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!
(pictures from www.richardarmitagenet.com)
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.
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,
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.
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!