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Tuesday, January 5

January 5, 2016

Violence: Today we tried to lay the groundwork for our viewing of King Lear on Thursday, which will take the whole morning. If you are not with us normally during Block 2, I have requested that you be allowed to join us. (Unless you are taking the Keystones.)

The gist of our discussion is that King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies, a list which also includes Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth. All were written between 1601 and 1608, and all feature a spectacularly-flawed protagonist. Lear was borrowed from a 12th-century play by Geoffrey of Monmouth (which was adapted by several other writers before Shakespeare, including Edmund Spenser), and originally had a happy ending.

Lear is not the bloodiest of these tragedies, but it might be the bleakest. (Might be. More on that after you’ve seen it. If you subscribe to the view that Shakespeare was — secretly, given the persecution of the time — Catholic, and there’s some little evidence that supports this idea — then the way we view this play might change.) The great Shakespearean critic A.E. Bradley once said that the play is Shakespeare’s greatest work, but not his greatest drama. We’ll see what he meant on Thursday.

I set up the beginning of the play for you: Lear has decided to hold a competition between his three daughters, to see who loves him most. He’ll divide his kingdom accordingly. As our discussion showed, this is an idea motivated by hubris in two ways: you shouldn’t manipulate your kids’ affections this way. And dividing a kingdom is something that should be done a little more seriously than via contest. Novelty for the sake of novelty — doing untried things on a whim, to satisfy vanity (in Lear’s case) or simple curiosity, is an expression of hubris when other people’s lives and futures are at stake.

Hence the quote of the day, from James Russell Lowell: “At the devil’s booth/are all things sold.” Some things, we aren’t meant to have, or to try. But right away in Lear, we see the folly that is going to inevitably spawn violence.

We will try to answer these five questions about the play:

1. What types of violence are found in Lear, and what is their purpose?

2. Is King Lear really more “sinned against than sinning”?

3. Is King Lear really Shakespeare’s greatest work?

4. What does King Lear tell us about Shakespeare’s worldview?

5. What is the role of the Fool?

Radio: Today was a work day. Thursday will be a “regular” class, but you will get some bonus time to work on Thursday as well (Mr. LeRoy’s class will be going long, so you’ll have about an extra hour with your groups).

The due date for the project is next Thursday, the 14th… so plan and work accordingly. Just in case you were holding out some hope, there is no chance whatsoever that this deadline will be extended. 😦

Siren: Talked about things we did right in December — including just getting the paper out; nice job, everyone! — and things we can do better. Mapped out the layout for January’s edition.

Style: Today a few of you read and handed in missing piece – thank you to those of you that took advantage of this opportunity.

The style for this week is Allie Brosh, specifically her blog/book Hyperbole and a Half (some of the pieces on her site including swearing and some concern more serious topics than dinosaur costumes). Specifically we read “Menace.” We had our discussion today as well. Here’s the board:


Survey: Poetry: : I met with just about everyone who was here about the sonnets you wrote for the competition, and then I gave out the study guide for the final Survey Poetry study guide Final Exam 2016, which is Friday. We’ll review Thursday. Be here: if you’re absent Thursday, you still have to take the final on Friday.

Survey: Fiction: Today you took more notes on conflict and we started an assignment in-class:

You got a slip of paper with a location or common situation written on it. You wrote a quick character sketch for a person that might find themselves in that location or situation. There was a lot of possibility here: for example, if you got something like a “fast food restaurant,” you could have written a character sketch for a worker, manager, or any kind of customer.

After our discussion, we did a sample on the board involving Scott and a preschool graduation. For each conflict “type,” we came up with several possibilities for stories that could involve Scott and the graduation. For example, man vs. man: Scott gets in a fight with his son, Eric, who really knows how to push his buttons, or PTA Linda wants Scott to leave. Man vs. nature: a tornado outside of the school provides an opportunity for Eric to act heroically. Man vs. machine: Scott’s tie gets stuck in the water fountain and he humiliates himself. Etc.

Your homework is to do the same for your character and location/situation. Please come up with at least two story ideas for each conflict type (more if you’re ambitious). Write this idea out in a complete sentence and be sure to make the conflict clear. This is due on Thursday.

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