Thanks for all your kind wishes! Day 1, and Shakespeare (or Billybob as he is affectionately known among certain English students at Magdalen) is dispensed with. Think it went quite well – I shall include the questions I addressed further down the page, should you be interested.
Firstly, though, let’s have a look at another little tradition Oxford has for exam time. (And, by the by, I forgot about wearing the suit jacket in my sketch yesterday… luckily I remember for Real Life). It’s those carnations, that’s the tradition – and one of the ones I like best in Oxford. They even have their own website, though quite why people would mail-order them when they’re abundantly available in the local florists, I’m not sure.
This part of the exam uniform is not compulsory (something non-compulsory in Oxford? Heavens) but is done by almost every student. Not sure when it originated, but the idea comes from having a white carnation in your red ink pot throughout the exam time. But we don’t have ink pots, and so we fake the gradual increase in ‘redness’ which would be occasioned by this scenario – so, pinned to our lapels, we have a white carnation for the first exam; red for the final one; pink for everything in between. It’s also traditional to have them bought for you by someone else – my friend Phoebe picked up these beauties for me. So – white carnation down, pink one tomorrow morning. Only pricked myself once this morning with the pin, but have yet to sleep for a hundred years.
So, onto Billybob. Turn your eyes away now, if the thought of exams is too much. ABC writes that her daughter came out of her SATS exam thinking Hamlet ‘awesome’ (presumably the play rather than the person, who is rather an idiot) and quite rightly points out that this is The Point, rather than getting certificates. One of my proudest moments was getting a Mathematician to enjoy Coriolanus. We were in the Philippines (on a month with some churches, doing slum work etc.) and had a fair few spare hours, so I persuaded two of our group to join me on a read-out-loud of Coriolanus, each taking eight or nine roles. Worked quite well, with only a few occasions on which we had conversations with ourselves… great fun, I recommend it.
Anyway, Corry didn’t come up today, for me at least. Here are the questions I did, and the vague outline of the essays I attempted.
Ah, kill me with thy weapon, not with words!
My breast can better brook thy dagger’s point
Than can my ears that tragic history (III Henry VI)
Consider the competing effectiveness of narrative and staged action in one or more plays
– This was great, as I wanted to write on reported scenes in The Winter’s Tale, and other Late Romances
I was adored once too (Twelfth Night)
Write about self-knowledge in the works of Shakespeare
– I wrote about Cressida vs. Desdemona, and how the former’s realisation of previous textual voices (Homer, Chaucer, Dekker…) and depth of self-investigation was what prevented Troilus and Cressida from being unproblematically tragic, like Othello.
… in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Discuss the role of errors in Shakespeare
– This essay was easily my worst, as kinda ran out of time. Wrote on twins in Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night, and the distinction between visual and linguistic identity, and the importance of perception (and errors thereby). Hmm.