Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Brush Up Your Shakespeare - Set Text 2013 - for Department for Education Study.

The Cobbe Portrait of Mr. William Shakespeare.
The following extracts from 'The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark' are set for study (no written examination):

1. Act V, sc 1, (ll. 3418-3422):

"That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once. How the
knave jowls it to the ground,as if 'twere Cain's jawbone, that
did the first murther! This might be the pate of a Politician,
which this ass now o'erreaches; one that would circumvent God,
might it not?"


2. Act III, sc 2, (ll. 2231-2249):

"Hamlet:  I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
 
Guildenstern: My lord, I cannot.
 
Hamlet:  I pray you.

Guildenstern:  Believe me, I cannot.

Hamlet:  I do beseech you.
 
Guildenstern:  I know, no touch of it, my lord.
 
Hamlet:  It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your
fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth, and it will
discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.
 
Guildenstern:  But these cannot I command to any utt'rance of harmony. I
have not the skill.

Hamlet: Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You
would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would
pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my
lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music,
excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it
speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be play'd on than a
pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me,
you cannot play upon me."
 
These extracts were selected by a joint committee whose members comprise Mr. William Shakespeare & all students to be examined in GCSE (England) English Literature 2013-17 (inclusive).
 
It is recommended those studying the extracts proceed to consider at their leisure this year's set question (to be practically assessed over several generations) :
 
Question: Discuss and illustrate the relevance of the passages set to proposed government policies on education.
 
The committee would consider it a matter of courtesy if some kind of response were made to these related, general questions:
 
Mr. Shakespeare's Inquiry.
(Google Instant Translation from Jacobean English).
 
Gratified as I have been these many years by the continued appearance of my works in your examinations, the time seems ripe to remind you first that the 'texts' you set are 'play scripts' not 'plays'; and, second, that I wrote them to turn a profit and provide voluntary entertainment not compulsory instruction.
 
With regard to the first, my plays may only be experienced in a theatre. Am I to assume the Department for Education will, consequently, arrange for every GCSE student in the land to attend government-sponsored performances free of charge?
 
You, gentles, would play the Guildenstern with me.
 
But...I am long gone. You cannot injure me.
 
However...
 
Your (Wittenberg) Students' Inquiry.
 
We understand (from the 11 June Education Statement in The House of Commons) that the first cohort of students to follow your new proposed GCSE will commence study in 2015 and be examined in 2017. We understand the changes are intended to 'drive up standards', by making the exam harder, & recoup lost faith in GCSE reliability.
 
Your statement logically condemns the exams to be taken by us in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 as too easy and unreliable. How are we to take this? What are teachers to do, parents, universities and employers to think? How unworthy a thing you make of us!  Our question is this:
 
Does no one have the wit or wisdom in government; is there no one with the imagination or human empathy just for once to propose change with consideration and reassurance for those immediately affected by such statements of intent?

Oh, we shall survive, doubt it not (longer in truth than the pate of a politician) for there is much music in our little organs.Though you can fret us, you cannot play upon us. We have hearts of mystery. Have you?

Brush up your Shakespeare.

NB: to go straight to my next education post please click
An Inspector Calls.