography of a perilous terrain. 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair' reverberates everywhere.
  • The play, which will be full of frenzy, starts in that most patient of actions: waiting.
  • Scotland seems to be on the edge of Armageddon, but the expected calamity does not happen. The country is saved by two men. - Macbeth and Banquo. But only the former is rewarded by Duncan. Is he sowing the seeds of discord between the two men to deflect attention from his appointment of Malcolm as heir? Is he protecting his family priorities?
  • Omens (such as appointing Macbeth Thane of Cawdor) undermine ideas of success, both political and personal.
  • In Shakespeare, regicide is always cataclysmic - a crime against soul, state, self.
  • In her first appearance, Lady Macbeth is reading a letter; in The Playboy of the Western World, Pegeen Mike first appears writing a letter. Both are eventually destroyed - Lady Macbeth by the witches and her husband's ambitions, Pegeen Mike by the peasant society in which she lives.
  • Children haunt the play. Central is the issue of the Macbeths' child. Lady Macbeth is fantasising: her imaginary 'child' is a strategy to deny suffering. Her idea that she would kill her own child is the darkest territory in a dark play. Macbeth has been a success in everything, but in this one area he has failed.
  • The Macbeths pervert their heterosexual relationship in their consummation of their marriage by murder. They are deeply energised by the reversal of roles, turned on by their violent fantasies.
  • In the soliloquy ("If it were done...") in I vii we see the strands which hold Macbeth's sanity together. This a mind trying to make sense of itself. It is different to Hamlet's soliloquising: he is trying to rationalise. Then Lady Macbeth demolishes his arguments.
  • After the murder, the constructions that they have built for themselves start to fall apart. They no longer talk to each other, but at themselves.
  • Macbeth has a uniquely uneasy sense of self, endlessly making and unmaking himself. He obliterates his own substance, and becomes an apparition.
  • Shakespeare makes sure that Macbeth has no rival in terms of poetic eloquence.
  • Macbeth is the loneliest of all Shakespeare's heroes.
  • In the "Tomorrow" speech, each image is deliberately dissociated from the one before it. Macbeth has reduced himself to a walking shadow, a poor player.
  • In this play, self-knowledge offers no self-protection.
  • At the end it might seem that right has reasserted itself, that humanity has defeated witchcraft, but witchcraft has also defeated humanity.
  • This is the most mad and also the most wise of dramas.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Beer Trip to Llandudno

Kevin Barry's story 'Beer Trip to Llandudno' is available as a free e-book at the moment and is strongly recommended. From his new collection Dark Lies the Island, it deservedly won the recent Sunday Times Short Story Award. 

'It was a pig of a day, as hot as we'd had, and we were down to our T-shirts taking off from Lime Street. This was a sight to behold - we were all of us biggish lads.' The 'lads' are men of a certain age and certainly larger than 'biggish', six members of a Real Ale Club July day outing from Liverpool to North Wales. 

Barry's perfect control of tone is maintained throughout the story, as the narrator tells the story of the mates' expedition, a beer trip that gradually becomes a journey into their vulnerabilities. The deliberate predictabilities of those opening sentences, and the comfortable roles the 'lads' have settled into during their years of camaraderie, gradually give way to the touching, sometimes sad, truths of their lives. But in the end what they have most of all is each other, the repeated 'we' of that opening. 

This is an impressive and very enjoyable story - funny, tender and perfectly structured.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wolfram/Alpha on Shakespeare

The Wolfram Alpha 'computational knowledge engine' has just taken on the complete works of Shakespeare, and here are some results from queries on the four great tragedies:

Hamlet
  • 32 characters
  • most words spoken: Hamlet (11,631 words, 39.1%), Claudius (4097, 13.8%), Polonius (2668, 9%)
  • 20 scenes
  • 29,700 words
  • 15.32 words - average sentence length
  • longest words: transformation, unproportion'd
  • most frequent two-word phrase: my Lord

Macbeth:
  • 29 characters
  • most words spoken: Macbeth (5494 words, 31.8%), Lady Macbeth (1942, 11.3%), Malcolm (1530, 8.9%)
  • 27 scenes
  • 17,260 words
  • 13.1 words - average sentence length
  • longest word:voluptuousness
  • most frequent two-word phrase: I have

Othello:
  • 25 characters
  • most words spoken: Iago (8445 words, 32.4%),  Othello (6256, 24%), Desdemona (2757, 10.6%)
  • 15 scenes
  • 26,078 words
  • 13.18 words - average sentence length
  • longest words: notwithstanding, disproportion'd, circumscription
  • most frequent two-word phrase: I am

King Lear:
  • 26 characters
  • most words spoken:  King Lear (5625 words, 21.9%), Edgar (2875, 11.2%), Kent (2611, 10.2%) [the first woman to appear is Regan at 8th].
  • 20 scenes
  • 29,700 words
  • 12.55 words - average sentence length
  • longest word: superserviceable
  • most frequent two-word phrase: my lord.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'The Great Gatsby': final page

On this day in 1925, The Great Gatsby was published. Via Roger Ebert's blog, above is Bill Nack's reading of the great final page of the novel, and below, an analysis from our series of ShowMes on key moments in the book.

'Hamlet' ShowMe moments

Following the series of fifteen key moments in The Great Gatsby via the iPad app ShowMe, we've started a similar series on Hamlet, which you can check out for the moment on our page on the ShowMe website (when term starts again, they'll be embedded here).

These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Monday, April 02, 2012

English Teaching and Technical Expertise

Recently we asked via a Google Form, the English Companion Ning and Twitter for ideas on what level of technical expertise an English teacher should have. This was prompted by a belief that, at least here in Ireland, teachers are coming into the career with an underwhelming level of technical ability, despite being from the 'Facebook generation'.

Many of the responses are on this document. If you'd like to add your own contribution, here's the form, or just add a comment at the bottom of this post.

We're on holidays now until April 23rd. Occasional posts until then.