Do you remember my post about Richard and Art? I’ve been thinking about it and looking for something similar to write about this week . I wanted something I would be very interested in (well, I am very interested in the man himself but…) , I mean , a topic I’d love to write about in connection with Richard.

I 'm not a fan of red carpets and glamour, so I’m not going to write about his elegant tuxedo, his being so charming and smiling at the Baftas, but yes, I’ve peeped here and there to see what he was doing last Sunday afternoon and, well , he was not plumbing or sanding floors for his friends : he was signing autographs and being photographed in all his gorgeousness ( and we know he doesn’t like it that much, he said that more than once!) No, I’m not interested in that aspect of his work (though I saved "some" of those photos…how incredibly blue his eyes are!)  Have I ever  told you that I feel rather schizofrenic when it comes to my fondness for Mr RA? Look at the blue and the black in this post!

So what I 'd like  to highlight this time is how often has Richard’s carreer mingled with my own (career? My humble job?) Several times. And I’m glad of that. I have been able to use his work to give interesting lessons or have had the occasion to revise old stuff I had studied at university long ago lately.

Briefly and in conclusion , since I teach English literature , and am very interested in it too, my  post today will be about Richard and classic literature.

• Guy and the Medieval Popular Ballads

To teach  medieval literature (which  sounds so boring to 16-year-old ) I usually try to follow themes which can involve teenagers: this year I especially worked on popular ballads (ballads of love and family tragedy, ballads of magic and ballads of the outlaws)  and knighthood. What better occasion then to watch bits of BBC Robin Hood?
After reading parts of the ballad Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne we saw some bits  from series 2 in the lab.

  Shakespeare retold,   Macbeth

One of the main contributing factors to Macbeth's hubris is his belief that he is invincible. Indeed, the witches have assured him that he cannot be vanquished by anyone "of woman born". Macbeth interprets that to mean everyone. In the climactic confrontation with Macduff, therefore, Macbeth is stunned to learn that Macduff was not, in the literal sense, "of woman born".

Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;
I bear a charmed life, which must not yield
To one of woman born.

Despair thy charm,
And let the angel whom thou still hast served,
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb,
Untimely ripp'd

Richard studied classic drama and worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He says it was his first important job. He toured in a Macbeth on stage. Then he was Peter MacDuff in this modern TV version of Shakespeare's tragedy.
Since next year most of my first term lessons to the fourth year students  will be about Shakespearean plays I was planning to work on two tragedies and two comedies. One of the tragedies could be Macbeth. The bloodier a story is the more my students  (especially boys) like it, so it can be perfect.  It could be nice to compare a stage version of the play to this modern retelling (BBC Shakespeare Retold) in which RA plays Macbeth's antagonist, MacDuff.

In this Tv adaptation Duncan (Vincent Regan) is the celebrity chef proprietor of an elegant  restaurant, but the kitchen is in the hands of Joe Macbeth (James McAvoy), young, energetic, an arch-technician and great team leader in the kitchen. It is on the food that he cooks with such verve and brilliance - animal, visceral, not for the faint-hearted and certainly not for the vegetarian - that the reputation of the restaurant is built – or is it?Joe’s wife Ella (Keeley Hawes) is the Maitre d’, making sure that everything is in place for the perfect dining experience – immaculate linen, silver and glass, the ambience monochrome, stylishly stark yet restful.

Peter Macduff (Richard Armitage) is the Head Waiter, ensuring that the diners are served with food at the peak of perfection, the instant they desire it. He is a quiet, self-contained figure, watchful and acute, hearing all, seeing all and saying very little. We see then him as family man – he has the most conventional home-life of any of the characters, with a beautiful wife, two pretty little daughters, and a workaholic’s tensions at home.
He stays aloof from the team spirit of the kitchen, a lone wolf, keeping his counsel. Intelligent, watchful and suspicious, he is a quiet brooding presence, in contrast to the passion and energy of the kitchen crew.
And so, the tragic history of Macbeth unfolds in a modern setting.

(pictures and plot from http://www.richardarmitageonline.com/)

I'd love, for example, to compare the scene of Duncan's murder or of the final duel between Macbeth and MacDuff in the two completely different versions after reading Shakespeare's lines and then simply watch what the reactions will be and elicit discussion.

Lovelace, the rake in 18th century sentimental novel

I usually never teach Richardson to my students. I  just tell them he can be considered one of the fathers of the Novel but , can you imagine contemporary teenagers reading Pamela or Clarissa? I have already my troubles at working on Jane Austen or the Brontes with them, just try to imagine the tendency to yawning in those classes... it would be greatly stimulated!
I've learnt by experience they love Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels much  and usually we read several interesting passages from those books.
But what about just telling them briefly about the plots in Pamela and Clarissa as if they were the literary prototypes for modern soap operas and listen to some bits of the BBC4  Radio  Drama as listening comprehension tasks? I think even teenagers might enjoy some of those scenes. Which ones, I haven't decided yet . I'm sure they would laugh at melodrama but ... they might enjoy it. They would be free to criticize... only,  they'll have to do it in English!

 Lucas North and William Blake, the visionary poet

I liked Spooks and  even started loving  this TV drama  since RA joined the cast. His Lucas is a very intriguing character and his interest in William Blake makes him even more gripping. At least,  to me. Now, I'm not going to show my students shirtless Lucas and his tattoos to link the images to Blake's paintings or poems. But this is another interesting connection between Richard's work and literature, isn't it?

John Thornton and the industrial novel in the Victorian Age

This is one of my favourite period in literature and Victorian novels are what I most love teaching. Maybe my students started suspecting something ... I mean, that I pretty much love the literature of that period. I think it is very interesting to study the social-economic-historical background of the age and then recognize facts, events and ideas in literary works. When you can also add watching some beautiful scenes from period movies... I would have loved it so much as a student! But the lessons I got were so much more ... academic.

This is the second year I read and watch North and South (not the whole of it) with my last year students and it has been ... interesting to witness their reactions.

Applause and relief  in the end ...

P.S. Forgive me for this very "literary" and school-based post but today it was last school day for me and ... yippee!!! I know , I know, still examinations and summer courses to go but ... no more regular lessons and it's like being on holiday a bit! Next week more RA and less school. Promise.
BTW, it was Friday when I started writing, it is Saturday now I'm posting. Good night!


mulubinba said...

I love reading about how bloggers connect RA's work with their own. This is a lovely post, Maria. I wish RA would once in a while be in a position to read what bloggers like you are writing. I think he would be really chuffed .... I know I would be. Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher!

Judy said...

Very interesting and a lovely posting, Maria Grazia, and must say I really like the new look of your blog.

I didn't realise RA had done the 'Shakespeare Retold' version of Macbeth - I really want to see all of those productions and this one will now be top of my list to see!

Maria Grazia said...

Thanks Mulubinba! You are always so kind. I loved reading your latest post about ...snow! Enjoy the cold down there, we have to cope with the sudden late beginning of a very hot summer here! Hugs.
Hello, there! Is everything ok? Is it hot in England too? Thanks for commenting and...to be honest...I don't usually like modern adaptations of my dear Shakespeare but, you know, I had to see this and thought it was at least ...interesting. It'll be useful material for comparative watching lessons.
Enjoy the other Shakespeare retold films, there are great performances.
Enjoy your weekend. Big hug.

Anonymous said...

Hi MG. You are so very adaptable and I do admire you for it. Your students are very lucky. Great Friday post as usual. For me its Saturday and in an hour I shall be watching episode 5 of Series 3 of Robin Hood, complete with wine and some chocolate!

We are about to begin the Lumina Winter Festival here, part of which is a whole week of Shakespeare . . . live theatre, movies, readings, literary talks. Can't wait!

Maria Grazia said...

Hi Prue! It's Saturday here too, now! I posted this last night, it was so late ...it became Saturday when I had finished!
Episode 5 series 3 is quite gripping and Guy is so gorgeous in it. Prince John has released him and ... well, I won't spoil your expectations. Just watch it and enjoy it!
Lumina Winter (??? I know, but it's so strange when we've just started sweating all around!) Festival sound a great occasion. Hope to read about it on your blog. What are you going to see?
Thanks for dropping by. Hugs!

Unknown said...

Hi MG, what a lovely new dress for your blog: quite stylish! :)
As for you being "rather schizofrenic when it comes to your fondness for Mr RA", I undestand you com-pletely! Don't fight it, there isn't a cure (and then, who wants a cure?): just enjoy it!
Speaking of Shakespeare retold, of course Macbeth is really good - thanks to the wonderful performance of the whole stellar cast - but my favourite is The Taming of the Shrew (written by Sally Wainwright, who also adapted Sparkhouse), mainly because of the absolutely brilliant Rufus Sewell as Petruchio! ;)
Have a nice w-e everyone,

Maria Grazia said...

I was just dusting my laptop (and other things) and saw : "a new comment needs to be moderated". I didn't expect that to be you... already back? Was it ok?
Thanks for commenting and giving support and advice. I know you can understand me com-pletely but I do feebly try to fight ...or at least ... there is a part of me that stares at the other one rather astonished!

Anonymous said...


I agree with others, how lucky are your students to have you as teacher. Your classes sound the kind I'd highly look forward too, plus literature was my fav subject at school.

About William Blake...I'm thinking your female students might like Spooks scenes, on the other hand boys could get the idea that tattooing your body is cool...on a second thought scratch that, teach Blake the old way is safer, lol!

OML :)

Maria Grazia said...

LOL!!! I think I could have the problems I've never had with families and bosses if I started teaching Blake like that!
Anyhow, this post wasn't meant to fish compliments, but thank you. However, it's too easy like that. You all like RA and literature so...!

Traxy said...

I just want to ruffle his hair when I see those BAFTA pictures! Handsome devil!

With RA, it's so nice to hear he enjoys reading. That's why it was so fascinating to read the Vulpus Libris (?) interview. Didn't exactly make him less attractive!

Funny about Pamela and Clarissa. With soap operas being so popular, you'd think they would appeal to modern youngsters. :)

Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

@MG Are you implying we are...biased? Well, maybe a tiny bit, but just tiny ;)

Becky said...

Congrats on your end of school year. I love the connections you drew between you and RA. I was BOWLED OVER by those hot, hot, HOT pictures of him in his tux. *sigh* Did me good to see a man looking that yummy today. :) Thanks!

Maria Grazia said...

Devil? I can't see him as devilish at all ;-)
Pamela and Clarissa are melodramatically boring! They were to me too when I was at uni and had to read/study them. But I had so great fun listening to BBC4 radiodrama!(@onemorelurker1)
Is this because I am too a tiny, tiny bit biased?
Glad those pictures made your day. I really hope it was a very good one!