It weeps, it bleeds


As you read Act 4, consider the role of the witches.  They open this scene and remind us all of the power they wield:

Double, double, toil and trouble; /Fire burn and cauldron bubble….


By the pricking of my thumbs,/ Something wicked this way comes…

That ‘something wicked’ is Macbeth.  Consider, too, the changes in Macbeth.  Now, as king, he demands: ‘Answer me’.  He is pleased by their equivocations (he interprets them as predictions in his favour) and acknowledges that they have guessed his fear when they warn him of Macduff.  As he watches the apparitions he is led to feel pleased: ‘Sweet bodements!/good!) but can’t help give voice to his nagging fear that his actions might all be for Banquo’s issue.  He asks a direct question and is shown the line of eight kings – he is in disbelief.  This is a moment of realisation.  It is to Lennox that he communicates his change in his attitude towards them: ‘Infected be the air whereon they ride, / And damn’d all those that trust them!’  The audience understand the irony and the action to come plays out the foreshadowing in this scene.

Throughout Act 4 there are many references to blood and bloodshed and it is clear that nature is rebelling agains the unnatural reign of Macbeth.  Malcolm’s admission:

‘I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash/Is added to her wounds’

This is a cry for the tyranny and violence to end. The climax of the action in this act is undoubtedly the onstage killing (remember that Duncan’s was off stage) of Macduff’s family.

Act 4 closes with the resolution that Macbeth must be stopped.  Macduff is overcome with grief but receives this advice from Malcolm: ‘Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief/Convert to anger; blunt no the heart but enrage it.’  The audience is prepared for the play’s final act and the downfall of Macbeth.


Vicky McClure unleashes hell as LMB


You may have seen Vicky McClure in the bitter-sweet This is England films.  Watch her rendition of Lady Macbeth’s ‘Unsex me here’ where things take a surprising turn, mid speech…

How do you rate this interpretation?




Stoner: a first impression

Here is a sample blog post on the novel, ‘Stoner’ by John Williams.  I have taken a ‘Research’ approach to the text.

stoner1This book piqued my interest because there seemed to be a week in my life when three different people mentioned the book to me: “Have you read, ‘Stoner’?”  I had never heard of it, save for my partner’s mother sending it over for me from the UK and me dutifully filing it away in the bookshelf for another day.  I was commenting to a colleague about the role of the teacher and how we have to be philosophical about what we can achieve in our jobs or else despair (I think I was reflecting on student apathy) and he mentioned the book in this context.  I decided to dust it off.

I am now about two thirds of the way through and I am totally hooked.   Stoner, the main protagonist, is so awkward and likeable at once.  He grapples with the politics of relationships and has a kind of steady integrity which is appealing but also a passivity which is infuriating at times.  As a English lecturer in a university, he experiences failure across many facets of his life.  It’s not exactly uplifting, so far, but it is certainly interesting.  And it is what is left unsaid is the most interesting about this novel.

I’m at the point where Stoner is at odds with his colleague and now boss.  There is a heavy hint as to why  the ‘hunchback’ Hollis Lomax might be defending the ‘cripple’ Charles Walker but I’m not sure I get it.  ‘It’s not what you think,’ says Stoner to his friend.  But I’m not sure what I, the reader, think!  Is there a hint of an affair?  Why are both described with a phsyical deformity?  Is this supposed to reflect a misshapen morality?  If so, why?

I have only just begun a little background reading about the text.  Here’s the thing: it’s a late blooming classic. In 2013 Julian Barnes wrote in The Guardian:

Stoner first went into Vintage in 2003, after McGahern had recommended it to the publisher Robin Robertson. In the decade up to 2012, it sold 4,863 copies, and by the end of last year was trundling along in print-on-demand. This year, up to the end of November, it has sold 164,000 copies, with the vast majority – 144,000 of them – coming since June.”

This makes me wonder about the idea of a classic and what are the factors which determine a classic.  What caused the rush on it in recent years?  The fact that it is published as ‘Vintage Williams’ suggests that it has been widely accepted but is that just a clever marketing trick by publishers?


Thinking about what we learned in class 15/04/16

We were thinking about the thinking that has to occur before we write about our Macbeth topic in our blog. It’s not a good idea to just write out your thoughts in the hope that something good will come out. Really, the writing is the final stage of the process, and the pre-thinking is a much more important, time-consuming process.

In class we were trying to get to the bottom of what we needed to do before writing a deep analysis of our topic. Finally we realised that we needed to ask the important questions to get to where we wanted to be. Ms Carroll recommended writing out all the questions first before we started writing answers. It makes sense to do that so we think broadly before we focus on details. We started to go through the questions: who/what/where/when/how/why – which gave us a way of analysing our topic. We also thought about including key concepts eg. change, cause and effect, in our thinking.

I realised just how complex this question was: “How does the power shift between characters (in Macbeth)?

Sharing my poem with students of 10C English class – reflection

Amanda and I agreed that, if the students of 10C have to write a poem,  we should both do the same. Writing poems is not an easy thing, and to write from oneself, as the students are required to do in their attempt to bring out their home/cultural background, can be very challenging because it draws from what is deeply personal. On the other hand, when the writer unplugs the source of personal experience, there is a rich spring from which to draw experiences which should make writing flow.

Student writing is often lacking in a connection to what is experienced or lived. Writing might take the form of books read, and may emulate styles and format a student has decided is ‘good writing’. In her classes this term, Amanda has shared a variety of poems whose subject matter is some kind of personal cultural expression, in particular, the tension between cultures. The intention is to strike a chord in students with what they have experienced in their home culture, and to allow them to articulate their experiences, and to reflect on their identity.

My poem was written without editing,  as a quick blog post in response to a MOOC activity. I felt comfortable sharing with my readers in this instance because we had shared a lot of writing and felt safe in a trusted online community. I was happy to share this poem with students – not as a polished piece, but as an example of one of the ways something personal could be written out. It was a surprise to me when, just before reading, I felt a little apprehensive, and even more of a surprise when I felt an emotional response to hearing myself read my poem aloud. I guess that there is always the worry about how your writing will be received, whether it will be understood (or liked). And if the words come from a deep place, it is not surprising that they will draw out those emotions which made them worth writing about in the first place.

  • Tania Sheko