The Purpose of this Blog

Your task on this blog is to write a brief summary of what we learned in class today. Include enough detail so that someone who was ill or missed the lesson can catch up with what they missed. Over the course of the term, these 'class scribe' posts will grow to be a guide book for the course, written by students for students.

With each post ask yourself the following questions:
1) Is this good enough for our guide book?
2) Will your post enable someone who wasn't here to catch up?
3) Would a graphic/video/link help to illustrate what we have learned?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Lesson 3 - An issue of race.

We arrived at the lesson confronted with two images, the one on the right which appears to show a painting of a man and a woman in love and another image of an interracial couple. We were asked to describe what we see in both the pictures and what similar in both of them.

After some discussion we came to the conclusion that both pictures showed a black man and a white woman and were told that race would be a major factor in the play "Othello" which we discussed in previous lessons and how we thought black people would be thought of at the time. Sir explained to us that, at that time, the colour black was associated with being demonic and impure, which we then linked to what the English people would think of people who were black.

After this lines from Othello were cut out and randomly handed out to everyone in the class which lead to an activity where we all stood up and had to walk around the classroom; If we bumped into someone we would have to tell them our line and vis versa. After a few minutes we would be stopped and told to do the same thing however this time when we bump into someone we would have to say our line in a different emotion or expression e.g. as if it was a secret or as if it was some really good news.

When this activity was complete and we had all sat down, sir went around the room asking students what lines they had, what we thought they meant and in which emotion/expression they were best suited for. An example of this was the line i was given which was "I ha't, it is engender'd; Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light." I judged that this would be most likely to be said in a secretive or angry way. The meaning behind it, in my opinion, was that it was about a black person who does not belong as the line reads "monstrous birth to the world's light".

We continued to speak about Shakespeare's preferred method of writing plays, iambic pentameter or blank verse. When writing in blank verse the line must contain ten syllables or "beats" with every second one having a drop. Blank verse is used by Shakespeare and many other poets and playwrights as they feel that it best mimics the sound of a human heart beat and is the closest resemblance to our regular speech pattern. So remember, if you need to remember blank verse or iambic pentameter, then think of a heart beat.

Now equipped with the knowledge of iambic pentameter, we were separated into groups of three and each given a line which was written in modern day English and asked to re write it in old English while keeping it in blank verse (ten syllables in a line). For example, a group was give the line "Get me my hanky or else" and they rewrote it as "Fetch me my handkerchief or feel my wrath", if you count the rewritten line, it is still in blank verse and retains it's meaning even though the words are completely different.

After going through and checking the accuracy of our rewritten lines, we were handed a sheet which contained all the lines that we were all previously given at the start of the lesson and asked to first find any links between the lines then write what we would expect from the plays based on the lines e.g. themes, genre etc. and finally we were told to underline the words that gave us clues about the nature of the play. (If you don't have the sheet because you were away or for any other reason click here.)

After having a short discussion about what a tragic hero was traditionally (essentially recapping on the second lesson) and further discussing how black people would be treated in the 16nth century we read an extract from "What was Shakespeare's England like?" Which explored how black people were seen during Shakespeare's time and his use of black people in his plays, this was extremely useful and if you don't have the extract for whatever reason make sure you get it from Mr Sadgrove as it is extremely useful.

Homework: Answer four questions to do with England's attitude towards black people.

1) What were the dominant views about black people in early modern England?
2) How did dramatists represent black people?
3) How does Shakespeare use/portray black people?
4) Do you think Shakespeare is a racist?
(Use the extract to help you)


1 comment:

  1. Great notes, Roman, well done.

    If English people at the time had those preconceptions about black people, why do you think Shakespeare was enlightened enough to write a play which doesn't show him in a wholly negative light?